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Ask Dr. Gourmet

Should I be drinking 3 servings of milk a day?

I have been on WeightWatchers and they want you to get 3 servings of milk a day if you are over 50, as I am. I don't see a concentration of calcium in your menus. Any advice?

Dr. Gourmet Says...

Glass of Milk

It is certainly not necessary to drink milk, and doing so could explain any difficulty you are having losing weight. Three glasses a day adds up to about 300 calories, even if it's skim milk (each 8 ounce cup is 91 calories but most folks pour more than 8 ounces). That's a lot of extra calories each day you don't need. The research on Mediterranean diet shows that dairy is part of a healthy diet, but most of that is processed products like cheeses or yogurts.

If you are eating healthy, fresh food, you should be getting enough calcium. The "recommended" daily intake of calcium that the FDA requires to be reported in Nutrition Facts labels on foods is based on is 1,000 mg per day. So if there's 30%, that's 300 mg. Note that every Dr. Gourmet recipe reports the amount of calcium each day by that FDA guideline.

By having cereal with milk, or meals with cheese or yogurt, you will be getting a fair amount of calcium and most Dr. Gourmet recipes have higher amounts of calcium. Tracking your meals in The USDA Supertracker will let you keep track of your calcium intake.

Here's a list of foods that are especially high in calcium (PDF) that can help you in choosing recipes. You can search for Dr. Gourmet recipes by entering ingredients in the search box. You can do the same using Google.

It's clear that you do not need to drink milk to get enough calcium in your diet, so rest easy. Cheese, yogurt, spinach, fortified cereals, broccoli, navy beans, oysters, oranges and soy products are great places to start!

Thanks for writing,

Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP, CCMS
Dr. Gourmet