If you want to get rid of belly fat, is it bad to eat dairy products like cheese and yogurt? Have heard different answers and was just wondering what you had to say. Thank You!

Your question is a good one! Many people would like to lose that pesky belly fat. Lots of my patients ask me how to “spot reduce” the weight around their abdomen. I remind them that one can’t specifically spot reduce and in order to lose the “apple” shape, one has to commit oneself to follow a healthy diet and exercise program. That means taking in less calories and burning more calories. I realize that most people would like a quick fix to lose any weight but the truth is that sustainable weight loss is generally achieved through healthy dietary changes and the addition of physical activity.

Healthy diets can certainly include dairy products like cheese and yogurt. These products contain calcium and they are a great source of protein, which can help one to stay fuller longer! However, when discussing cheese, keep in mind that regular cheese is somewhat high in fat and calories. Sometimes people tend to consume a lot of it, which causes them to eat more calories than they should and lead to weight gain.

If you want to include dairy products as part of your healthy diet, I first recommend that you choose your cheese wisely. If you are using shredded cheese, try the 2% version. It is lower in fat and calories but still melts well. I tend to choose a stronger flavored cheese in many dishes (parmesan, feta, goat) because the taste is so apparent that I don’t need to use as much and save some calories. Second, if you want to include yogurt in your diet, be aware of some general calorie guidelines. Nonfat/plain yogurt should contain ~90 calories, and low fat/plain should have ~110 calories. Flavored yogurts generally contain ~130 calories. And I would limit intake of low fat types with more than 1 gram saturated fat per serving. Choose yogurts that do not have a lot of added sugar and keep in mind that Greek yogurt (preferably the plain kind) contains a TON of protein and little added sugar. That makes a great snack!

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