Yogurt added to WIC food packages

theGRIO REPORT - April is National Minority Health Month,a time to raise awareness about the health disparities that continue to affect African-Americans...

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April is National Minority Health Month,a time to raise awareness about the health disparities that continue to affect African Americans. This year’s theme, Prevention is Power: Taking Action for Health Equity emphasizes the critical role of prevention in reducing health disparities and presents an opportune time to highlight the recent changes to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).

Earlier this year the U. S. Department of Agriculture announced changes to the WIC program that will benefit the almost 2 million African-American low-income pregnant women, new mothers, infants and young children who participate in WIC.

The changes – which increase access to fruits and vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy – are based on the latest nutrition science reflected in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Along with a more than 30 percent increase in the dollar amount for children’s fruits and vegetables purchases, the changes also: expand whole grain options available to participants, provide yogurt as a partial milk substitute for children and women, allow parents of older infants to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables instead of jarred infant food if they choose, and; give states and local WIC agencies more flexibility to meet the nutritional and cultural needs of WIC participants.

Consuming a balanced diet such as the food groups of MyPlate are key to improving health disparities, and preventing chronic disease, but despite best intentions, the dietary guidelines can be culturally challenging. Many African-Americans avoid milk and dairy products because they believe they are lactose intolerant. In fact, research shows over 20 percent of African-Americans consider themselves to be lactose intolerant.

There is an emerging body of evidence that links yogurt and other dairy products to a reduced risk of heart disease, hypertension, obesity and type 2 diabetes – diseases that affect African Americans at disproportionate rates. For example, as an important contributor of calcium, potassium and magnesium to the diet, African Americans who avoid dairy foods may increase their risk of type 2 diabetes and hypertension. Moreover, the National Medical Association – the nation’s oldest and largest organization of African-American physicians – recommends in their updated 2013 consensus statement on lactose intolerance,  African Americans consume 3 – 4 servings of low-fat dairy every day.

The good news is yogurt can help you meet your dairy requirement and obtain calcium, potassium and magnesium. Because of the presence of lactase-producing yogurt cultures and because on average it contains less lactose per serving than milk, yogurt is a more easily digestible alternative to milk.

To take full advantage of the WIC food voucher participants will want to learn all they can about yogurt’s nutritional quality, how to use it in meals and snacks, purchasing and handling and how to use yogurt in recipes.

Here are a few tips to get you started.

Meals and Snacks

  • Add 1 cup Greek yogurt to 2 lbs. mashed potatoes in place of 4 Tbsp. butter.
  • Replace Greek yogurt for sour cream, cup for cup, in your favorite muffin or coffee cake recipes.
  • Use the same amount of Greek nonfat yogurt in place of oil in marinades for chicken, fish or pork before grilling for a tangy flavor.
  • Use 1 Tbsp. Greek nonfat yogurt per serving instead of 1 Tbsp. sour cream to garnish bean soups or chili.
  • Have you tried Greek in place of butter on bagels or muffins yet? Try it!
  • Replace mayo with Greek nonfat yogurt in your chicken salad.
  • Indulge your sweet tooth with this wonderful Pumpkin Chocolate Yogurt.

For more delicious recipes and great tips on handling and cooking with yogurt, click here. To learn more about WIC and the implementation of the expanded food package click here.

Constance Brown-Riggs, MSEd, RD, CDE, CDN, is nutrition advisor for the Dannon One Yogurt Everyday Initiative, past national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, specializing in African American nutrition, and author of the African American Guide to Living Well With Diabetes and Eating Soulfully and Healthfully With Diabetes.