Dairy products have something of a bad reputation with putting on pounds, but does eating dairy actually make you gain weight? It’s a fair question to ask, because the people who cut it out do seem to get weight-loss results. (It was apparently one of Khloé Kardashian’s strategies.) Of course, there are many other reasons you might choose to keep dairy out of your diet. Lactose intolerance is the most well-known, but sensitivity to dairy products can also cause general digestive issues, bloating, headaches, and even acne.
But let’s assume your body is fine with eating dairy; you’re just concerned with whether it can hinder your weight-loss goals. POPSUGAR tapped two dietitians to find out if that’s actually a possibility.
Can Dairy Make You Gain Weight?
“Dairy in itself doesn’t cause weight gain,” said registered dietitian Megan Casper, MS, CDN. But some types of dairy are both less healthy and easier to overeat than others, which can lead to extra pounds – and the idea that all dairy equals weight gain. “It’s not the dairy itself that’s causing weight gain, but the types and how we’re eating them,” Megan explained.
In fact, Diana Gariglio-Clelland, a registered dietitian at Balance One Supplements, told POPSUGAR that some studies have indicated dairy to be beneficial for weight loss, including losing belly fat and gaining muscle. It’s true that some people might lose weight or just feel better by cutting out dairy, she said, but it’s not a strategy she’d recommend to everyone, and the weight-loss aspect, again, may not be directly linked to dairy alone. If you stop eating any food group that was a big staple in your diet, dairy included, you might lose weight simply because you’re eating fewer calories, she explained. It’s not necessarily that that particular food group was preventing you from losing weight.
Essentially, if you can eat dairy and enjoy doing it, there’s no reason you have to cut it out completely just to lose weight.
What Are the Best Kinds of Dairy For Weight Loss?
“I’d recommend two to three servings of dairy for most adults, not just those wanting to lose weight,” Diana said. Both dietitians recommended these kinds of dairy for weight loss:
- Full-fat or reduced-fat Greek yogurt with berries
- Cottage cheese with a handful of nuts or a piece of fruit
- Full-fat or reduced-fat milk
Fuller-fat varieties of dairy are more satisfying and filling, Diana told POPSUGAR, which can help you avoid overeating and lose weight in the long run. Megan opts for one percent or two percent, which are lower in calories but still deliciously creamy and satisfying. “Greek yogurt is especially high in protein, which can be great for weight loss,” Megan said, because protein keeps you full for longer and can help you build muscle as well.
Although nonfat dairy might have fewer calories, it typically comes with added sugars and other additives, Megan told POPSUGAR. If you’re eating dairy and having trouble losing weight, try cutting back on sugary products, like sweetened lattes or flavored milks, sugared yogurts, ice cream, and milkshakes, Diana said. Megan also recommended checking your serving sizes to make sure you’re not overeating your dairy-filled snacks; overeating (of any kind of food!) can make weight loss difficult.
If you’re opting for healthy dairy sources and sticking to the recommended serving sizes, there’s no reason you should have to cut out dairy for weight loss alone. Diana told POPSUGAR, “The bottom line is that a diet for weight loss should be realistic and sustainable for the long-term, which can definitely include dairy!”