When I’m not reading for work, I’m reading for fun. And one of my favorite book series is the Jack Reacher crime novels. Yes, the books are gritty and dark, but I love that the good guy always wins.

If you’ve ever read the books or streamed the popular television series, then you know Jack Reacher is a legend because he’s huge. He’s a 6-foot-5, 250-pound giant. In the books, he’s described as having “fists the size of supermarket chickens.”

The actor who plays Jack Reacher in the show, Alan Ritchson, recently explained his fitness and diet routine to bulk up for the role.

In a video for “Men’s Fitness,” Ritchson admits that he doesn’t have the perfect diet. He eats chocolate chip cookie dough on the regular, there’s always pizza in his family’s fridge, and he eats whatever he wants, including chili dogs.

He also eats a lot of protein. A lot. And to get the high-quality protein he needs to build those massive Jack Reacher muscles, he eats real meat and dairy.

Ritchson says he snacks on cottage cheese, yogurt and string cheese throughout the day. (He eats every hour when he’s bulking up). He also adds high-protein dairy whey powder to his fruit smoothies.

Dairy foods, including milk, cheese and yogurt, are a nutritional powerhouse. And Jack Reacher, who loves a good cheeseburger, would agree.

Real dairy foods are full of high-quality protein and essential micronutrients but are low in calories.

For example, an 8-ounce serving of low-fat milk is just 110 calories and provides 8 grams of protein and a hefty 30% of the daily recommended value of calcium we need for strong bones. And unlike plant-based beverages, like almond drinks, milk doesn’t have added sugars.

Milk isn’t only a good source of calcium. It’s also loaded with potassium and vitamin D, which support muscle, heart and immune system health.

Most of us aren’t getting enough of these vital nutrients. That’s why the U.S. Dietary Guidelines have identified calcium, potassium and vitamin D as “nutrients of concern.”

If you prefer whole milk, go ahead and enjoy it. The latest research shows that reduced- or full-fat dairy products, like whole milk, can actually be beneficial to heart health. Dairy foods also aren’t more likely to cause weight gain.

And more good news: Dairy is more sustainable than ever before. Over the last 20 years, farmers have lowered emissions per gallon of milk by 26% while increasing milk production by 53%.

U.S. dairy farmers and creameries have also committed to achieving net zero emissions and carbon neutrality by 2050.

This June Dairy Month, I encourage you to eat like an action hero and choose healthy, high-protein real dairy. (Cookie dough is optional.)

Iowa farmers work hard every day to provide us with safe, healthy food, with a focus on sustainability and the best possible care for farm animals. We invite you to learn more at realfarmersrealfoodrealmeat.com.

Learn more about author Teresa Bjork here.

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