Do You Know What Is In Your Food? Part 3 of 6

In Parts 3 through 6, we will walk through the grocery store to provide advice and recommendations upon the ingredients the food products offered in those departments.

You will learn how to critically read food labels and ingredient lists so that you may select the product that best fits your needs. Nutrition tips and names of some recommended food brands will also be provided.

Especially for those people that have sensitive GI tracts, food allergies, the hope is that this guidance will help you select the brands which may best suit you.


Part 3 – Dairy and Non-Dairy Food Products


Milk is packed with important nutrients like calcium, phosphorus, B vitamins, potassium and vitamin D. It is also an excellent source of protein. Drinking milk and dairy products may prevent osteoporosis and bone fractures. It also satisfies your appetite, which can help you maintain a healthy weight.

Conventional milk is produced by cows fed GMO grain and is high in Omega 6 fatty acids. Both the Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are considered ‘partners in prevention’ as it relates to heart disease. Organic milk has a higher content of Omega 3 fatty acids.

The one group of fatty acids that we are very deficient is the Omega-3. To increase one’s intake of Omega-3 fatty acids, eat more fatty fish, take a fish or cod liver oil supplement and/or drink organic cow’s milk. For those with sensitive digestion tracts, organic milk may be a better option.

As always, check the labels for artificial additives and sweeteners, food colorings and whether it is organic, as previously mentioned in Part 1.


Milk Alternatives

For those that are lactose intolerant or do not prefer cow’s milk, there are many milk alternatives to choose from. Most milk alternatives are either made from nuts, or oats, or soy. Thus, it is best to buy organic to avoid the pesticides that may have been used in raising these food products.

Also, remember to read the labels for added sugar: 4 grams of sugar is equal to 1 teaspoon of sugar.

Almond Milk – buy unsweetened, organic, dairy free.

Oat Milk, Soy Milk – buy unsweetened, organic, dairy free.

Cashew Milk – the Forager non- dairy product line offers quality cashew milk, yogurts and creamers; unsweetened, dairy-free and organic.

Hemp Milk and Pea Milk – often tolerated well by toddlers with milk sensitivities.

Shelf Stable Milks – highly pasteurized (using high heat) making the product last longer, but this tends to kill more nutrients and enzymes as a result.

Recommended brands of milk alternatives:

A2 Milk and Goat Milk – these brands tend to work well for those that are casein sensitive; Oatly Oat Milk; Hemp Yeah! Milk – gluten free, dairy free, nut free; So Delicious – dairy free.



Butter is rich in nutrients and beneficial compounds like butyrate and conjugated linoleic acid. On the other hand, high-fat dairy products like butter have been linked to a reduced risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart problems, as it is high in calories and saturated fat. As a result, it should be enjoyed in moderation.

Once again, keep in mind that most butter brands are not organic products. Organic brands are produced from cows that were fed grass, not corn, avoiding potential contamination from pesticides used in raising the corn.

Recommended Butter Brands:

Kerrygold – an organic Irish butter with rich flavor, Vital Farms, Organic Valley -an organic cultured butter, Tillamook, and Westby.

Butter Spreads: be aware that most butter spreads are made from canola or palm oil, both of which may not be desirable.

Butter Alternatives: Grass-fed ghee is great for those that are lactose intolerant since it has no casein in it. For vegans, Miyoko’s is a quality butter alternative.

Recommended Butter Alternatives:

Wholly Cow, Nutiva, Spectrum, and Field Day.


Coffee Creamers

Be aware that coffee creamers are not a very healthy choice. Most creamers contain partially hydrogenated soybean oil (trans fats), artificial flavors and colors and corn syrup solids, all of which should be avoided.

You are better off using “half and half,” which is half milk and half cream, or just using the milk of your choice.

Recommended Coffee Creamers: 

Organic Valley, So Delicious, Califa Better Half- coconut cream and almond milk.



Yogurt is an excellent way to get some of your daily calcium needs met as well as being a tasty treat. Ingredients to avoid in yogurts: pectins, gums, starches and added sugars.

Recommended Yogurt Brands:

Organic Valley, Siggi’s, Forager, So Delicious, Forager, Wallaby, Seven Stars Farm, Green Valley, and Kalona Super Natural.

Recommended Non-Dairy Yogurt Brands:

Kite Hill, Forager, Daiya, Green Valley.

Kefir– Kefir has more protein than yogurt and is great for making smoothies. Maple Hills is a high-quality brand that is 100% grass fed. Other high-quality brands are: Lifeway and Rumiano brands.



Trying to decipher which eggs are best to buy by the labeling alone can be challenging. 90% of eggs sold are produced by caged hens (factory farmed in battery cages) which are fed GMO, corn, or so, and are not allowed to roam.

To distinguish among the eggs you are being offered, here are some terms that will help you:

Cage Free: Chickens are allowed less than one foot to range; they eat GMO, corn and soy.

Free Range: Because the USDA does not define “free-range” this term is meaningless as producers can use the label in any way they want.

Pasture-Raised: Chickens are allowed outside to forage, eating bugs, worms (up to 108 square feet), or other natural food, resulting in eggs with a better nutritional profile (higher omega 3’s, high amounts of Vitamin E). The difference in the taste is noticeable.

So for the most nutritious and flavorful eggs, look for “pasture-raised” in the label.

Recommended Egg Brands:

Larry Schulz, Vital Farm Eggs.



Most cheeses are not organic, being made from milk produced by cows that were fed GMO corn or soy feed. This is true for block and sliced cheeses, processed cheese and shredded cheese. Processed cheese tends to have a lot of vitamins and minerals stripped from them with much food coloring added.

When reading the cheese ingredients you may want to avoid, look for emulsifiers to thicken the cheese (guar gum, xanthum gum, carob bean gum); artificial colorings; and powdered cellulose (anticaking).

For those with food sensitivities, organic cheeses may be the best way to go. Organic cheese brands are higher in Omega 3’s and conjugated linoleic acids and are free of added chemicals, pesticides or hormones.

For those that are lactose intolerant, goat and sheep cheese may be easier to digest. When selecting dairy-free cheese, be sure to read the ingredients. Avoid casein (which may be difficult to digest), natural flavorings and other high processed additives.

Recommended cheese products:

Organic Valley and Organic Valley Grass Milk; Kerrygold organic cheese; Ellsworth Valley; Tillamook; Bellavitano; Daiya dairy free cheese; Forager-organic, dairy free sour cream.


Ice Cream

Of course, not all ice cream is created equal. Some brands are made from natural ingredients and hormone-free milk produced by cows that were well treated. Others are not.


When choosing an ice cream, look for the following criteria:

  • Is it organic?
  • Is it naturally flavored (without artificial flavors) added?
  • Is it naturally colored (without artificial food dyes) added?
  • Is it without artificial sweeteners?


Recommended ice cream brands:

Fronen -dairy free; So Delicious- dairy free; Coconut Bliss – organic and dairy free; Oatly!; Alden’s – organic; Luv – gluten free, low sugar, and organic.


Next: Part 4 – Meats

Author: Michelle Hanson

Michelle Hanson, MA, RD, LD is Fresh & Natural Food’s Registered Dietitian. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition and Clinical Dietetics with a minor in Community Health from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities. She is a registered dietitian and current member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Michelle has been a nutrition consultant for numerous years as well as a nutrition research director at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities.

Michelle is passionate about food and nutrition and believes in helping people find simple, realistic ways to make healthy eating a part of their everyday lifestyle.
If you are interested in meeting Michelle or have questions for her, you can email her at: She will look forward to meeting you!