Friday, May 23, 2008

Calcium Crisis--Continued

Milk is generally the number one calcium source for kids--and teens. But what if your kid is vegetarian; two of every 100 older kids in the US is. Not to worry--there are plenty of vegetarian sources of calcium that are absorbed as well or better than milk.

Greens that are low in oxalate (bok choy, broccoli, Chinese/Napa cabbage, collards, kale, okra, turnip greens) provide calcium that is highly bioavailable to the body for absorption (49% to 61%), in comparison with calcium-set tofu, fortified fruit juices, and cow’s milk (bioavailability in the range of 31% to 32%) and with fortified soymilk, sesame seeds, almonds, and red and white beans (bioavailability of 21% to 24%)

On the other hand, oxalates present in some foods can greatly reduce calcium absorption, so vegetables that are very high in these compounds, such as spinach, beet greens, and Swiss
chard, are not good sources of usable calcium despite their high calcium content.

The following list shows vegetarian as well as dairy sources of calcium, for comparison.

The Dietary Reference Intake for Calcium (the amount of daily calcium that should be consumed) for kids is:

Children 1-3 years: 500 mg
Children 4-8 years: 800 mg
Children 9-18: 1300 mg

Cultured soy yogurt, fortified, 1/2 c (125 mL) 367 mg
Soybeans, cooked, 1/2 c (125 mL) 88 mg
Soybeans, dry roasted, (soy nuts), 1/4 c (60 mL) 60 mg
Soybeans, green, 1/2 c (125 mL) 130 mg
Soymilk, fortified, 1/2 c (125 mL) 100-159 mg
Tofu, firm, calcium-set, 1/2 c (126 g) 120-430 mg
Tempeh, 1/2 c (83 g) 92 mg

Legumes (cooked, 1/2 c/125 mL)
Black beans 46 mg
Chickpeas, garbanzo beans 40 mg
Great northern or navy beans 60-64 mg
Pinto beans 41 mg
Vegetarian baked beans 64 mg
Nuts, seeds and their butters mg
Almonds, 1/4 c (60 mL) 88 mg
Almond butter, 2 tbsp (30 mL) 86 mg
Sesame tahini, 2 tbsp (30 mL) 128 mg

Breads, cereals, and grains
Cereal, ready-to-eat, fortified, 1 oz (28 g) 55-315 mg

Figs, dried, 5 -137 mg
Orange, 1 large 74
Orange juice, fortified, 1/2 c (125 mL) 150 mg
Vegetables (cooked, 1 c/250 mL)
Bok choy (Chinese cabbage, pak choi) 167-188 mg
Broccoli 79 mg
Collard greens 239 mg
Kale 99 mg
Kale, Scotch 181 mg
Mustard greens 109 mg
Okra 107 mg
Turnip greens 206 mg

Other foods
Blackstrap molasses, 1 tbsp (15 mL) 172 mg

Dairy products
Cow’s milk, 1/2 c (125 mL) 137-158
Cheddar cheese, 3/4 oz (21 g) 153
Yogurt, plain, 1/2 c (125 mL) 137-230
Dairy products
Cow’s milk, 1/2 c (125 mL) 137-158
Cheddar cheese, 3/4 oz (21 g) 153
Yogurt, plain, 1/2 c (125 mL) 137-230

Source: Position Paper of the American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada: Vegetarian Diets, Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2003 Volume 103, No 6

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Is Your Teen in a Calcium Crisis?

There is no time in life when a person needs more calcium than during the tween and teen years. Why? During those few years, teens accumulate more than 25% of their TOTAL bone mass. By the time a teen finishes his growth spurts at around age 17, they've accumulated about 90% of their adult bone mass.

The Bad News: Teens Don't Get Enough Calcium!

Past age 11, the majority of us don't get the calcium we need. 75% of teen boys and 90% of teen girls don't get enough calcium. National health experts call this a "calcium crisis"--if the bones aren't built to their optimum strength during the growing years, they are more prone to fractures and osteoporosis later in life.

If you've got a teen at home, you can probably relate. Our house has milk drinkers on both ends of the spectrum. One stopped drinking milk years ago when he started having problems with lactose intolerance, the other probably has the strongest bones in the neighborhood because he drinks a quart of milk a day!

So how does my non-milk drinking son get his calcium? Here's his typical calcium intake and sources:

At Breakfast: 10 oz of skim milk mixed with 1 packet of Carnation Instant Breakfast (with a Lactaid chaser): 575 mg calcium

Snack: Sandwich with 2 oz of Brie on French bread: 110 mg calcium

Snack: 1-4 oz Danon Activia yogurt: 150 mg calcium

Snack/Dinner 16 oz Tropicana Calcium fortified orange juice: 600 mg calcium

Total Calcium for the Day: 1435 mg: 110% of the DRI for calcium for teenagers

Activity also Important!

Weight bearing physical activity causes new bone tissue to form-- which makes bones stronger.

What's Considered Weight Bearing?

Climbing stairs
Jumping rope
Playing team sports, such as basketball, soccer, and volleyball
Older teenagers can build even more bone strength through weight training, but they should check with a health care provider before starting any type of training.

Ten Ways to Get Your Kid off the Couch

  1. Walk the dog

  2. Shoot some hoops

  3. Use a punching bag

  4. Ride his bike to a friend's instead of getting a ride

  5. Play active video games: Dance Dance Revolution, Wii Tennis, Baseball or Golf, Wii Fit

  6. Do household chores: vacuuming, sweeping, mowing the lawn

  7. Join a team--the YMCA has teams that stress having fun more than winning.

  8. Jump on the trampoline

  9. Take a hike

  10. Give the whole family a pedometer and challenge each other to increase their steps.

Stay Tuned for Tomorrow's Post, when I'll talk about vegetarian sources of calcium, too.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Healthy Gums...Healthy Pregnancy

Thinking about getting pregnant? See your dentist. Not the advice you were expecting to get? Of course, it's also recommended that you receive preconception counseling from your doctor about health issues you need to get under control before you get pregnant. But seeing your dentist is just important. Why?

Research is showing time and again that gum health is the window to the body's inflammation level. If you have gum disease (a step beyond gingivitis where the bacteria actually slips below the gum line) the bacteria apparently sets off an inflammatory response in the body, which can set off a cascade of events which can lead to preeclampsia. Preeclampsia, characterized by extreme water retension, especially in the face and hands, and high blood pressure, can escalate into eclampsia, which can be fatal.

Gum disease in pregnancy can increase the risk of premature delivery up to seven times!
According to Dr. Don Callan DDS, a periodontist who researches dental bacteria in Arkansas, "There is definitely a relationship between preterm birth and bacterial toxins that migrate into the rest of the body, which can activate premature labor. Most dentists are also now aware of research that suggests that harmful bacteria under the gum line can actually damage the heart, increase symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and damage artificial joints."

These factors increase risk of gum disease:

Hormonal changes: pregnancy, puberty, menopause
Diabetes (there is some evidence that uncontrolled gum disease can actually lead to diabetes.)
Clenching or grinding of teeth

So before you get pregnant, take care of your gums and teeth. Get your teeth cleaned and brush and floss regularly. If you're already pregnant, see your dental hygienist once or twice during the pregnancy. Floss at least once a day and brush after every meal.

For more information:

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Quick Family Meals on a Budget

Cutting the Food Budget

On the economic front, the news is dire. Gas prices are soaring and food prices are increasing almost as fast. After you've trimmed down the clothes and entertainment budget, the food budget is the next to get cut. Is it possible to have tasty, nutritious meals on a budget? Yes, but you probably need to make some changes in the way you buy, cook and eat:

Getting Ready:

  • Shop the sales, make a list.

  • Plan to use leftovers--creatively.

  • Never go to the store hungry.

  • If you need to shop with kids in tow, make sure they are well rested and not hungry.

At the Store:

  • Buy chicken, fish, and shrimp in bulk at club stores. If you want to buy natural beef on a budget, go directly to the farmer, such as Alder Springs Ranch or US Wellness Meats, which also carries lamb, bison, pork and chicken.

  • Before buying fruit in 5 pound economy bags, confirm that they're cheaper--sometimes they're not.

  • Think outside the bun for convenience. No time to cook? Scramble a few eggs. Make a veggie fritatta with last night's stir fried veggies. Eggs are still the cheapest, contain nature's perfect protein and 13 essential nutrients including choline. (Choline is essential for normal brain development for infants and the unborn. Most women don't get enough!) For health and nutrition facts and great egg recipes see:

  • Weigh your time against the cost of convenience. If buying washed lettuce drastically increases the chance that your family will eat salad, go for it! Salad dressing? With a recipe you can make it yourself, better for less.

  • Stock up on products that can be used in many ways--such as pasta sauce. Besides pouring it over pasta, it can be used as a dip for string cheese or grilled zuchinni, or a topping for fish, chicken, pork or even eggs! For more tips and recipes, see

  • Keep a few true convenience meals on hand that keeps you from eating out. Frozen veggie lasagna is a favorite of mine. But I like it with a little extra Ragu...

At Home:

Make double portions of protein and of casseroles, soups and stews. Freeze the soups and stews and use the protein for creative leftovers. Here are a few to get you started:

  • Grilled chicken breast: chicken burritos, pasta with chicken and artichoke hearts, chicken and brown rice casserole, chicken caesar salad.

  • Beef Roast: roast beef sandwiches, shredded beef tacos, eggs with shredded beef and green chile, sloppy joes, beef stuffed baked potatoes.

  • Roasted or grilled salmon: salmon salad, salmon with pasta and Ragu mixed with fat free sour cream, salmon chowder

  • Make a menu and try to stick with it. This will make life less stressful for the whole family and help you cut food costs. With a plan in hand, you're less likely to eat out.

When Eating Out:

  • Eat an apple on the way--you'll be less tempted by expensive (and high fat) appetizers.

  • Take advantage of early bird and small portion specials.

  • Rethink take out. It doesn't have to be high fat or fried. A grilled chicken dinner at Taco Cabana is $12.99--and it includes rice, beans, tortillas and fresh salsa. Add your own salad and some strawberries for a balanced, tasty meal. How do I know? We had that for dinner on Thursday nite! Another take out idea is Chinese--a few entrees and a few side dishes, with brown rice can feed a whole family.

  • Start with a brothy soup or salad.

  • Drink water. Sodas and alcohol can add significantly to your bill (and your waistline.)

  • Share an entree with your spouse or friend and order extra side dishes.

  • Order one dessert and 4 spoons; your wallet and your weight will thank you!

Pregnancy Weight Gain--Gaining Just the Right Amount

"Eating for Two" goes the old saying. And that's a dream come true for women--eat what tickles your fancy, and all for a good cause!!

But too much emphasis on weight gain during pregnancy may be leading to more weight gain, delivery complications and gestational diabetes for the mom, and a larger weight gain and future health problems like metabolic syndrome and overweight for the baby.

The majority of women in the US are overweight--so to begin with, they don't need to gain as much weight since part of the weight for pregnancy is fat--stored for future breastfeeding. That means a weight gain of only 15-25 pounds, according to the Institute of Medicine--and up to 15 pounds for a BMI in the obese range. The Institute of Medicine is now discussing updating the weight gain guidelines that have been used since 1990. (for more info, see

Nutrients for Two--Making Every Bite Count!

The truth is, calorie needs don't increase that much--but the need for more nutrients does. The requirement for most vitamins and minerals increase 10-20%--but some increase by almost 50%. And when you consider that many women start their pregnancy with nutrient deficts, it's important to make every bite count during pregnancy.

Ten Tips for "Eating Expectantly"

  1. Start every day with a good breakfast. Eggs are a super food for pregnancy because they are one of the richest sources of choline, a vitamin necessary for normal brain development. Scramble them with some bell peppers or salsa to boost iron absorption. A high fiber cereal with low fat milk or soy milk, a sprinkle of flax seed and a fresh fruit is another good choice.

  2. Focus on Fiber--try to have at least 5 grams of fiber with each meal. This helps with constipation and fills you up faster. Whole grains have a treasure trove of nutrients that refined grains are missing. Half of your grains should be whole grains.

  3. Make Produce a Priority: Most pregnant women need to eat 2 cups of fruit and 3 cups of vegetables a day. Start at breakfast and have a fruit or veggie at each meal and snack.

  4. Get Your Vitamin D. Researchers now believe that there is a vitamin D epidemic in the US. Vitamn D deficiency is correlated with seventeen cancers--even a possible link to autism. Current recommended intakes of vitamin D are thought to be too low and don't correlate with natural Vitamin D from sun exposure. Twenty minutes of full body unprotected sun exposure in a fair skinned person produces about 20,000 IU of vitamin D. The current DRI for vitamin D is 200 IU You'd have to drink 200 glass of vitamin D milk to get the same amount from food! Sunscreen, pollution, higher latitude and cloud cover all decrease the amount of UV rays that gets to the skin, affecting Vitamin D production. (see for more info)

  5. Vary your Protein. Lean beef and pork, cold water fish, chicken (even the dark meat), eggs, tofu, beans, and nuts--they're all good and they should all be part of your diet!