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From helping us stay hydrated to creating mouth-watering dishes for alfresco dining, Registered Dietitian, Juliette Kellow reveals how to chill out this summer with nutritious and delicious dairy…


Summer’s here and with that comes plenty of opportunities for alfresco dining. Whether it’s a picnic in the park, a barbecue in the garden, or a dinner party on the patio, more of us than ever are following in the footsteps of our continental cousins and enjoying our meals with a large side of fresh air. Indeed, a recent survey revealed, almost half of us – 47% – enjoy eating outside more than ever.

Dairy products are often a key part of this outdoor experience. Warmer weather goes hand-in-hand with summer favourites such as strawberries and cream, as well as scones, jam and clotted cream teas. All of those are yummy but don’t forget the heaps of other ways to enjoy dairy when the temperature rises that not only satisfy taste buds, but also provide an abundance of nutrients.

Milk, cheese, and yogurt are rich in protein, important for building and maintaining muscle. They provide calcium and phosphorus to support bones and teeth. They’re one of the main sources of iodine in our diet, a mineral that contributes to cognitive function. They add B vitamins to our diet, including riboflavin to maintain our skin, and B12, which reduces tiredness and fatigue. Plus, milk and yogurt provide fluid to help us stay hydrated.

Here are just a few ways to enjoy milk, cheese, and yogurt this summer…

Drink up

Hotter weather means we need to increase the amount of fluid in our diet to prevent dehydration. Enter milk! All drinks, except alcohol, count towards our fluid needs. With its combo of liquid and nutrients, this makes a cold glass of milk a great choice. For something sweet, blend it with fruit such as berries or banana, or enjoy an iced latte. Yogurt contains a large amount of fluid, too, so having a pot as a snack can help add fluid to your diet.

Chill out over breakfast

Cereal with milk is the go-to breakfast for many of us, but on the continent, yogurt is often high up the menu. Try a bowl of fruit salad topped with plain or flavoured yogurt and a sprinkling of reduced-sugar granola or toasted oats. Or slice a banana and top with creamy Greek-style yogurt, a drizzle of honey and some nuts. For hot mornings, swap porridge for overnight oats – simply mix oats with milk or fruit juice before going to bed, pop in the fridge, then serve chilled for breakfast with yogurt and fruit. Alternatively, enjoy a smoothie bowl – blend frozen fruit with milk and yogurt, pour into a bowl and decorate with fresh fruit, nuts, seeds, oats, or whatever you fancy!

Enjoy salad days

A sprinkle of grated cheese is perfect for livening up lettuce, cucumber, and tomatoes, but it’s also an integral part of some classic salads. For a pub favourite, make a Ploughman’s lunch at home – simply serve a chunk of Cheddar, Stilton, Wensleydale or Lancashire cheese with salad, pickled onions, pickle, and a piece of granary bread (the pint is optional!). Or make a Caesar salad – just add shavings of mature Cheddar to cos lettuce, croutons, and dressing. Goat’s cheese is another great salad option: try it in a classic Greek salad of cucumber, tomatoes, red onion, pepper, and olives; combine it with beetroot, walnuts, and rocket – delicious with rye bread; or add dollops to couscous, roasted veg and chickpeas for a taste of the Middle East. Another classic is a combo of grilled chicken, avocado and blue cheese with mixed leaves and cherry tomatoes. Meanwhile, if you’re looking to cut fat, cottage cheese is the perfect salad partner.

Dress up

A good dressing can make a salad. As an alternative to oily dressings or mayonnaise, yogurt makes a great base for dressings and can significantly lower the fat content of a salad, while also adding more nutrients such as calcium. Fat-free Greek-style yogurt is perfect for creamy dressings that coat ingredients: add wholegrain mustard and chives for potato salad; mix with lemon juice, vinegar, and Dijon mustard for coleslaw; or combine with herbs, garlic, and lemon juice for pasta salads. Adding herb or spice blends to yogurt makes a simple dressing, too – for example, Fajita or Cajun seasoning go well with Mexican salads full of corn, black beans and avocado, while Italian seasoning works well with tomato, avocado and mozzarella salads.

Pack up a picnic

Cheese and pickle sandwiches are a picnic staple but there are plenty of other great combos – try cottage cheese and pineapple, Cheddar and onion, Brie and cranberry sauce, cream cheese and tinned or smoked salmon, or grated carrot and Red Leicester. Using low-fat soft cheese in place of butter or spread on bread is also a great way for adding flavour to sandwiches. Don’t forget other hamper-friendly dairy dishes, too. Quiches are traditionally filled with eggs beaten with milk, then topped with cheese; wedges of pizza are perfect finger food; and savoury cheese scones or muffins are usually a hit.

Get entertaining

Sharing platters remain on trend and are an easy option for entertaining. Think of them as an extended cheeseboard (which is also a perfect option for summer entertaining). A variety of cheeses are often served on a board or platter with charcuterie meats such as salami, chorizo, and prosciutto. But anything goes. For a vegetarian-friendly platter, combine a selection of favourite cheeses with fresh and dried fruit, cherry tomatoes, vegetable crudites, nuts, dips, chutneys, olives, crackers, and small pieces of bread. The more colourful, the better! Meanwhile, many of the dressing ideas above will work perfectly as dips.

Turn up the heat

Barbecues are often a meat fest but there are plenty of ways to add some dairy. Yogurt-based marinades are great for meat. For a speedy option, simply mix plain yogurt with mint sauce then use to marinate lamb or chicken. Meanwhile, it wouldn’t be a barbecue without a cheeseburger – Cheddar is a great classic, but slices of blue cheese are also delicious. Moving onto the sides, as an alternative to baps and rolls, try homemade yogurt flatbreads – they take just minutes to make and are perfect for cooking on a barbecue hot plate. Don’t forget the veg, either. Chargrilled aubergine, peppers, courgettes, and mushrooms taste great with a dollop of creamy Greek yogurt. Alternatively, serve them with homemade tzatziki made by mixing Greek yogurt with garlic, mint, lemon juice and grated and squeezed cucumber, or a dip made from yogurt, lemon juice and a swirl of harissa paste. Top jacket potatoes with grated cheese, wrap in foil, then place in the hot coals for a few minutes until the cheese melts. And for the wow factor, take a pack of whole British Brie, pierce with slices of garlic and rosemary sprigs, wrap in foil and bake in the coals until melted and gooey, then dip in with thin slices of baguette.

Cool treats

Ice cream is the ultimate summer sweet, but there lots of other ways to incorporate dairy into treats and desserts. For a calcium-packed lolly, blend low-fat yogurt with fruit such as berries, mango, or banana, then freeze in lolly moulds. And for a lighter take on creamy desserts, swirl lemon curd through fat-free Greek-style yogurt and serve with berries. Or make fruit skewers and serve with a yogurt dipping sauce. Finally, for something more indulgent, you can’t go wrong with a cheesecake made from cream cheese, often with added yogurt. Just delicious!

For more dairy recipe inspiration visit recipes

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