Dairy has always been a part of my life from the barn to the dinner table. From a young age it was always crucial to have my three servings of dairy a day not only because my family produced it for thousands to enjoy but because it is vital for a balanced diet.

I grew up on my family’s 400-cow dairy farm in southeast Minnesota where I fed calves, milked cows alongside my dad and uncle, and grew a passion for informing the public on dairy products.

Finding ways to incorporate dairy into your family’s diet could be as simple as adding a cheese stick to your child’s lunch box or enjoying an ice cream dessert after dinner. One of my family’s favorite ways to incorporate dairy into our meals was Dairy Potato Bake, also known as cheesy potatoes, that has three different dairy products in it. Cheese, sour cream and butter make up over half of this dish.

Another classic meal to have is pizza when you are trying to have a laid back night with your family.

Did you know there are 13 essential nutrients in milk? Although all 13 are important the main three are calcium, protein and vitamin D.

Calcium is known for building and maintaining strong bones and teeth. Protein helps maintain a healthy immune system while encouraging tissue growth and repairs. Vitamin is a fat-soluble vitamin that is known for helping your body absorb and retain calcium, manage infections and reduce inflammation. Consuming dairy products makes up 15% of your daily value when it comes to Vitamin D. Some other benefits to consuming dairy products are giving you an energy boost throughout the day and maintaining healthy blood flow.

Did you know about 90% of Americans don’t consume the proper amount of dairy recommended by the USDA? There are several different factors that play into how much dairy you should have each day. Some of these factors are your age, sex, and physical activity. As a 19-year-old female, I should be consuming around three cups of dairy per day. If I were 5-years-old I should have 3-3 ½ cups of dairy.

Everyone has different lifestyles and needs so finding ways to incorporate new foods into your diet can be a struggle at times. As a busy college student, I often forget how important it is to have a balanced diet.

When I am not running from classes to club meetings and I have time to take a snack break, I always try to have one dairy product. This is usually a glass of milk, a cheese stick or yogurt. After having dairy as a snack I always feel more energized and ready to take on the rest of my busy day.

Overall, knowing the importance of dairy in you and your family’s diet is key. Finding small ways to make it a habit will improve your physical and mental health.