+ What dairy products build the most muscle?


Mickela Mitchell, MS, RDN, LDN

Q: Which dairy products have the best protein punch? Not just necessarily how many grams of protein, but a combination of carbs, proteins and fiber that make it a powerful, lean-muscle-building product? A: Thanks for the question! Let’s start with the fiber portion of your question. Dairy foods do not contain fiber, unless it’s been added in the form of fruit or a supplemental powder of some sort. Fiber does not actively build muscle—in fact, adding fiber to a post-workout snack can slow digestion and therefore slow the arrival of the nutrients needed to replenish tired muscles. I’ll expand on quick-digesting carbs later in the post. Milk, cheese and yogurt all provide a powerful punch of high-quality protein, which along with resistance exercise and a physically active lifestyle, can contribute to muscle building. While the exact biochemical mechanism has not been identified, whey protein has a unique and beneficial effect on muscle in a weight-loss diet. A meta-analysis published last year in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition is just one in a long line of research demonstrating dairy’s ability to preserve muscle in those who exercise regularly. Let’s not miss that last point—whey protein must be combined with regular stress to the muscles (i.e. exercise) to achieve the desired effect. The great news is you don’t have to be a bodybuilder or use special powders and mixes to take advantage of the muscle-building power of whey. Real dairy milk and yogurt contain a mix of whey (quick-digesting) and casein (slower-digesting) proteins. Along with 8 grams of protein per serving, you’ll be getting key nutrients most Americans simply don’t get enough of, including: Calcium – crucial for muscle contraction Magnesium - crucial for muscle relaxation Potassium - an electrolyte and another nutrient Americans traditionally fall short on Most folks who exercise recreationally can capitalize on these benefits by making sure they are getting enough dairy—three servings every day. For athletes and those doing more intense workouts, consider chocolate milk as a recovery beverage. Your body’s response to the quick-digesting carbs in chocolate milk flips your metabolic switch from muscle burning to muscle building when you get it within an hour after your workout. Plus, high-quality and easily absorbed protein is there to fuel the building. Hope this helps – keep working on your fitness and let us know how it’s going! 


+ Any healthy snack ideas for my child's sports season?


Lanier Dabruzzi, MS, RD, LD

Question: Spring is almost here, which means sports season for my kids. I am the team mom for my daughter’s soccer team and need some healthy choices for snacks. Any ideas? First of all, congratulations on having such active children and taking an interest in healthy snacks to refuel their bodies! As a registered dietitian and mother, I understand the importance of both physical activity and healthy eating. In fact, did you know that research has shown that healthy students are better students? As little as 20 minutes of physical activity and eating breakfast daily can help to stimulate brain activity. To ensure that the team can play at its best-- make sure to start the day off with a healthy breakfast. However, not all breakfasts are created equal, so try to include three of the five food groups for optimal nutrition like in our Scrambled Egg and Mozzarella Breakfast Pizza or our Berry Breakfast Bars. For snack time, focus on hydration, as well as protein and carbohydrates, to refuel those little bodies to get back out there and win! Some favorites include: -        String cheese -        Fruit slices -        Yogurt tubes (try them frozen for a cold and creamy treat) -        Granola bars -        Individual flavored or white milk “boxes” Your team will bring home first place with these breakfast and snack ideas on your side.


+ How do I stick to my resolution to lose weight?


Laura Marbury, MS, RD, LD

Question: It seems like every New Year I find myself setting the same weight loss goals. Any tips for actually sticking to my resolution this year? You’re not alone. In fact, losing weight was the number-one resolution made by Americans in 2014. Unfortunately, the same research found that six months into the year, only 44 percent of people were still actively working to achieve that goal. Avoid being a statistic this year and use these tips to maintain a healthy lifestyle throughout 2015. Start out simple. Set obtainable goals like swapping one soda a day for low-fat milk or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Small changes add up and achieving them will keep you motivated. Make substitutions. Instead of eliminating entire food groups, focus on finding healthier alternatives. Make the switch from refined, white carbohydrates to whole-wheat pasta, brown rice and sweet potatoes. For dessert, keep healthier options on hand like frozen yogurt with fruit and dark chocolate. This will help combat your cravings without expanding your waistline. Find your favorite. A healthy lifestyle cannot be maintained on diet alone—exercise is also important. However, that doesn’t mean you have to hit the treadmill every day. Take the “work” out of working out this year by doing something you enjoy. When you do, the odds are you’ll stick to it. Try a Zumba class, rock climbing, yoga or tennis. If you’re short on time, grab a co-worker and take a walk during lunch. Before long, you’ll find yourself looking forward to working out. Measure your success. Use a pedometer to keep up with your steps every day or upgrade to a personal fitness tracker that allows you to calculate your caloric intake. This, along with weighing yourself weekly, will help you stay on top of your goal.                                                                                                 


+ What foods should I donate to my local food bank?


Laura Marbury, MS, RD, LD

Question: "My family and I are getting ready to donate to a local food bank this holiday season. As a dietitian, what foods do you recommend we provide?"

First of all, thank you for addressing a great need in our society today. According to the Feeding American website, 49 million American’s live in food insecure households and face hunger on a daily basis. These people rely on your donations.

While all food is appreciated, try to be helpful and healthful when you donate. Consider the MyPlate guidelines and try to incorporate all of the five recommended food groups in your donation. Non-perishable items work well for food banks because they store easily and won’t expire before they get to the consumer. The problem is that not all shelf-stable items are created equal. Some can be full of sodium and additives and short on nutrients.

Look for simple whole-grains like brown rice, whole-wheat pasta and old-fashioned oats. Pick fruits canned in water instead of sugary syrup and lower-sodium canned vegetables. For protein, tuna fish, peanut butter and dried beans are all great options.

Milk is the number one nutritious food item requested at food banks, and for good reason. Just one, eight-ounce glass provides eight grams of protein as well as calcium, potassium and vitamin D; nutrients most Americans are missing out on. Due to lack of donations, however, this request is rarely met.

Fortunately, this is starting to change thanks to The Great American Milk Drive. This one-of-a-kind program is delivering highly-desired and nutrient-rich milk to hungry families in communities who need it most. All you have to do to donate is visit or text “Milk” to 27722. By entering your ZIP code, you can ensure that the milk is delivered to a Feeding America food bank in your community.


+ How can I coordinate a healthier holiday class party?


Rebecca Turner, MS, RD, CSSD, LD

Question: "I've volunteered to prepare food for my child's holiday class party. What are some healthy options I can provide?

Classroom celebrations are a perfect opportunity for parents and teachers to support healthy eating habits and incorporate fun into a nutrition lesson. Being a homeroom parent myself, I know it is tempting to give in to chips, pizza, and soda. However, you can think outside the junk food aisle and create a much healthier and festive event.

Create a “‘Twas the MyPlate Before Christmas” or “Santa’s MyPlate Workshop” themed party by printing out this MyPlate coloring sheet as the activity. The USDA’s MyPlate is a great tool for kids and adults to learn the recommended portions and which foods make up a balanced eating plan. Offer snacks that coordinate with each food group and have students write in which snacks pair each section. If students are unable to write just yet, then simply talk through it as they color their plate.

Below are healthy classroom party ideas that include foods from each food group:

  • Fruits: Use small paper cups to portion out grapes, apple slices or any mixed fruit combination.
  • Vegetables: Serve baby carrots, celery and small broccoli florets with ranch-dip.
  • Grains: Offer air-popped popcorn or whole-grain crackers over greasy chips.
  • Meat: Low-fat cheese sticks, yogurts, or a chickpea hummus (for dipping crackers and vegetables) are great sources of party-friendly proteins.
  • Dairy: Both white and flavored milk provides nine essential vitamins and minerals that are important for development and good health, including calcium, potassium and vitamin D.   

Classroom parties can still be a very special day, just adopt healthier menu ideas, plan a nutrition activity, and allow plenty of time for kids to run around on the playground.


+ Tell me more about the Great American Milk Drive.


Lanier Dabruzzi, MS, RD, LD

Question: "I recently heard about the Great American Milk Drive providing milk to families in need. Can you tell me more about it?"

The Great American Milk Drive is the first-ever nationwide program that will help provide milk to the hungry families who need it.

Hunger is a real issue in the United States, affecting one in every six Americans, including 12.5 million families. Feeding America has worked to provide 37 million Americans each year with foods to nourish their bodies and help them thrive; however, milk is one item that is often left out. Despite milk being the number one food requested by recipients, it is rarely donated because of its perishability. Milk is important for these families because it provides nine essential nutrients, including eight grams of protein and three of the four nutrients most Americans are missing in their diets.

Thankfully, Feeding America and the nation’s dairy farm families and processors have partnered to solve this problem. By donating online or texting “MILK” to 27722, you can provide milk to families in your community.



+ What can I serve that will be easy and healthy for Halloween?


Nancy Roman, RD, LD

Question: "I am the host house for our neighborhood Halloween gathering this year. Several families will be stopping by before and after trick or treating. What can I serve that will be easy and healthy?"

How fun! What a great idea to have a central gathering place for the Halloween festivities.

Soups are a wonderful and easy menu item to serve to a group. They can be made ahead of time and kept warm in crock-pots. Borrow a couple of crock-pots from friends, and you can make two or three different kinds—something for everyone! Best of all, soups are an easy dish to make healthy.

Chili is a good, hearty dish—you can use lean ground beef, chicken, or go meatless with an all-bean recipe. Offer toppings such as cheese, sour cream, green onions and jalapeno peppers and your guests can choose which they like best. Serve with cheddar and ham muffins.

Celebrate fall with an Autumn Pumpkin soup. This soup can be made with regular milk, or if you have someone in your group that has lactose sensitivity, the soup can be made with lactose free milk. Since cheddar is a hard cheese, it is usually tolerated well by those with lactose sensitivity, so the cheddar and ham muffins will work with this soup as well.

Now for the kids, you need something to compete with all that candy. Checkout these fun finger foods, sure to appeal to the kid in all of us. Trick-or-treaters will be too excited to sit and eat dinner, but these snacks are sure to catch their attention and nourish their bodies. Dairy foods are a good source of protein and bone-building calcium, and many of the recipes incorporate fruit, vegetables and whole grains, so you can be certain your ghosts, goblins, superheroes and fairy princesses will be well nourished.

Happy trick or treating!




+ Any tips for eating healthy on game day?


Laura Marbury, MS, RD, LD

Question: "My family loves football. We spend most Saturdays in the fall tailgating before games. Any tips for eating healthy on game day?"

Tailgating is such a fun way to share food with friends and family. Unfortunately, some of the dishes typically served can be high in fat and low in nutrients. If you’re not careful, you can end up consuming a lot of empty calories. Like the football players, you must go into the day with a game plan. Follow these three key plays to win the tailgating game.

Play 1: Pregame with Breakfast

Before heading out to tailgate, be sure to eat breakfast. It’s the most important meal of the day. Eating breakfast not only kick-starts your metabolism, it will also keep you from overeating later in the day.

Make a bowl of oatmeal with milk instead of water and top it with fruit. At eight grams of protein per glass, milk has more protein than an egg. Paired with fiber-rich oatmeal and fruit, this meal will keep you full for hours.

Play 2: Make Key Plays

When you’re ready to tackle the game day spread, choose wisely. Pick lean sources of protein such as nuts, cheese trays, turkey sandwiches and grilled chicken tenders to fill you up faster. Instead of fried potato chips, pair veggies like carrots and celery with your favorite dips. If you’re contributing, try making dips with yogurt instead of mayo for a high-protein, low-calorie option.

Play 3: Punt Big Portions

You can still have a burger, just make it a slider. The same goes for muffins. Just make it mini. If all else fails, play the split game with a friend.

When healthy options are limited, portion size is key. In a stand-up-and-eat situation like a tailgate, one-or-two bite foods are ideal. Keep that in mind when you are preparing food to take. With a few modifications, most foods can be made in a “mini version.”



+ Do you have any suggestions for easy and healthy lunchbox meals?


Cami Lewis, RD

Question: “My child starts kindergarten this year and will be eating lunch away from home for the first time. I am planning to pack his lunch every day. Do you have any suggestions for easy and healthy lunchbox meals?”

Back to school time brings a lot of anxieties for parents, especially those with rising kindergarteners. There are plenty of options for making a nutritious and well-balanced meal for your child to take to school for lunch. The key to easy is planning and preparing foods ahead. The key to healthy is making sure that you follow MyPlate guidelines. When packing his lunch, include one of the options below from each food group. And remember to pack an ice pack in the lunch box to keep cold items cold.

Dairy – Milk (plain or flavored), yogurt cups or tubes, low-fat cheese or string cheese Meat/Protein – Sliced turkey, ham, chicken, low fat cheese, peanut butter, nuts, hard boiled eggs Whole Grains – Flat bread, tortillas, crackers, pasta salad, pretzels, cereal Vegetable – Edemame, veggies with dip, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, tossed salad Fruit – Grapes, apple slices, melons, berries, orange wedges, fruit cups, fruit salads, dried fruit Optional Snack – Homemade oatmeal cookie, yogurt covered cherries, pudding cup or dried fruit leather.

Another option is leaving the worry of providing a healthy lunch to the school nutrition team. Many schools serve both breakfast and lunch and follow the National School Lunch Program meal patterns. These meal patterns were recently revised by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and strictly follow the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Schools are offering more foods that were once lacking in students’ diets such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy and limited fats, sugars and sodium.

Did I mention that school food service establishments are inspected by local health/sanitation departments and follow the highest food safety standards?  You can rest assured school meals provide a variety of nutritious and safe foods that will nourish your child so he is ready to learn. Take a look at the school menu and review it with your child prior to the beginning of school, then visit the school cafeteria to learn more about their meal service program.



+ What foods can help improve athletic performance?


Rebecca Turner MS, RD, LD

Question: "My son is varsity football player and wants to gain strength to improve his performance. Are there certain foods he should be eating?"

Fitter, faster, stronger, describes every athletes’ training goals. But exercise alone will not take players to the next level.  Among the food groups, protein is responsible for repairing, rebuilding, and preserving muscle tissue. It is simple, if an athlete doesn’t eat quality protein they can’t have quality muscle. You can encourage your son to implement these three steps for a stronger performance.

Step 1: Focus on protein at every meal.

Athletes should eat a variety of protein rich foods each day like seafood, nuts and beans, plus lean meat, poultry, and eggs. Don’t forget low fat dairy provides a unique combination of protein and eight other essential nutrients, including calcium, potassium and vitamin D.  Snacking on Greek yogurt provides two times as much muscle building protein as regular yogurt.  

Step 2: Eat omega-3 fats.

Eat fat and gain muscle? Yes, researchers suggest essential fatty acids boost everything from heart health to players’ mood. Omega-3s are thought to help spare muscle due to their anti-inflammatory properties. Foods like salmon, walnuts, and omega-3 enriched eggs provide these essential fats plus protein making them muscle magicians.

Step 3: Fuel Up After Resistance Training

Aerobic activities (like sprints, drills, or running) are great for cardiovascular strength but do little to build muscle.  Resistance training plus dietary protein builds new muscle and improves strength. Fueling up with a high quality protein rich snack like low-fat chocolate milk within 30 minutes of resistance workouts ensures the athlete will receive the nutrients needed to be strong!



+ What are some healthy snacks for Valentine's Day?


Laura Buxembaum RD, LDN

Question: "I am signed up to help provide food for the Valentine’s Day party at my son’s school. Can you provide some tips for healthy snack ideas?"

Great question! With multiple parties (home and school) and the exchange of cards and candy, Valentine’s Day can become a sugar overload. As a Registered Dietitian and a mom, I feel it is important to provide children with nutrient rich foods, not only during meal and snack time, but during celebrations as well. The great news is that Valentine’s Day coincides with American Heart Health Month allowing for the perfect opportunity to teach children the importance of keeping our hearts healthy through physical activity and good nutrition. Serve up these Valentine’s treats this year- I promise the kids won’t be disappointed!

 1.) Veggie/Fruit Kabobs – These are great for classroom parties.  Choose fruit and veggie colors to coordinate with the holiday being celebrate.  For Valentine’s Day, layer cherry tomatoes with low-fat Mozzarella cheese cubes or strawberries with cubes of angel food cake on a skewer.  Cheese, not only provides calcium, but is a great source of high quality protein for children and adults.

2.) Love Potion Smoothie – Children love smoothies and when you give them a fancy name, put them in a festive cup and add a straw, they become even more appealing. To make a love potion smoothie blend together vanilla yogurt, milk and frozen red berries such as strawberries or raspberries. Visit our website for more smoothie ideas.

3.) Yogurt Parfait Bar – Allow children to make their own yogurt parfait. Start with vanilla or strawberry yogurt and provide toppings such as fresh fruit, granola, raisins and even some sprinkles or chocolate chips.

Additionally, don’t ruin your healthy party efforts by passing out candy laden Valentine’s Day cards at the end of the party. Have the teacher encourage parents to attach pencils, stickers, erasers, or fun shaped straws to cards instead of candy.


+ What are some hearty heart-healthy recipes that are good for winter days?


Lanier Dabruzzi

Question: "Now that the holidays are over, I want to lose weight, but it’s still chilly outside, so I don’t want to have to eat cold salads every day. Is there a way to eat healthfully and still have a warm, satisfying meal?Yes! The solution for your dilemma is one of my favorite winter weight loss secrets—soup!"

Keeping warm never tasted so good. In fact, research suggests that warm foods satisfy better than cold foods.

The trick to making a healthy soup starts with the ingredients. When soups are made with broth or low-fat milk, the volume helps fill you up without excess calories. And by packing the soup full of low-calorie and nutritious vegetables, you can be sure that the fiber will keep you satisfied.

For an extra nutrient boost and added staying power, think protein. Try topping your soup with low-fat shredded cheese or a dollop of plain fat-free Greek yogurt. Additionally, add beans to soup for added protein and fiber or lean meat such as chicken. Complete the meal with a slice of whole grain bread and a glass of milk.

Eating healthy does not mean sacrificing the comfort of warm, satisfying meals.


+ How can I prevent holiday weight gain?


Laura Buxenbaum, RD, LDN

Question: "I recently lost 15 pounds and would like to lose several more. However, with the holidays around the corner I am worried about gaining weight. Can you offer some tips to help me stay on track?"

Congratulations on your recent weight loss! Losing weight isn’t easy, and with the extra temptations abounding, I understand the fear of weight gain over the holidays. The good news is according to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, the average amount of weight gained during the holidays is only 1 pound. The not so good news: the subjects in this study appeared not to lose this extra holiday weight in the post-holiday period. Stay on track this holiday and in 2014 by following these tips.

Break for Breakfast - With the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it is easy to skip meals or eat on the run. Starting the day with a protein filled breakfast not only gives you energy to make it through your to do list, but will help prevent over eating later in the day or at evening holiday parties. Enjoy a Greek yogurt parfait topped with granola or fruit. Or baked oatmeal made with protein rich milk instead of water.

Maintain, Don’t Gain - Set a goal to simply maintain your weight over the holidays. Avoiding unwanted pounds when the treats abound is a huge success, so don’t feel badly if you don’t lose weight during this time, focus instead on maintaining your current weight. Then when 2014 rolls around, you won’t be back where you started.

Don’t Deny, Modify - Lighten up your favorite holiday dishes by swapping sour cream, mayonnaise, butter or oil with fat free plain Greek yogurt. Not only will you amp up the nutrition with calcium and protein, but you will decrease fat and calories. Substitute fat free milk and low fat cheese for whole fat varieties.

Burn It to Earn It - It is easy to let your regular workout go by the wayside during the holidays. But don’t! Regular exercise will help you burn off some of those extra holiday calories and manage holiday stress. Find tips for fitting in exercise during the holidays here.


+ What are some healthy holiday breakfast ideas?


Lanier Dabruzzi

Question: "We have a lot of family coming to stay with us for the holidays and I never know what to serve for breakfast to please everyone’s tastes. Can you offer some healthy suggestions?Breakfast is an important start to the day. In fact, research has shown that it helps to increase brain activity—something we all need around the holidays!"

Here are a few of my favorite crowd pleasing breakfasts:

Yogurt Parfait Bar - Allow your guests to customize their own yogurt parfait by filling bowls with flavored and plain Greek yogurt and providing healthy toppings such as fresh and dried fruit, nuts and granola. Greek yogurt has double the protein as regular yogurt and will keep everyone full and satisfied until the next meal.

Baked Oatmeal - More in the mood for something warm to start the day? Make a batch of Baked Oatmeal that is delicious by itself, but can also be topped with fruit or yogurt to pump up the nutrition.

One of my favorite tips for boosting the nutrition of oatmeal is to make it with milk instead of water. Milk provides 9 essential nutrients, including 3 of the 4 that Americans are lacking in their diets (calcium, potassium and vitamin D), plus 8 grams of high quality protein.

Frittata - Is a savory start to the morning more your style? Whip together this Vegetable Frittata that includes healthy and colorful vegetables, eggs and low-fat milk and yogurt. Did you know the secret to any good frittata is to add dairy? It not only adds stellar nutrition, but also helps to make a tender and moist texture.

I hope these ideas will help you plan your family’s breakfast this holiday season. Make these all ahead of time and serve buffet-style for every family member to eat at their own leisure.


+ Can you suggest some healthy beverage options for teenagers?


Julie Wilkinson

Question: "As a secondary school teacher (and parent of two teenagers!), I see so many of my students consuming beverages high in sugar, sodium and caffeine. How can I teach them about better nutrient rich beverage options?"

As a registered dietitian working with school districts, I hear this often from educators and school nutrition staff. According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the major sources of added sugars in the diets of Americans are sodas, energy drinks, and sport drinks (36 % of added sugar intake). Try these tips to help students make a better choice:

Educate - With all of the options students have when choosing what to drink, it is important that they know how to pick the most nutrient – rich choices. Be Smart Drink Smart and Eating & Drinking for Success are classroom lesson plans that will teach children why and how to make healthier choices.

Emphasize - Kids often need many reminders, even when it comes to their food and drink choices. With all the choices available to them, it is important they remember milk still does a body good!! Milk in all its forms (low-fat, fat-free, flavored or lactose free) provides a powerhouse package of nine different essential nutrients, including calcium, vitamin D, potassium and proteins. Choosing three servings of low-fat or fat- free milk every day helps build bones and teeth and helps maintain a healthy heart.

Encourage - Encourage students to rethink their drink when it comes to refueling after exercise. A recent study by the American Academy of Pediatrics stated that in most cases, kids rarely need sport drinks and energy drinks as so many of these products contain caffeine and other substances that could be harmful to children. Pediatricians and other experts recommend low-fat or fat-free white or chocolate milk to hydrate after exercise.

Engage - Visit the Fuel up to play 60 interactive website for further ideas on action strategies and ideas to engage your students to challenge their next beverage choice with a healthier option!


+ Do you have ideas for healthy office snacks?


Laura Marbury

Question: "I get hungry around 3pm everyday and find myself heading to the office vending machine. What are some healthy snacks I can bring to the office to help me avoid vending machine temptation?"

You are not alone. According to a USDA report , the average number of snacks Americans consume has doubled over the past 30 years. In fact, 90 percent of adults report snacking on any given day, with a snacking average of 2.2 times a day. All of this between meal munching accounts for a significant portion of our daily intake.

Follow these rules to keep snacking on track:

Practice Portion Control: Limit your snacking to 200 calories. This is enough to keep your metabolism going, and give you energy without exceeding your daily needs.

Fill up with Fiber: Fiber is digested slowly and helps you sustain energy. Choose snacks made with whole grains and incorporate fiber rich fruits like berries, apples and bananas.

Pack in some Protein: Protein plays an important role in helping to curb hunger. Dairy foods, such as milk, cheese and yogurt, contain high quality protein and are perfect for snacking. Cure a late afternoon snack attack with string cheese, yogurt in a tube, higher protein Greek yogurt or single serve chocolate milk.

Avoid the Fat Trap: Read labels and avoid foods that contain trans fats. Snack on nuts and seeds that contain heart healthy poly- and monounsaturated fats instead.

Here are some snack ideas for your desk drawer or break room fridge.

• Whole wheat crackers & cheese cubes

• Veggies + creamy yogurt dip

• Whole grain cereal & milk

• Microwave popcorn sprinkled with parmesan cheese

• Yogurt + whole grain granola & fresh berries

• Small, whole wheat turkey wrap made with cheese and spinach

• Whole grain granola bar + glass of milk

• Make your own trail mix blending your favorite nuts, seeds and dried fruit


+ Can you give me ideas for quick and easy breakfasts?


Nancy Roman

Question: "With the start of school just around the corner, I am already worried about fitting breakfast into our busy morning routine. Do you have any suggestions?"

If the thought of hectic, time crunched mornings bring on a mild panic attack, I have some good news for you! A healthy breakfast on busy school days is possible!

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Our mothers told us this, as I’m sure their mother’s told them; and it’s true! Yet, as children grow, breakfast skipping grows. Studies show that about 1/3 of children skip breakfast, but this number doubles when they reach the teen years. Yet, according to new research, students who eat breakfast have better memory and attention, which leads to better test scores.

These breakfast tips will help ensure your student starts out ahead of the class:

Keep it simple. Stock up on ready-to-eat cereals. Cereal, milk, and fruit make a healthy start to the day. Serve whole grain cereals or let kids mix whole grain cereal with one of their favorites. Keep berries and melon in the refrigerator cut up and ready to eat, top with yogurt and granola for another fast option.

Think outside the box. Have an assortment of 100% whole wheat bread, bagels, or English Muffins on hand. Top them with peanut butter and a sliced banana, add a glass of milk and breakfast is ready. Serve apple or pear slices with cheese and toast or prepare this quick and easy baked oatmeal.

Dinner for breakfast? Absolutely! Did you know that we are one of only a few countries that have specific foods for breakfast? How about a turkey and cheese or peanut butter and jelly sandwich for breakfast? You could even serve last night’s leftovers! Include a glass of milk to make it a complete meal. Remember milk matters. Children of every age (and adults) need the 9 essential nutrients found in milk for strong bones, teeth and muscles.

Students who eat well, learn better. The best lesson we can teach our children is to start each morning with a nutrient rich meal.


+ What's the best way to stay hydrated during tennis matches?


Sharon Rhodes

Question:"Tennis is one of my all-time favorite hobbies that I play year-round. My husband and I play on a summer mixed doubles team, but it gets so hot in the summer. Is there a way to stay hydrated and serve healthy foods during our matches?"

There sure is! When you are active in summer heat, it remains top priority to stay hydrated and refuel your body with healthy foods. And it is easy to do when there is a nice spread of food and beverages to help keep you cool. Whether it is an outdoor sport, grill-out or your neighborhood pool party, try these ideas to help you stay cool and hydrated that are sure to be a hit!

Serve it Up! Have a favorite party dip recipe? Low-fat or fat-free Greek yogurt can be substituted for mayonnaise in many creamy dip recipes, making it lower in fat and higher in protein. Try this Cucumber-Yogurt Dip recipe that is both refreshing and nutritious when paired with vegetables.

Hydrate! Drink plenty of fluids before, during and after any activities in the summer heat. Most fruits and vegetables contain up to 90% water, making them a tasty addition to any menu that will help keep you hydrated. Who knew you could hydrate by munching on food? Be sure to stock up on water-rich foods that will help keep you hydrated this summer!

ReFuel! When you play hard, your body needs to be refueled with the nutrients that can help you get back on that court and win your next match. A combination of carbohydrate and protein is ideal to help replenish muscle stores after exercise. Try a fruit smoothie or even a cold glass of chocolate milk! Chocolate milk is the ideal beverage for recovery, providing carbohydrate, protein and key nutrients such as potassium, calcium and vitamin D.

Follow these tips to score a winning ace on or off the courts!


+ Can you offer some healthy children's birthday party ideas?


Rebecca Turner

Question: "My child’s birthday is soon, how can I make it a healthier celebration?  What parent doesn’t want to make a child’s birthday a memorable day?"

Yet, it seems birthday bash staples include junk food like chips; pizza, ice cream, and soda. These foods are fine on occasion, but parties have become a regular weekend activity making unhealthier foods part of our kids’ weekly diets.

Most children don’t get enough of the key vitamins and minerals they need each day, so teaching children to select nutrient-rich foods is more important than ever. We can begin with creating healthier celebrations, and I think we’d all agree birthdays are a great place to start! Here are some yummy ideas - no fizzy drink or junk food required!

  • Get fruity with kabobs. Kabobs are a fun and easy to make. Simply cut fruits into 1- inch wedges. Take a skewer stick and slide pieces on alternating the fruit until your kabob is covered. Cut the sharp end of the kabob off for safety. Serve with a calcium rich yogurt dip.
  • Bypass baked goods. Keep the cake center stage and avoid added baked goods. Instead of cookies and cupcakes, create a yogurt parfait station with fresh fruit and granola toppings. Prepare chocolate dipped strawberries in advance for a sweet treat.
  • Skip fizzy beverages. Offer bottled water or low-fat milk. Both white and flavored milk provides nine essential vitamins and minerals that are important for development and good health, including calcium, potassium and vitamin D – three of the four nutrients children are lacking.
  • Actively celebrate. Plan fun activities like tag, hide and seek, or team sports to help burn off some of that energy. If the weather isn’t favorable create an indoor scavenger hunt, twister, or hula hop contest.

Here’s hoping for a healthy, happy birthday celebration!


+ Are there foods that can help lower blood pressure?


Rebecca Turner

Question: "I know daily exercise and reducing sodium can help lower high blood pressure. Are there other foods that I should be a part of my heart healthy lifestyle?"

Yes. Studies confirm that eating more low-fat dairy, fruits and vegetables should be a part of any heart healthy eating plan.

Research shows the low-fat Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan, which includes two to three servings of dairy foods and eight to ten servings of fruits and vegetables, may help lower blood pressure as much as some medications- any they taste better to. The powerful trio of minerals found in dairy foods – calcium, potassium and magnesium – may play an important role in maintaining healthy blood pressure. In fact, The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute states that DASH eating can lower systolic blood pressure as much as eight to 14 points!

Another food to consider is dark chocolate. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found eating about 30 calories a day of dark chocolate (equivalent to one square) was shown to help lower blood pressure. Choose a dark chocolate of at least 70 percent cocoa powder. But don’t get carried away, chocolate is still high in calories even if beneficial.

Feel free to indulge and be good to your heart with these delicious recipes. Sip on a Chocolate Almond Coffee Cooler or enjoy Cocoa Berry Yogurt Tarts for a dessert and your heart will thank you!


+ How does milk affect diabetes control?


Arlene Murrell

Question: "I am a diabetic, trying to increase my calcium intake. What impact does milk have on my diabetic diet?"

Milk I am a diabetic, trying to increase my calcium intake. What impact does milk have on my diabetic diet?and dairy foods provide essential nutrients to the diets of all people including those with diabetes. According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), “…intake of milk and milk products is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and lower blood pressure in adults.”

Many Americans do not get enough of certain nutrients, including calcium, vitamin D, potassium and fiber in their daily diets. Fat-free and low-fat milk are nutrient rich and have 9 essential vitamins and minerals including calcium, vitamin D and potassium (3 of 4 the nutrients Americans are lacking). Drinking milk, whether white or chocolate, is a delicious and easy way to increase nutrients in your eating plan. The nutrients found in dairy foods contribute to overall health and wellness and improves the overall nutritional quality of your diet. In fact, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) includes fat-free milk and yogurt among the top 10 super foods.

Whether you are counting carbohydrates or following the diabetic exchange list, health professionals recommend 3 servings of dairy each day for those 9 years of age and older. Diabetic meal plans include dairy as a carbohydrate source. One cup of fat-free milk or 2/3 cup of plain non-fat yogurt has 12 grams of carbohydrate, 8 grams of protein and approximately 80 calories. You can feel confident that you are improving your calcium intake by adding dairy to your diabetic meal plan. Remember, a registered dietitian or certified diabetes instructor is the best professional to assist you with a personalized eating plan.


+ Can you lose weight without dieting?


Laura Buxenbaum

Question: "I have resolved to lose weight in 2013, but I am tired of strict dieting, only to quit trying by February. Is it possible to lose weight this year without dieting?"

Most “diets” set us up to fail by limiting calories too much, excluding food groups and/or creating a strict eating regimen. Rather than starting another fad diet in 2013, take inventory on how you are currently eating. What habits do you have that may lead to weight gain? Do you skip meals, drink your calories, or tend to overeat after dinner? Each month pick one habit to work on - either changing or improving. This will allow you to create a healthy eating pattern and make changes that matter.

Below are a few realistic ideas to help get you started:

Bring back Breakfast - A hectic daily routine can lead to rushing out the door in the morning without breakfast. Additionally, we may skip breakfast to save calories. However, research shows that breakfast eaters weigh less than breakfast skippers. Eating a healthy breakfast in the morning, which includes a variety of foods such as fruits, whole grains, dairy and lean protein, can help prevent overeating later in the day. Your morning meal can be as easy as Greek yogurt and a piece of fruit, a tablespoon of peanut butter on whole wheat toast with a glass of milk, or baked oatmeal.

ReThink Your Drink - Did you know that eliminating one 20-once soda every day can remove 91,000 calories from your diet in a year? That dramatic drop in calories can create a 26 pound weight loss by the end of the year! It’s not just sodas that contribute excess calories to our diet but sweet tea, specialty coffee drinks, sports, energy and juice drinks can all be culprits. Think about what you drink throughout the day. Focus on drinking milk with meals and water in between.

 Get Moving - Resolve to exercise more in 2013. The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes 5 days a week. Exercise does more than just burn calories, it boosts mood and confidence, decreases stress, decreases appetite, improves body image and can increase motivation to eat right. To get the benefits, you don’t even need to join or gym or run a marathon, just lace up your sneakers and walk.

Here’s to a happy, healthy, new you!


+ Are there any foods that help fight fatigue?


Rebecca Turner

 Question: "I wake up tired and can’t seem to make it through the day without coffee. Are there any foods that help fight fatigue? "

You are not alone. Many factors contribute to sluggishness with poor nutrition in the top three. A well balanced diet consisting of nutrient-rich foods not only provides more vitamins and minerals but can boost energy. Let’s weigh in on three food factors that affect energy.

The Forgotten Meal - At the beginning of the day, most people dash out the door without a thought to their nutritional needs. Skipping breakfast can cause low energy, the inability to focus and even irritability. Studies show that breakfast improves alertness and concentration and helps shed pounds. In a hurry, try baked oatmeal, yogurt with homemade granola, or cheese toast. For the really busy bee, a piece of fruit and a tall glass of low-fat milk will give you protein and eight essential vitamins and minerals to start your day.

Charge Up with Carbohydrates - Healthy eating doesn't stop in the morning. A well-balanced diet throughout the day is essential.  Carbohydrates are the body's primary source of energy. According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines, half of your carbohydrate choices should come from whole grains. These nutrient rich foods take longer to digest keeping you full, focused, and energized.

Rethink Your Drink - Dehydration is one of the leading causes of a lack of energy. Sugar sweetened beverages typically contain caffeine which has a dehydrating effect. Always choose water and low fat milk with calcium and vitamin D instead of sugary drinks like regular sodas, sweetened teas and coffees.

Food can, indeed, raise or diminish the body's energy levels. If you still find yourself sluggish with a well-balanced diet, then a visit to the doctor may be in order.



+ Can you give me some tips for healthy holiday eating?


Lanier Dabruzzi

Question: "I want to eat healthy this holiday season, but I am too overwhelmed with holiday parties, entertaining guests and travel. Do you have any tips to help me stay on track?"

Yes. There are many things that you can do to help you eat healthy and be stress-free this holiday season. After all, the season should be spent enjoying family and friends, not worrying about if your gravy boat matches your linens, right?

Plan - In the weeks leading up to your party, plan the details and menu. Serve a variety of flavors, textures and colors to entice your guests. Try our Harvest Cheddar Fondue that only takes 15 minutes to prepare and can be served with nutrient-rich dippers, such as broccoli, carrots, apples and whole grain bread cubes. After enjoying this delicious appetizer, you can be sure that you are taking care of your guests’ hunger and health!

Ask for help - Who wants to be stuck in the kitchen all night away from your guests? Asking for help can relieve your stress and make guests feel more a part of the event. Ask guests to bring an addition to the meal, such as dessert or beverages, and don’t be afraid to invite them into the kitchen to help with preparation. Guests feel more included when they are asked to be a part of the event, rather than standing around while you are trying to finish the last minute details.

Decorating with Mother Nature - Baffled on how to decorate? Bring the outdoors in, such as a hurricane candle holder filled with acorns from your back yard or let your food speak for itself. One of my favorites is a festive Cheddar Cheese Tree or seasonal Cheese-Filled Corn Husks. You can’t beat a decoration that also provides your guests with essential vitamins and minerals!


+ What are some healthy foods I can eat on a budget?


Laura Buxenbaum

Question: "My grocery bill seems to increase with every trip to the store. Can you offer tips for feeding my family healthy foods while trying to keep to my budget?"

Yes. With the right tips and a little planning, it is possible to eat well on a budget.

Plan it - Take an hour weekly to plan your meals and write a grocery list. This will help reduce impulse trips to the grocery store during the week, or impromptu trips through the drive through. Look through your store’s weekly flyer or online to see what is on sale and plan meals around these foods. 

Buy in Bulk - While convenience items such as pre-bagged salads and pre-sliced cheese can reduce time and hassle in the kitchen, they are more expensive. Buying big items such as large container of yogurt, a block of cheese and family size packs of chicken breast (freeze what you don’t need right away) can equal big savings.

Skip Empty Calories - Evaluate how much money you are spending on items such as soda (or other sugary drinks) cookies, and chips. Not only can these foods increase your grocery bill, they can blow your calorie budget. Drink milk with meals and water in between. Milk provides a powerful nutrition package of nine essential nutrients including calcium, protein and potassium at an average of 25 cents per glass, making it one of the best values in the grocery store!

Go Meatless - Once or twice a week swap out meat for inexpensive, protein and nutrient rich legumes.  Additionally, dairy foods such as milk, cheese and yogurt, are not only packed with calcium, but offer as much protein as an egg per serving.  So serve up a bowl of chili a grilled cheese sandwich with soup or a plateful of veggie lasagna for an economical, nutritious dinner.

Buy Local - To fill ½ your plate with fruits and vegetables as the 2010 Dietary Guidelines recommend, buy local in season produce. Frozen fruits and vegetables are an affordable way to increase fruit and vegetable intake. Stock up on them when they are on sale.


+ Does bariatric surgery cause lactose intolerance?


Tracy Noerper

Question: "I am considering bariatric surgery, but have heard I might experience lactose intolerance. Is this true?"

Obesity and related chronic health issues cost taxpayers billions of dollars annually, according to research. Obese populations are more likely to suffer from diabetes, heart attacks, high blood pressure, depression and high cholesterol. To reduce health risk factors some people are turning to bariatric surgery for weight loss.

One nutritional ramification of bariatric surgery can be lactose intolerance. After bariatric surgery, dairy foods can move too quickly from the stomach to the small intestine, potentially resulting in gas, bloating and/or cramps.

Pam Davis, certified bariatric nurse, in Nashville says, “If the patient had issues with lactose intolerance prior to surgery, they are almost certain to have those same issues after surgery. Individuals without previous history of lactose intolerance who undergo gastric bypass surgery may find themselves experiencing a transient period of lactose intolerance that begins once the patient is on the full liquid stage of the diet. There will be a percentage of patients who continue to experience lactose intolerance long term. For those individuals, we’ve found the fast-acting Lactaid tablets taken with the first bite of food can help minimize symptoms.”

Bariatric patients may have difficulty achieving recommended protein intake due to severely restricted caloric intake coupled with lactose intolerance. Alabama dietitian Linda Steakley, from the Huntsville Wellness Center recommends “cheese (which is naturally low in lactose) as a protein dairy source if a patient has an inability to digest milk properly after surgery. Another good source of protein comes from yogurt. Greek yogurt is especially high in protein. Not only are we concerned about their protein intakes but calcium and vitamin D are critical to bariatric patients in order to reduce their chances of developing osteoporosis.” Steakley also says, “I encourage bariatric patients to mix their protein powders with lactose-free milk to give them 8 additional grams of protein plus 300 mg calcium. We recommend patients get approximately 30 grams protein in their protein drink two to three times a day, spreading the protein over the day rather than trying to take it all in at one time.”

Here are two low-lactose recipes to help bariatric patients boost their protein intakes:

Banana/Peanut Butter Shake (12 grams protein)

Place ingredients in blender and mix until smooth:

8 ounces lactose-free milk 1 tablespoon creamy peanut butter ¼ - ½ banana

Orange Dreamsicle (28 grams protein)

Mix ingredients well in shaker cup or blender:

1 scoop vanilla whey protein powder 1 scoop (individual serving) sugar-free orange drink powder 8 ounces lactose-free milk

If you continue experiencing symptoms of lactose intolerance, talk with your physician or registered dietitian.


+ Do you have suggestions for healthy kid-friendly snacks?


Lanier Dabruzzi

Question: "With summer here my kids are home and seem always hungry.  I want to teach them about nutritious choices. What healthy snacks can you suggest?"

As a Registered Dietitian, I know getting kids in the kitchen with you is one of the best ways to teach them about healthy food choices. Research shows that kids who are involved in the household cooking make healthier food choices than those who are not.

The American Association of Pediatrics encourages parents to involve their children in the entire process of meal preparation—from planning, to purchasing and cooking.

Try these kid-friendly snack ideas to make with your children:

  • Create a food picture or  landscape or  animal shapes with fruits and vegetables and a homemade dip
  • Bake homemade mozzarella sticks and dip in marinara sauce
  • Try to plan a day’s worth of meals and snacks to include every color of the rainbow, such as a stir-fry, a frittata with low-fat cheese and fruit kabobs with yogurt dip.
  • Whiz up a flavorful smoothie with colorful fruit and low-fat yogurt or milk.

Involving your kids in cooking is a fun activity for them and the best part is that they will be learning  about nutrition and health without even realizing it!



+ What nutrients do I need during pregnancy?


Rebecca Turner

Question: "I just found out I am expecting. How much more should I eat every day? Any important nutrients I should be consuming now that I am pregnant?"

Without a doubt, a well-balanced diet can be one of the greatest gifts you give to your baby. Choosing nutrient-rich foods first will keep you feeling healthy during pregnancy and establish essential building blocks of growth and overall health for your child.

The Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) recommends only 300 or so extra calories a day when pregnant.  Expecting women should consume a variety of foods, according to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines, to meet nutrient needs and gain the recommended amounts of weight. Protein, iron and calcium are three nutrients of concern that help keep you healthy and support your baby’s development.

Eat a variety of protein-rich foods like seafood, nuts and beans, along with lean meat, poultry and eggs. And don’t forget low fat milk, cheese and yogurt, which provide a unique combination of protein and eight other essential nutrients. Dietary iron helps prevent anemia, a common problem during pregnancy. Iron is found in animal products including low-fat dairy and some plants such as spinach and beans.

Your baby needs calcium for the formation of bones and teeth. If you don't get enough, your baby will take what is needed from your body, and you'll lose calcium stored in your bones. Whether on the plate or in a glass, low-fat dairy foods should be a part of each meal. And if you are lactose intolerant, try lactose-free milk so you won’t miss out on the health benefits real dairy foods provide.

Adopting a healthy eating plan including plenty of nutrient-rich foods before pregnancy is ideal, but no matter how far along you are, it’s never too late to start eating with your baby’s health in mind.



+ Does chocolate milk contribute to childhood obesity?


Laura Buxenbaum

Question: "Several members of the PTA at my son’s school are advocating for the removal of chocolate milk due to the high childhood obesity rate in our district. I am not sure this is the solution. Could you provide some insight?"

Advocates of flavored milk elimination mistakenly say that it provides too much sugar and calories to a child’s diet. To these individuals, eliminating flavored milk from schools appears like a quick and easy step to help make a dent in the childhood obesity crisis, but it is not.

Children across the country are overweight, but they are also undernourished in nutrient-rich foods like dairy. According to research, nine out of ten girls and seven out of ten boys are not consuming enough calcium, which helps build strong bones and teeth. Milk is the #1 food source of three of the four nutrients the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans say both adults and children need to consume more of for good health– vitamin D, calcium and potassium. Flavored milk has the same great nutrient package as white milk. Studies show that if flavored milk is removed from the cafeteria, milk consumption drops by 35 percent. That means, if flavored milk leaves, so do the nutrients.

Recognizing that many schools want to reduce the sugar content in all their menu offerings, the dairy industry has taken action to reduce calories and added sugars in flavored milk. Fat-free chocolate milk served in schools has an average of 134 calories, with just 10 grams of added sugar (all milk has natural sugar called Lactose, which accounts for ~12 grams of sugar in 8 ounces of milk). Research shows that flavored milk, which delivers nine essential nutrients, contributes just 3% of added sugars to kids’ diets versus sodas and fruit drinks, which account for close to half of the added sugar, delivering much less, if any, nutritional value.

As a mom and a registered dietitian, I am concerned about childhood obesity. It is a real and serious problem, but it cannot be solved by removing a single food from a child's diet. We must understand the need to provide kids with healthy, balanced meals and opportunities for daily physical activity.

The National Dairy Council has a flavored milk education kit which provides handouts, presentations and supporting science on the importance of flavored milk in a child's diet. I encourage you to share this information with the PTA.



+ What are the new healthier school lunch guidelines?


Tracy Noerper

Question: "I've been hearing that the school lunch line will have new guidelines for emphasizing healthier foods. Is this true and how will it affect my school-aged child?"

Yes, changes to the lunch line are coming. Schools that participate in the National School Lunch Program are encouraged to promote healthier food choices. Through the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act the USDA is making the first major changes to school meals in 15 years, which will help raise a healthier generation of children. The school meal standards, announced in January, make the same kinds of changes that many parents are striving for at home, including:

  • Offering both fruits and vegetables every day of the week including dark green or orange vegetables three or more days per week;
  • Substantially increasing offerings of whole grain-rich foods;
  • Offering only fat-free or low-fat milk (flavored milk will be only fat-free)
  • Limiting calories based on the age of children being served to ensure proper portion size; and
  • Increasing the focus and reducing the amounts of saturated fat, trans fats and sodium.

R. Allen Coffman Jr., MD, Pediatrician in Hixson, TN and President of the Tennessee Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says, "As a pediatrician, I talk with parents and their children about healthy nutrition choices whether it’s a home, school or on-the go. Fruits and vegetables improve vitamin and mineral intake with little calorie impact when included in each meal and as snack options. Whole grain choices boost fiber and B vitamins, which are important for growing bodies. It is important to limit processed carbohydrates in pasta, rice and breads to less than half of carbohydrate intake. Additionally, each meal and some snacks should include healthy protein options like lean non-fried meats, nuts and dairy products. An often overlooked source of protein is fat-free white or flavored milk. Milk also boosts calcium and vitamin D. Vitamin D works with calcium to help build strong bones in our children. One 8 oz. serving of milk provides about 25% of the Daily Value for Vitamin D."

Changes have already started in many schools and implementation of most meal requirements begin with the 2012-2013 school year. Curious about what specific changes you might see on your child’s lunch tray? Compare sample school lunch menus from before and after the guidelines for a better picture.

What's next? Guidelines for school vending machines and possibly school fundraisers may be just around the corner.



+ Do I need to eat before I run in the morning?


Rebecca Turner, MS, RD, LD

Question: "I enjoy running early in the mornings, is it necessary to eat before I run?"

The American College of Sports Medicine and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommend eating two or three hours before exercise. Great if you have the time, but it's not practical for all runners and not all runs require such preparation. As a sports dietitian, I prefer everyone eat at least 30 minutes before a run.

Running an hour or more without energy may decrease pace, hinder intensity and burn fewer calories. You have fasted over night! You break the fast and top off energy when eating first thing. If the time between your alarm and the pavement is zero, try to ingest 100 to 200 calories and drink 8 ounces of flavored milk before treading out the door.

Regardless, all should consume a nutrient-rich breakfast upon return. Research confirms that breakfast eaters, runners or not, are healthier and slimmer than people who skip out. The key is to tailor breakfast to your workout. The best recovery foods are carbohydrates and quality protein. This combination of nutrients will help you recover from your run and fuel your everyday endurance.

Build a better breakfast with these 3 essential ingredients:

Lean protein— Protein reduces muscle breakdown and stimulates growth. Dairy offers quality protein for rebuilding muscles plus other vitamins and minerals such as calcium, potassium and vitamin D.

Whole grains— Carbohydrates are an athlete’s preferred source of energy. Whole grains are healthier; provide protein, more fiber and many important vitamins and minerals endurance athletes count on.

Fruit — For vitamins, minerals and feel-full fiber, fresh fruit can help top off your energy stores.

Try one of these recipes to ensure you get all three essential ingredients - apple yogurt smoothie, banana and walnut oatmeal and breakfast pizza.



+ Do you have tips for loosing weight and keeping it off?


Arlene Murrell

Question: "In 2012 I plan to get in better shape. How can I lose weight and how do I keep it off?"

Losing weight after the holidays is the number one New Year's resolution for many Americans. A big mistake people tend to make is not making realistic weight loss goals or creating a plan to reach those goals. My recommendation is to first write down your goals and make them simple and obtainable. A good weight loss plan is one that includes setting SMART goals. SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time sensitive.

    1. Be specific – Write exactly how much weight you want to lose each week and exactly how you plan to reach that goal. Hint: Dieting is not the answer but a healthy eating plan that includes a nutrient-rich breakfast, lunch and dinner with two small nutritious snacks in between and appropriate portion control are key to a healthy weight loss plan.
    2. Your goal must be measurable – Write down how you plan to measure your progress. Some people weigh themselves every day; other measure inches lost. I suggest weighing yourself once or twice a week on the same days and times.
    3. Your goal should be attainable – Small steps lead to BIG success. Instead of setting a goal to lose weight each day, set your goal by the week.
    4. Your goal should be realistic – It is not realistic or healthy to set a goal to lose more than 2 to 3 pounds per week. For most of us, weight gain was a slow, steady process and it should be a slow, steady process to take it off.
    5. Set your goal to be time sensitive - Many of us want to lose weight by summer or by some designated date. However, we should be more focused on reaching a healthy weight in a realistic amount of time. For instance, a 2.5 pound weight loss per week with 20 pounds to loss, will take 8 weeks to reach goal.

Remember sensible weight loss and maintenance requires healthy eating. This year make a resolution to consume nutrient-rich foods such as whole grains, lean meats, fish and poultry, fresh fruits and vegetables and low-fat and fat- free dairy foods this year. Good luck!



+ How can I get back on track with healthy eating after a holiday meal?


Rebecca Turner

Question: "How do I get back on track with healthy eating after a holiday feast?"

Whether it's the Friday morning after Thanksgiving, or the Monday after a weekend of culinary favorites, many of us have said-Ugh! I blew it! Now what? Before you resort to a lifetime of elastic, use these simple steps to undo the caloric damage.

Eat Small Eat Often - Even though you may go to bed feeling like a stuffed turkey, never skip breakfast! Start your day with a nutrient-rich breakfast. Try a yogurt parfait with homemade low fat granola, protein packed yogurt and fresh fruit. But don't stop there; eat a light snack, a well-balanced lunch, an afternoon snack followed by a nutrient-rich dinner. Irregular eating patterns and skipped meals equal trouble.

Beat the Bloat - Holiday recipes call for added sugar and salt leaving you feeling bloated and discouraged. It is not uncommon to gain 1 to 3 pounds from fluid after a salty meal. Good news! This can be reversed with adequate fluids and time. Try natural diuretics such as lemons, lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers.

After a diet blunder - rethink your drink. Sugar sweetened beverages add countless empty calories. Consume plenty of water and 3 servings of low-fat or fat-free milk for eight essential vitamins and minerals plus protein to curb hunger.

Go Long, Go Slow - After a calorie busting day get up and get moving! With all the potatoes and stuffing your muscles are full with ready to burn fuel. Use holiday vacation time as an invitation to hit the pavement for an hour or more daily. Go slow and keep moving for as long as you're able. The longer you go the more calories you burn. Rather go shopping?

  • Park at the farthest corner away.
  • Walk up and down escalators or just take the stairs.
  • Wear a pedometer and try and score 10,000 steps or more.



+ Do you have tips for healthy Halloween treats?


Tracy Noerper

Question: "As a mom, I worry that my child will get too much candy & treats during Halloween? What tips do you have for making Halloween healthier?"

As a mom of two small children, it does seem that from mid-October throughout the holiday season candy and sweets routinely stream into our home. Saying “no” to all the candy can be challenging at times. A few treats are okay, but over indulging is not good because of extra calories and fat. Here are some of my tips for making Halloween healthier this year:

Re-think the Treats -  Offer non-candy items for the Halloween treat bags. Local craft or party stores have fun and inexpensive items like glow bracelets, plastic fangs, eyeball rings, zany glasses, stickers, pencils and silly string that children get just as excited about as candy.

Party On- Suggest healthy snack options for school or class parties. If your child’s school does not have a healthy snack policy ask the teacher for a non-food party with perhaps pumpkin decorating instead.

Make a Date - Choose a date to discard candy so it doesn’t linger in the home until the New Year. Ask your children to pick out their favorite treats then discard the rest. I’ve heard some people recommend donating extra candy to neighbors or homeless shelters. Use your own sensibilities here – not everyone needs extra candy.

Nutrient Rich - If you do decide to hand out food treats opt for healthier choices such as dried fruits, shelf-stable milk boxes (flavored varieties are fine too), low sugar cereal bars, low-fat popcorn, small packets of trail mix, low sugar hot chocolate mixes, or sugar-free gum. String cheese is a fine choice too if it will be eaten shortly.

Lastly, before your children go out trick-or-treating, to a pumpkin patch or attend a fall festival, be sure to send them out having eaten a healthy meal (aka a happy full tummy.) They’ll be less likely to eat too much candy if they’ve eaten a meal full of healthy foods.

Enjoy the fall and the fun activities that come along with it. Best wishes for a healthy and happy Halloween.



+ Is the timing of meals important in recovery after strenuous exercise?


Rebecca Turner

Question: "I am a long distance runner. Is the timing of meals important in recovering after strenuous exercise?"

Yes. For serious athletes like you, post-workout recovery is just as important as pre-exercise preparation. After a run, the muscles must rehydrate and repair to reduce the impact of damage caused by training or competing. The schedule and timing of your food intake is as important as what you eat to make the most of recovery. Remembering the three distinct stages of recovery will help you refuel and rebound.

Stage 1: 30 minutes post exercise This is considered the most important phase because the muscles are weak and ready to receive, store and replace nutrients. Aim to rehydrate and replace with carbohydrates for energy and protein for muscle repair. Low fat chocolate milk has many of the nutrients most commercial recovery drinks have to add in the lab – including high-quality protein and key electrolytes like calcium, potassium, sodium and magnesium.

Stage 2: Exercise Duration Recovery continues past the initial 30 minutes. Athletes should focus on recovery for as long as the duration of exercise. As the body starts to cool down and returns to a more normal heart rate, the feeling of hunger will occur. The first solid meal after intense exercise should include nutrient rich foods. Snacks should also be high in vitamins, minerals and protein. Some post workout snack ideas include: chocolate milk; tuna on whole wheat; banana and peanut butter; turkey and cheese with apple slices and pretzels.

Stage 3: Time until the next training session To the rest of the world, this is an ordinary day, but to an endurance athlete, this is their extended recovery period. Many athletes fall short with their daily diet plan. Endurance athletes should appreciate the importance of a balanced eating plan with 3 daily servings of dairy and know that active recovery truly never ends.



+ What is the difference between Greek yogurt and regular yogurt?


Laura Buxenbaum

Question: "What is the difference between regular and Greek  yogurt? Is one better than the other?"

With Greek yogurt's popularity skyrocketing lately, I can understand the need for information concerning the difference between regular and Greek yogurt. It is important to remember that Greek and regular yogurt are nutritional superstars. Both provide bone building calcium, heart healthy potassium, appetite suppressing protein and live and active cultures that aid in digestion. The difference regular and Greek yogurt lies in how they are made, which creates some taste, texture and nutritional differences. While traditional and Greek yogurts start out the same – by fermenting milk with live bacteria cultures – Greek yogurt is strained so that the liquid whey is removed. When the whey is gone, the Greek yogurt takes on a thicker, denser texture. Here are some other nutritional elements explaining the difference difference between regular and Greek yogurt:

  • Protein – Greek yogurt is a good choice for those struggling to get adequate protein in their diet. Six ounces provides approximately 15 grams of protein, compared to the 5-7 grams found in six ounces of regular yogurt.
  • Calcium – Although Greek yogurt in higher in protein, regular yogurt has three times the calcium. Both are still considered good sources of calcium, but women who don't get enough calcium from other foods may want to stick to regular yogurt for its bone-building benefits.
  • Calories - Plain, nonfat versions of Greek and regular yogurt have a similar calorie composition per serving. I recommend adding your own toppings such as fresh fruit, honey and/or low-fat granola. Or try this delicious parfait.

Yogurt, whether regular or Greek, plays an important part in a healthy diet and is an excellent way to meet the Dietary Guidelines recommendation of three servings of dairy every day. The decision on which one to eat comes down to personal taste preference and dietary needs. What's the difference between regular and Greek yogurt? When it comes to nutrition, both are winners!



+ What are the differences between the Food Pyramid and the My Plate guidelines?


Betsy Dietsch

Question: "I saw that Michelle Obama released a new plate symbol that replaced the Food Guide Pyramid. What are the differences between the two guides?"

Michelle Obama and Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack revealed the new MyPlate icon at a press conference on June 2, 2011. Like the Food Guide Pyramid, MyPlate is based on the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The new MyPlate icon is part of a healthy eating initiative that will convey seven key messages from the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans:

  • Enjoy food, but eat less
  • Avoid oversized portions
  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables
  • Drink water instead of sugary drinks
  • Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk
  • Reduce sodium in foods
  • Make at least half your grains whole grains

The main difference is the shape. MyPlate focuses directly on the food groups to include in a healthy meal, and ultimately diet. It is a round plate divided into slightly unequal quadrants. The smaller triangles indicate people should eat less (portion size and total servings) from the fruit and protein groups. There is a circle at the top right-hand side of the plate for dairy. This is a reminder to include either a glass of milk or a cup of yogurt with meals. The circle overlaps the plate a little, indicating dairy can be incorporated on the plate as well. When you make milk your mealtime beverage, you are ensuring that your family is consuming three of the four “nutrients of concern” (calcium, vitamin D, potassium) outlined in the dietary guidelines.

Unlike My Pyramid, which provided a lot of detailed information, MyPlate serves as a reminder for healthy eating. It is not intended to provide specific messages. In fact, there are no pictures of foods on the plate at all – just the names of the food groups. The intent of the new symbol is to grab people’s attention with something that is familiar. As Michelle Obama said at the press conference, “What could be simpler than a plate?”

To learn how to construct the healthiest version of “MyPlate,” visit



+ What are nutrient-dense foods and beverages?


Arlene Murrell

Question: "A school nurse told me I should feed my children nutrient-dense foods and beverages. What does this mean?"

"Nutrient-dense” is another way of saying “nutrient -rich.” Think of nutrient-dense foods as foods that provide the most vitamins and minerals per calorie. According to the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans, “a healthy eating pattern focuses on nutrient-dense foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products, lean meats and poultry, seafood, eggs, beans and peas, and nuts and seeds that are prepared without added solid fats, sugars, starches and sodium.”

The guidelines also note that some foods and beverages that contain small amounts of added sugars and fats improve diet quality and the acceptance of some nutrient-dense foods. One example is fat-free chocolate milk. As a nutrient-dense beverage, fat-free chocolate milk offers the same nine essential vitamins and minerals critical for good health as white milk while adding only 12 grams of sugar on average.

According to the Dietary Guidelines, adults and children both are lacking three of the nine essential vitamins and minerals that are provided by milk (vitamin D, calcium and potassium). Calcium and vitamin D build healthy, strong bones and help to prevent osteoporosis later in life. Potassium helps to maintain a healthy heart and blood pressure. Also, fat-free chocolate milk is a great source of protein, which helps repair muscle after strenuous physical activity.

Nutrient-rich chocolate milk is a favorite among children and young adults and is good tasting and good for you. Consuming foods and beverages that are nutrient-dense allows your children to build a healthy diet and achieve better health. For additional information visit these important websites:;;



+ Is raw milk safe for babies and children?


Tracy Noerper

Question: "Is raw milk suitable for small babies and children?"

All milk intended for direct consumption should be pasteurized – it’s a matter of food safety. Pasteurization is a simple, effective method to kill harmful pathogens without affecting the taste or nutritional value of milk. Since its introduction over a century ago, pasteurization has been recognized around the world as an essential tool for protecting public health.

During pasteurization, the temperature of milk is raised to at least 161 degrees Fahrenheit for more than 15 seconds, and then rapidly cooled. In addition to helping extend milk’s shelf-life, many harmful bacteria are destroyed, including Salmonella, Campylobacter and Listeria. Because of pasteurization, less than 1.5 percent of annual foodborne illness outbreaks in the United States involve dairy foods.

In public health, the most vulnerable populations are the very old and the very young. In a 2006 statement, “The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) strongly endorses the use of pasteurized milk and recommends that parents and public health officials be fully informed of the important risks associated with consumption of unpasteurized milk.” Dr. Michelle Fiscus, a Tennessee pediatrician agrees and states, “There are well-documented risks associated with consumption of non-pasteurized milk and that far out-weighs any theoretical nutritional differences.”

Bottom line, choose pasteurized milk for a safe, nutritious and wholesome product that the whole family can enjoy.



+ Can you give me healthy-eating guidelines for marathon training?


Laura Buxenbaum

Question: "I am training for my first half-marathon. I am confused about what I should be eating before, during and after my training runs. Can you provide me with some guidance?"

Yes. How you fuel your body during your training time will play an integral role in your performance on race day and recovery. First and foremost, you want to be sure that you are consuming enough calories to support intense exercise. To calculate your daily calorie needs as well as the amount of servings from each of the nutrient rich food groups, visit Then follow these tips for performance eating.

Before Hitting the Pavement - The goals of your pre-exercise meal are to prevent hunger and low blood sugar, provide energy for muscles and include adequate fluid to maintain hydration. Enjoy a carbohydrate-rich snack with a little protein within an hour before starting a training run. Some of my favorite pre-exercise snacks include a banana with a piece of string cheese, whole-grain cereal with skim milk or a fruit smoothie.

On the Asphalt - Your goal during the run is to maintain energy and blood sugar. Research advises 30-60 grams of carbohydrate per hour of activity. This will help postpone fatigue and prolong peak performance. Some snacks include dried fruit, high carbohydrate energy bars, pretzels, animal crackers and energy gel packets. Additionally, you should be drinking 16 ounces of fluid per hour of exercise.

At the Finish Line - After a run, your body is begging for carbohydrates to store as glycogen (quick energy) and protein to help muscles recover. Experts recommend refueling and rehydrating our bodies within 45 minutes of completing exercise. Studies show that chocolate milk has the right mix of carbohydrates and protein to help refuel exhausted muscles and build lean muscle. I love finishing a run with ice cold chocolate milk because it is delicious, inexpensive, requires little preparation and it refuels my tired muscles.



+ What foods can help control high blood pressure?


Betsy Dietsch

Question: "My grandfather is on a special diet because he has high blood pressure. Do you have any eating tips that would fit his special needs?"

Yes. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, affects one out of every three American adults each year. Research shows a person can lower high blood pressure with the DASH eating plan. DASH – which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension – is an eating plan which boosts the amount of potassium with low-fat dairy, fruits and vegetables while lowering salt intake.

DASH up your diet with three easy steps: 1. Drink a glass of low-fat or fat-free milk with every meal. Milk is packed with vitamins and minerals, including calcium, potassium and magnesium that improve heart health. 2. Try fruit and yogurt for snacks or combine the two in a blender for a refreshing smoothie. 3. Look for recipes that use low-fat milk, yogurt or cheese, vegetables and fruit as ingredients, like this slow cooker veggie lasagna made with fresh baby spinach, mushrooms, zucchini, part-skim ricotta cheese and whole grain noodles.

You can show the heart a whole lotta latte love by making coffee drinks with added low-fat or fat-free milk. I make a simple latte in a coffee mug by mixing enough boiling water (about one tablespoon) to dissolve one tablespoon of instant coffee granules and add one cup steamed fat-free milk. (You can steam the milk easily in the microwave on high for less than a minute). For a final touch, I add two teaspoons of chocolate syrup. I find it’s a delicious way to start my morning caffeine kick with an added calcium boost.



+ Can you lose weight without dieting?


Arlene Murrell

Question: "My resolution is to lose weight, but I don’t want to go on another diet. Is it possible to lose weight without dieting?"

Yes. In fact, medical professionals, including dietitians, encourage healthy eating, active living and behavior changes as the best approach to sensible weight loss instead of constant dieting. Theoretically, 3,500 calories equal one pound of body weight. This means that you'd have to take in 3500 fewer calories than you usually do, over a period of time, to lose one pound. Simple mathematics reveal that if you burn an extra 250 calories through physical activity and cut your daily food intake by 250 calories, you could lose up to one pound a week. Take a look at your usual daily intake and pinpoint areas where you can cut extra calories. For example, foods and beverages that are low in nutritional value but high in calories, like sweetened beverages, chips, desserts or candy can easily add up. Start 2011 off right by exercising more and eating less, and watch the pounds slowly melt. Here are my top three tips:

    1. Start with a foundation of nutrient rich foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and low-fat and fat-free dairy foods. Remember to go easy on your portion size when eating out in restaurants.
    2. Live an active life by dancing, running, walking and taking the stairs whenever possible. Whatever type of physical activity you chose, engage in it for at least one hour a day or for 30 minutes twice a day.
    3. Practice patience. Making lifestyle changes takes time, but the good news is not only will you lose weight, but your chances of keeping it off are greater.


+ What’s the difference between whole milk and fat-free milk?


Betsy Dietsch

Question: "What’s the difference between whole and fat-free milk?"

The only difference between whole milk and other varieties is the amount of fat. Based on weight, whole milk contains about 3.5 percent fat or 9 grams per cup and fat- free or skim milk has no fat.

Whether you choose whole, reduced-fat, low-fat or fat-free milk, you can be assured will get the same amount of protein, calcium, vitamin D and 6 other vitamins and minerals no matter what the level of fat.

Even though some milk processors chose to print “Vitamin D” on whole milk packaging, all pasteurized milk is fortified with vitamin D. Each cup has about 100 units of vitamin D which is necessary for bone health.

It’s good to remember that low-fat and fat-free milk is recommended for everyone over the age of two by the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the National Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and many other reputable health organizations. Three servings every day of low-fat or fat-free dairy foods help protect against high blood pressure, osteoporosis, obesity, and some cancers. Four good reasons to raise a glass (or three) of milk every day!



+ Do you have suggestions for healthy desserts?


Tracy Noerper

Question: "My family occasionally likes to have dessert after a meal. Can you provide me with healthy ways to offer something sweet and satisfying?"

Everyone loves dessert. The trick is to add some nutrition where you can. Be aware that some desserts are often high in calories and fat, but low in vitamins and minerals. With a few “tricks” you and your family can enjoy a sweet treat without the guilt.

  • Serve small portions. Often a petite amount of a dessert satisfies the need for a sweet.
  • Nature’s goodness is best, so use fresh fruit. Juicy strawberries, ripe peaches, and sweet blueberries can really help you feel like you’ve had a treat without sacrificing taste.
  • Make your own. Freeze low-fat yogurt or yogurt tubes to make a delicious frozen delight. You’ll get some needed calcium and protein for strong bones. Pudding can be almost guilt-free (and calcium rich) when made with skim milk.
  • Spice up desserts like rice pudding or chopped fruit with added flavorings such as vanilla bean, cinnamon or herbs such as basil. Small amounts of intense flavors can pump up the taste without adding extra calories or fat.
  • Substitute healthier ingredients in recipes. Use applesauce to replace up to 1/3 of the fat (oil/shortening) in your cake or quick bread recipes. Reduce the amount of white flour by 1/2 and replace with whole wheat flour to increase the health benefits of fiber.
  • Substitute dark chocolate (over milk or white chocolates) to boost antioxidants which research studies indicate may help improve immunities.
Remember, the secret to a healthy weight is to balance overall calorie intake with adequate physical activity. By making a few small changes you and your family can satisfy your sweet tooth and enjoy life’s just desserts.



+ Why do children need calcium and vitamin D?


Mary Martin Nordness

Question: "Why are calcium and vitamin D so important for children?"

Calcium and vitamin D are key factors in building and maintaining strong bones in children. That’s why leading health and nutrition organizations recommend kids have two to three servings of low-fat or fat-free milk, including flavored milk, daily to improve bone health and overall nutrition.

Unfortunately, many children and young adults aren’t getting enough of these two critical nutrients because they don’t drink enough fortified milk, putting them at risk for osteoporosis and bone fractures. Research shows that boys are 32 percent more likely and girls are 56 percent more likely now to experience bone fractures than children 40 years ago.

If your child has difficulty digesting milk due to lactose sensitivity, the good news is lactose –free milk and milk products have the same amount of calcium and vitamin D per glass as regular milk.

In addition to nutrient-rich dairy, children need at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day. Remember, it’s never too early or too late to build strong bones that last a lifetime.



+ Are there foods that help prevent depression?


Jill Henderson

Question: "The gloomy winter weather has really taken a toll on my mental health. Are there foods that can help combat the blues?"

Yes. Key vitamins and minerals found in foods can have a big impact on our moods. You may be surprised to learn that some foods contain powerful compounds that positively affect brain chemistry.

Go “Nutrient-Rich” - First, what you eat has a lot to do with how you feel. Limit energy zapping foods like refined sugar and alcohol and try to eat a wide variety of nutrient-rich foods every four to five hours.

Nutrient-rich foods have very few calories but lots of vitamins and minerals. Foods like, low-fat dairy, fruits, vegetables, lean meats and whole grains. In fact, eating these foods at regular intervals every few hours stabilizes your blood sugar, increases your energy, decreases stress and improves levels of serotonin – a natural chemical in the body that triggers happiness.

Drink Milk for Vitamin D - Research shows that this powerhouse vitamin helps prevent depression. Our bodies make vitamin D when exposed to 10 to 15 minutes of sunshine, but if you can’t get outside, drink a glass of milk. Just three 8-ounce glasses of milk provide 75 percent of the recommended daily dose of vitamin D. Milk also has whey protein, which studies indicate can decrease stress, improve memory and enhance mood – all perfect complements to vitamin D’s benefits.

Boost Your Mood with Omega 3 Fats - The omega 3 fats found in fish are good mood boosters because these fats help keep the brain signals moving smoothly. In Finland where fish is a main staple, people have lower rates of depressions than other countries. The best fish sources of omega 3s are wild salmon, mackerel or trout – all of which are wonderful grilled.

Turn your winter blues around with regular meals that include nutrient-rich milk fortified with vitamin D, fish, lean meats, fruits and vegetables.



+ Are there foods that help prevent colds and flu?


Laura Buxenbaum

Question: "Can the foods I eat reduce my risk of catching a cold or the flu this winter?"

Yes. A power-packed diet might be one of your best defenses against wintertime illness. Many foods are naturally designed to bolster your immune system and help keep you healthy. For the best protection, include these nutrient-rich foods in your diet year round.

Protect with Probiotics - Probiotics, found in yogurt and cultured dairy foods, are filled with “live and active” cultures. These cultures, or good bacteria, line the intestines and defend our body against invading germs. The best picks for probiotic foods include Greek yogurt, Kefir, and yogurts that contain Lactobacillus such as Activia or Dannon.

Fight Back with Nutrient-Rich Foods - A nutrient-rich diet inclusive of fruits, vegetables, low-fat and fat-free dairy foods, whole grains, and lean meats and beans will help keep you healthy year-round. Defend against illness with immune system boosters, including vitamin C-laden strawberries, red pepper and broccoli. Additionally, protein sources such as lean meats, dairy, eggs and legumes supply the amino acids that your body needs to build the components of your immune system.

D-light in Vitamin D - Known as the sunshine vitamin, Vitamin D can be difficult for our bodies to make naturally in the winter months due to lack of sunlight exposure. Consuming at least three daily servings of vitamin D-fortified milk is one of the best ways to protect against illness, providing 75 percent of the recommended daily requirements of this D-lightful vitamin. To boost your intake of vitamin D serve milk with meals, choose vitamin D fortified yogurt and cheese whenever possible and use milk instead of water when making hot chocolate, soups or sauces.



+ How can I lose weight after the holidays?


Arlene Murrell

Question: "What can I do to lose the pounds I gained from holiday eating?"

The good news is that holiday indulgence can be overcome with four tips for a healthier you.

1. Enjoy 3: Fat-free and low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese Dairy foods pack a powerful nutritional punch of nine essential vitamins and minerals. Research shows that enjoying three servings of dairy foods every day supplies the body with five of the nutrients found to be low in American children’s diets and three of the nutrients found to be low in American adult’s diets. Additionally, fat-free and low-fat dairy foods consumed as part of a healthy diet can aide in weight management.

2. Don’t skip meals

  • Start your day with breakfast, including whole grain cereal, fresh fruit and low-fat or fat-free milk.
  • Choose colorful fresh fruits combined with fat-free yogurt sprinkled with nuts for an afternoon snack.
  • Try a large salad with fresh or dried fruit topped with shredded Cheddar cheese and fat-free dressing for lunch.
  • Eat a well balanced meal for dinner. Include lean meats, fish or poultry; whole grains; brightly colored vegetables and a cold glass of fat-free or low-fat milk.

3. Watch your serving size As a registered dietitian and a person who is constantly fighting the battle of the bulge, my advice concerning serving size is to keep it small. In other words, stick to standard serving sizes and forget about super sizing. Remember:

  • Fat-free or low-fat milk or yogurt = 1 cup (8 ounces)
  • Fat-free or low-fat cheese = 1-1/2 ounces (4 stacked dice)
  • Cooked vegetable = ½ cup (the size of ½ a baseball)
  • Fruit = 1 medium (the size of a baseball)
  • Lean meat = 3 ounces (the size of a deck of cards)

4. Don’t forget to exercise Exercise shouldn’t be boring or require a membership to the gym. Just start walking, dancing or doing a physical activity you like. The point is to be active; get your heart rate up for 30 to 60 minutes a day. You will not only shed those unwanted pounds, but will also feel and look healthier.



+ Can you provide tips for healthy eating at holiday parties?


Jana Harland

Question: "How can I survive holiday parties without gaining weight?"

The season of overeating is here! Many people start eating at Thanksgiving and don’t stop until after the Super Bowl playoffs. Over the years, I have come to understand that moderation is the key to holiday feasting. Try these tips to keep focused and eating healthful through New Year’s Eve.

  • Whether planning your holiday meals or attending a family event, make room on your plate for nutrient rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean meats, low-fat dairy and whole grains. By choosing these foods first, you will be less likely to overindulge on high calorie foods.
  • Opt for whole grain breads made with little or no fat such as sandwich breads, pita bread, English muffins, small bagels and bread sticks.
  • Shop for veggies that are fresh, frozen or canned in water. If asked to bring a dish to a holiday event, a vegetable tray with a low-fat dip is always a welcome addition.
  • Select fruits that are fresh, frozen or canned without added sugar to make your holiday fruit pies.
  • Lighten holiday recipes by substituting low fat ingredients. Choose fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese instead of full fat options. For example, when making macaroni and cheese, use 2% cheese instead of regular cheddar cheese. If the recipe calls for milk, choose fat- free or 1% milk. No one will be able to taste the difference.
  • Remember to stay active during the holiday season. Invite family or friends for a brisk walk around the neighborhood. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 30 to 60 minutes of exercise everyday, including holidays.


+ Do you have quick and easy healthy entertaining tips?


Mary Martin Nordness,

Questions: "As the holidays approach, I need a few entertaining ideas that are both healthy and tasty. Do you have any suggestions?"

Yes. This season make entertaining easier with appetizers made from nutrient-rich dairy foods that are both delicious and healthy. A quick-cook appetizer like cheddar fondue made with low-fat or fat-free milk is fancy without the fuss. Research shows that eating more low-fat dairy foods can help reduce your risk for high blood pressure, osteoporosis and certain cancers.

If you’re looking for an even easier appetizer, a cheese board is a perfect alternative to fondue and requires no cooking. Plan to serve three to five different cheeses that vary in taste, texture and appearance, such as Havarti, Gouda and Blue Cheese, and keep in mind that cheese is best served at room temperature, so a cheese board can be prepared well before your guests arrive. Cheese and other dairy foods provide nine essential vitamins and minerals including calcium, potassium and protein, and by adding nutrient-rich pairings like apples, pears, pecans and whole grain bread, you can ensure your guests are eating healthy.



+ Are school lunches healthy?


Kristin Brittle

Question: "Are school lunches a good choice?"

Yes. School meals are more nutritious and appealing than ever! The National School Lunch Program has been a part of public schools for more than 60 years and serves over 29 million children each day. Schools must offer five food items from four food components: meat/meat alternative, fruits/vegetables, grains/breads and milk and meet dietary requirements for protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, calcium and calories. Unfortunately, only 2 percent of todays youth eat the recommended number of servings from all of the food groups. When a child chooses a school lunch they are introduced to a wide variety of foods from each food group. In fact, research indicates that children who participate in school lunch eat more fruits and vegetables and drink more milk than those who do not.

If your child wants to bring lunch from home, be sure to encourage them to buy cold milk at school. Children are in a calcium crisis - over half of children ages 2-8 and almost 80% of teens do not meet the recommended Dietary Guidelines for three servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy foods a day. In order to ensure that your child gets three servings of dairy a day, be sure to encourage at least one dairy food per meal. This is easy to do by: purchasing cold milk at school, adding cheese to sandwiches or sending string cheese in their lunches or by offering drinkable yogurts as a beverage choice.



+ Can you offer healthy cookout recipes?


Tracy Noerper

Question: "I’m having a Labor Day cookout and want to offer healthy choices. Do you have any suggestions?"

While barbecues and picnics are certainly popular Labor Day fun, they can also be full of high calorie, high fat foods. According to Weight Watchers, the average cookout plate can set you back more than 1500 calories. I have 3 tips that can help you enjoy the party and stay healthy. Fire up the nutrients - You’ll get more vitamins and minerals and fewer calories when you choose nutrient-rich foods like lean meat and whole grains, low-fat dairy, fruits, and vegetables. Consider choosing ground turkey (breast, no skin) for burgers for less fat and calories but still delicious in taste. For other lean meat sources, choose those with "loin" in the name, such as pork tenderloin or beef tenderloin.

Sneak in Substitutions - Replace high fat, high-calorie menu items for those with more nutrition. -Use whole grains; sandwich buns, whole wheat pasta or brown rice. -Grill a variety of veggies such as Portobello mushrooms, zucchini, colorful peppers, sweet potatoes and onions alongside your meat. -For a light and refreshing dessert, try grilling pineapple and serve with low-fat fruity yogurt. -Use low-fat cheeses on burgers and in salads. -Use plain yogurt in place of mayonnaise and boost the flavor with fresh herbs. -Substitute low-fat milk or fat- free milk in place of whole milk in recipes.

Keep It Safe - Food borne illness is an unwelcomed guest at any party! The US Center for Disease Control estimates that over 70 million people get sick from food borne illnesses each year. Remember for good food safety:

Thaw Safely - Use the refrigerator for slow, safe thawing or thaw sealed packages in cold running water.

Keep Cold Foods Cold and Hot Foods Hot - Keep meat cold in the refrigerator until ready to use. After grilling, keep all meat (140 degrees or warmer) until served.

Cook Thoroughly - To destroy harmful bacteria, cook food to an internal temperature of 160 -165 degrees.

Remember a great cookout doesn’t have to be high fat and high calorie foods. For delicious nutrient rich recipes try our refreshing Caribbean Milk Cooler, mouth-watering Cheese Stuffed Turkey Burgers and fresh Southwestern Taco Dip.



+ Do you have suggestions for healthy kid-friendly snacks?


Laura Buxenbaum

Question: "My kids are out of school and they seem to be hungry all the time. Could you suggest some healthy summer snacks that they will eat?"

As a Registered Dietitian and a mom, I understand the challenge of planning nutritious snacks that children will actually eat. Snacks are very important because research shows in between meals eating is the source of nearly 600 calories each day-that’s 25 percent of their daily energy needs. The most recent dietary guidelines for children recommend eating and snacking on more whole grains, vegetables, fruits and low-fat dairy food to help supply the vitamins and minerals that are lacking. Here are three snacking tips to keep children happy, healthy and hunger free this summer.

Freeze it - Fun frozen treats for hot summer days: • Frozen Fruit Salad- Freeze your child’s favorite fruit such as grapes, pineapple chunks, watermelon, blueberries or banana slices. • Banana Popsicles- Dip a peeled banana in flavored yogurt and roll it in cereal or granola. Freeze for several hours. • Popsicles: Freeze squeezable yogurts for a quick and creamy treat.

Pack it - Pack a cooler full of healthy snacks: • Yogurt in a tube • Sting cheese • Fresh fruit • Single serving bags of nuts • Low fat flavored milk chugs • Portable single serve cereal

Sip it - Milk based drinks can provide a great source of calcium, protein and vitamin D: • Smoothies: Smoothies are a delicious way to get in a serving of dairy and fruit in one drink. Try our Frosty Pine-Orange Yogurt Smoothie, and visit our featured recipe section more refreshing ideas. • Drinkable yogurts: These grab and go drinks are perfect for travel. • Low fat flavored milk: Kids love milk when it’s served cold and in fun flavors like chocolate and strawberry. And moms can feel good about flavored milk because it contains the same nutrients as white milk.



+ What are some smart budget-friendly grocery shopping tips?


Laura Buxenbaum,

Question: "With the current economic downturn in our country, I am trying to make the smartest shopping choices I can when I go to the grocery store. Do you have any tips for me?"

I certainly understand your concerns and as as a mother, I am always trying to maximize my shopping dollars as well. We can all benefit from smarter shopping both financially as well as nutritionally.

I have some tips below that I think you'll find useful.

7 Top Supermarket Savings Tips: Save Money without Sacrificing Nutrition

1.) List it: Create your shopping list before you go and shop directly from your list. According to the Food Marketing Institute, you spend $2 for every minute you are in the grocery store. Prior planning and a shopping list can save time and money.

2.) Shop Simply: Fill your cart with nutrient rich foods such as whole grains, fruit, vegetables and low-fat dairy foods. Don’t waste money on items such as chips, candy and sugary beverages that provide little or no nutritional value.

3.) Clip Coupons: Using coupons can save up to 15 percent on your grocery bill according to some studies. However, use coupons only for foods you normally would eat, rather than for “extras.” Additionally, check store circulars for weekly specials.

4.) Rethink your Drink: Instead of buying bottled water, invest in a reusable water bottle and fill it up with tap water. Limit the amount of sodas, sports drinks and sugary juice drinks you purchase. These drinks are low in nutrition, high in calories and expensive. Reach for a nutrient-rich treat like milk, flavored milk or drinkable yogurts. At only 25 cents a glass, milk provides your family with protein, calcium, vitamin D and six other essential nutrients.

5.) Bulk Up: Buying in bulk can save money as long as you are buying items on your list. Cereal, fruit, cheese pasta sauce and coffee are a few foods that can save you money when you purchase them in bulk.

6.) Shop Store Brands: Store brands are comparable in nutrition to name brands and a big cost-cutting option. You can save between 10 and 30 percent by choosing store brands.

7.) Go Green- Save some green by bringing your own reusable shopping bag. Many grocery stores now offer a discount for each bag you bring.



+ What are probiotics and active cultures in yogurt?


Tracy Noerper

Question: "Recently, I've seen a lot of yogurt commercials that talk about probiotics and "active cultures." What does that mean and are they really important?"

Probiotic means "for life." The best way to think of them would be as live cultures consumed for a health benefit. Foods like yogurt, milk and cheese with probiotics or active cultures can help boost immunity and aid digestion. Most of the dairy products with the live and active culture label on them, means that they have a certain amount of micro-organisms in the product. Dairy foods with probiotics are excellent sources of calcium and protein that help build strong bones and better bodies.

Foods with probiotics are increasing in popularity. Sales of yogurt and cultured dairy beverage like Kefir skyrocketed to over $10 billion worldwide in 2005. Additionally, products like DanActive and Activia are trademarked probiotics that claim health benefits with routine use. In fact, clinical studies indicate Activia yogurt with Bifidus Regularis naturally regulates the digestive system after two weeks of use.



+ What should I do if I think my child is lactose intolerant?


Arlene Murrell

Question: "I am lactose intolerant and I think my 7 year old son is also. What should I do?"

You are not alone. It has been estimated that approximately 25% of American adults have a limited ability to digest lactose, a carbohydrate found in milk and dairy foods. As a registered dietitian and a parent, I understand your concern that your son may be missing out on a major source of calcium. Dairy foods are unique packages of calcium and eight other essential vitamins and minerals necessary for building strong bones and teeth. Dairy foods are also strongly recommended by doctors and dietitians. Avoiding dairy foods may have serious health consequences especially for many minority groups including; African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and Native Americans. Many minorities are at higher risk for hypertension, stroke, osteoporosis, obesity, diabetes, and colon cancer, all of which have a reduced risk of occurrence when the diet includes adequate amounts of calcium, vitamin D, and potassium, all found in milk and dairy foods.

The good news is that lactose intolerance does not mean dairy intolerance. Many people who have experienced symptoms of lactose intolerance are learning new strategies to enjoy the health benefits of dairy by eating yogurt and cheeses which are lower in lactose. If you think your son is lactose intolerant, discuss it with your doctor. Also try these suggestions to keep dairy as a part of a healthy diet for your entire family:

  1. Drink small amounts of milk with food.
  2. Enjoy hard, aged cheeses like Cheddar and Swiss.
  3. To build your tolerance, introduce dairy slowly. Gradually increase the amount.
  4. Try lactose-free milk and other lactose free dairy foods.
  5. Enjoy yogurt with active cultures; it helps to digest lactose.



+ Should I take a calcium supplement?


Laura Buxenbaum

Question: "I am a 34 year old female with a family history of osteoporosis. I am concerned I'm not getting enough calcium because I don't like milk except with cereal. Since I am not eating more dairy, should I take a calcium supplement?"

Your concern is certainly a valid one. Women ages 19 to 50 need at least 1000 milligrams of calcium everyday. The most recent dietary guidelines for adults recommend 3 daily servings of low fat or fat free dairy to help reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Each serving of dairy-8 ounces or one cup of milk, 1.5 ounces of cheese, or 8 ounces of yogurt - provides 300 milligrams of calcium. Unfortunately, research shows that most of us are only eating half of this recommended amount.

Health professionals advise whenever possible to get nutrients from food first. Dairy foods contain several essential vitamins and minerals such as potassium, vitamin D, protein, phosphorus and riboflavin in addition to calcium that cannot be found in a synthetic supplement. Calcium supplements should be regarded as a supplement to, not a substitute for, a nutritionally adequate diet rich in dairy foods.

Milk with cereal is an excellent way to get one of your 3 a day of dairy, but it is not enough to fuel your body with the calcium it needs. Here are a few simple tips to help you bone up on calcium.

  • Try adding milk in place of water to canned soups, hot chocolate or instant oatmeal.
  • Rev up snack time with string cheese and fresh fruit or a make a quick refreshing smoothie with frozen fruit, yogurt and milk.
  • For dessert - make a creamy yogurt parfait by layering yogurt with sliced strawberries and whole grain cereal.