Healthy Alternatives to Full-Fat Dairy Products

Full of calcium, dairy products are a staple in many balanced diets. Dairy products can also be high in saturated fat, which could increase your cholesterol levels if you consume too much of it in your diet.

Yogurt and a spoon in a bowl
ATU Images / Photographer's Choice / Getty Images 

If you wish to include dairy products in your diet—or just the taste of them—there are ways to do so without adding extra fat.

If you’re following a diet to lower your cholesterol, these tips will help you enjoy the taste of dairy products in your diet without significantly increasing your cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

Replace Sour Cream With Low-Fat Yogurt

Sour cream is used to add creaminess to many foods, and it is a common topping for main dishes and sides, such as soups, baked potatoes, and fish. Because sour cream can add extra fat to your diet, an alternative would be to replace it with another topping that’s lower in fat.

Low-fat plain yogurt is an alternative that can add the desired creaminess and similar taste to your food without adding the extra fat that sour cream does. If you’re looking for a firmer texture to top your food with, you can use low-fat plain Greek yogurt, which is also lower in fat than sour cream.

Instead of Butter, Use Phytosterol-Based Spreads

Butter and margarine are commonly used as spreads for bagels, bread, and crackers, but these, too, can add extra fat to your daily intake. By replacing these spreads with phytosterol-based spreads, you can cut added fat out of your diet.

Additionally, this helps introduce phytosterols (heart-healthy compounds) into your diet. These spreads are a little bit softer than butter and margarine, but many people like their taste. They are made with ingredients such as nuts, vegetables, and fruit. Most spreads that contain phytosterols will state this on their package labeling.

Switch From Cream-Based Products to Oil-Based

If you’re looking to experiment with some of the foods you prepare, such as dressing, toppings, and sauce, you might consider swapping the butter, cream, or full-fat milk with cooking oil.

Some cooking oils, such as olive oil and canola oil, are low in saturated fat and high in unsaturated fat, which is considered to be healthy for your heart.

When trying recipes, you may need to experiment to figure out the right amount of oil you need to get your desired consistency. Once you find the right recipe, the end result is worth the effort: reducing the saturated fat in your diet.

Switch to Low-Fat Alternatives

Another way you can include dairy products in your cholesterol-lowering diet is to switch to low-fat counterparts of your favorite dairy product.

Practically all dairy products, including milk, yogurt, creams, and various cheeses, have low-fat alternatives, and making this switch can cut your saturated fat and cholesterol intake.

When selecting these products, it’s important to read the labeling on dairy products—especially the designations of 2%, 1%, non-fat, and skim.

Consider Dairy Alternatives

If you’re trying to substantially cut the amount of fat from your diet, but still crave the consistency and flavor of dairy products, you might want to consider using a dairy alternative. These foods, primarily made from soy and other products, do not contain actual dairy ingredients and they often have a similar consistency that can add texture to your dish.

There are many types of dairy alternatives available—such as almond milk, soy milk, soy protein, and tahini—that can be added to just about any food item with delicious results.

2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Lichtenstein AH, Appel LJ, Vadiveloo M, et al. 2021 Dietary guidance to improve cardiovascular health: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2021;144(23). doi:10.1161/CIR.0000000000001031

  2. Gylling H, Plat J, Turley S, et al. Plant sterols and plant stanols in the management of dyslipidaemia and prevention of cardiovascular disease. Atherosclerosis. 2014;232(2):346-360. doi:10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2013.11.043

By Jennifer Moll, PharmD
Jennifer Moll, MS, PharmD, is a pharmacist actively involved in educating patients about the importance of heart disease prevention.