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Dietitians are credentialed experts in food and nutrition who help people make informed food choices to support their health and well-being.

Nutrient-rich dairy foods not only help children and adults build healthy diets, they also contribute to healthier lives. Studies show dairy foods, as part of a healthy diet, improve overall diet quality, and may contribute to better bone health, lower blood pressure, and reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

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Healthy Kids

As a registered dietitian working with school districts, I hear this often from educators and school nutrition staff. According to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the major sources of added sugars in the diets of Americans are sodas, energy drinks, and sport drinks (39 % of added sugar intake). Try these tips to help students make a better choice:

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 is a classroom lesson plan that will teach children why and how to make healthier choices.

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 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.

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

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 mothers 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 13 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 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!

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.
• Whip 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!

Lanier Dabruzzi, MS, RD, LD

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 2015-2020 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 thirteen essential nutrients, contributes just 4% 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.

Laura Buxenbaum, MPH, RD, LDN – North Carolina

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 30 years, which will help raise a healthier generation of children. The school meal standards, announced in 2012-2013, 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, including flavored milk
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.

Tracy Noerper MS, RD, LDN

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.

Tracy Noerper, MS, RD – Tennessee

“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: Food MindsDietary Guidelines and Flavored Milk.

Arlene Murrell, MS, RD, LD, CLE – Georgia

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 50 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.

Mary Martin Nordness, MA, RD, LD, CHES – Alabama

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 70 years and serves over 30 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 today’s 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.

Kristin Brittle, RD – Virginia

Weight management

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 the new year 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 the new year 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.

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!

Milk 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.

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:

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!Arlene Murrell, MS, RD, LD, CLE

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.

Arlene Murrell, MS, RD, LD, CLE – Georgia

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 holiday!

Jana Harland, RD, LD – Alabama

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.

Condition and illness

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.

Jill Henderson, MS, RD, SNS

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.

Laura Buxenbaum, MS, RD – North Carolina

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.

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:

• Drink small amounts of milk with food.
• Enjoy hard, aged cheeses like Cheddar and Swiss.
• To build your tolerance, introduce dairy slowly. Gradually increase the amount.
• Try lactose-free milk and other lactose free dairy foods.
• Enjoy yogurt with active cultures; it helps to digest lactose.
• Arlene Murrell, MS, RD, LD, CLE – Georgia

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.

Laura Buxenbaum, MPH, RD – North Carolina

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 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.

Rebecca Turner, MS, RD, LD – Mississippi

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.

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 current 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.

Rebecca Turner, MS, RD, LD – Mississippi

holidays and entertaining

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..

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. 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 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 13 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.


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.

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?


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!

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.
Rebecca Turner, MS, RD, LD – Mississippi

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.

Mary Martin Nordness, MA, RD ,LD, CHES – Alabama

While barbeques 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.

Tracy Noerper, MS, RD- Tennessee


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!

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?

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.

Rebecca Turner, MS, RD, LD – Mississippi

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 MyPlate. 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.

Laura Buxenbaum, MS, RD – North Carolina

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.

Post workout snack ideas:

• 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 sessionTo 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.

Rebecca Turner, MS, RD, LD – Mississippi

Dairy Foods

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.

Tracy Noerper, MS, RD – Tennessee

Yogurt comes from milk that has had healthy bacteria added, causing it to ferment. During this process, yogurt thickens and takes on a slightly tangy taste. Yogurt is then strained through a cheesecloth, which allows the liquid whey part of milk to drain off. Regular yogurt is strained twice, while Greek yogurt is strained three times to remove more whey (leaving a thicker consistency).

While all yogurt provides numerous health benefits (including probiotics), the nutritional stats for Greek yogurt and regular yogurt do differ. Here’s how the two stack up:

Greek yogurt has almost double the protein of regular yogurt. Eight ounces of Greek yogurt has about 20 grams of protein, whereas regular yogurt provides around 11-13 grams. Greek yogurt’s high protein content makes it a favorite among people trying to manage their weight as it helps ward off hunger.

Greek yogurt has fewer carbohydrates than regular yogurt. This could be beneficial to diabetics, who have to watch their carbohydrate intake.

Regular yogurt has about three times the calcium of Greek yogurt. 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.

Greek yogurt has half the sodium of regular yogurt.

Plain, nonfat versions of Greek and regular yogurt have a similar calorie count per serving, but added sugars can significantly increase the calories of either variety.

Greek yogurt is much thicker and creamier than regular yogurt because it’s strained more. Greek yogurt can also be used in cooking as it does not curdle when heated like regular yogurt.

Unfortunately, you’ll likely spend twice the money on Greek yogurt. This is largely due to escalating customer demand, as Greek yogurt’s taste, texture, and great nutritional profile keep consumers coming back in droves. Greek yogurt also costs more because the extra straining requires much more milk, so it’s a more concentrated source of protein.

Yogurt is often touted as an ideal health food, and it can be if you choose the right kind. As with both Greek and regular yogurts, be sure to choose low-fat or nonfat varieties, and opt for those with little to no added sugar, as this ups the calorie count.

Kari Hartel, RD, LD – St. Louis, Missouri

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!

Betsy Dietsch, RD, LD – Georgia

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.

Tracy Noerper, MS, RD – Tennessee

Budget and body healthy

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 and cheese cubes
• Veggies + creamy yogurt dip
• Whole grain cereal and milk
• Microwave popcorn sprinkled with Parmesan cheese
• Yogurt + whole grain granola and 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

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

9 Top Supermarket Savings Tips: Save Money without Sacrificing Nutrition

1.) List and 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.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.

8.) 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.

9.)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.


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 current 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

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