In college? Study labels for calcium

79073988I just started my first year of college and I’m living away from home for the first time. My mom keeps telling me to watch my diet, especially my calcium intake. Why is she so worried about that?

It’s not unusual for young adults in your situation to fall into poor eating habits. You’ll be dealing with stress and an irregular routine, and you could lose easy access to nutrient-dense foods, including dairy foods.

Calcium is a special concern because getting enough as a young person has long-term implications. The body uses calcium in a lot of different ways, including helping muscles and blood vessels expand and contract, helping release hormones and enzymes, and helping send messages from the brain throughout the body through the nervous system. And, of course, you need it for strong bones and teeth.

If there’s not enough calcium in the bloodstream, the body takes it from your bones in order to get everything done that needs to be done. If this happens too much, your bones will get weak over time, increasing your risk for osteoporosis and bone fractures.

It’s especially important to get enough calcium during your formative years, because by your 20s, your bones will be the strongest they ever will be. And getting enough vitamin D is important, too, because it helps your body absorb calcium.

You need the most calcium in your diet when you’re 9 to 18 years old — 1,300 milligrams a day. That’s the amount in more than four 8-ounce glasses of milk. Between the ages of 19 to 50 years old, you still need 1,000 milligrams a day. Milk contains about 300 milligrams of calcium per cup.

Of course, milk isn’t the only food with calcium. Check Nutrition Facts labels. Calcium is listed as a percent and is based on 1,000 milligrams a day, so “10 percent” means a serving contains 100 milligrams of calcium.

Some other options:

  • Plain fat-free yogurt, 1 cup, 450 milligrams.
  • Orange juice with added calcium, 1 cup, 350 milligrams.
  • Fruit yogurt, low-fat, 1 cup, 230 milligrams.
  • American cheese, low-fat, 2 ounces, 310 milligrams.
  • Raw broccoli, 1 medium stalk, 180 milligrams.
  • Spinach, cooked from frozen, 1/2 cup, 140 milligrams.
  • Frozen yogurt, soft-serve vanilla, 1/2 cup, 100 milligrams.
  • Cooked broccoli, 1 cup, 95 milligrams.

New to pickling? Do your homework

87633084Our garden is producing an overabundance of cucumbers this year. I thought I might try pickling some of them, but I’m not sure where to start. Any ideas?

First, if the cucumbers you’re growing aren’t a suitable variety for pickling, you might be disappointed in the results. Pickling cucumbers are usually smaller than cucumbers grown for slicing, and they tend to have thicker, bumpier skins. According to the cooking encyclopedia The Cook’s Thesaurus, the best varieties for pickling include gherkin, cornichon, Kirby and lemon cucumber.

But if you want to try, your first decision will be whether you want to make fermented pickles, which are pickled from lactic acid in a fermentation process over three to four weeks in a crock or other suitable container, or quick-process pickles, which are pickled from acetic acid from vinegar in a process that takes just a few days.

If you have a burpless variety growing in your garden, go for the quick process, because burpless varieties produce an enzyme at maturity that causes pickles to soften during fermentation. Always choose smaller cucumbers — they make crisper pickles.

You can find detailed guidance for pickling cucumbers (and other vegetables) in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Complete Guide to Home Canning, available online from the University of Georgia’s National Center for Home Food Preservation at In addition, Ohio State University Extension offers two fact sheets, “Making Fermented Dill Pickles” and “Quick Process Pickles,” at

Among the tips you’ll want to follow:

  • Pay strict attention to all guidelines, and process in a water bath canner according to recipe directions. Otherwise, your pickles may spoil or, worse, cause food poisoning.
  • Always trim about a quarter-inch from the blossom end of the cucumber to prevent pickles from softening.
  • Use only non-iodized salt made for pickling or canning. Regular table salt has anti-caking agents that can make the brine cloudy. Flake salt varies in density, so you can’t be certain you’re using the proper amount. If you want to make low-sodium pickles, use a tested recipe. Don’t try to make fermented pickles with less salt than in the recipe; the amount is necessary to inhibit the growth of undesirable bacteria.

Dietitians offer guidance on apps

164022070Everyone I know seems to have a different nutrition app on their smart phone. Where can I find information about whether an app is a good one?

With thousands of nutrition- and food-related apps available, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

It helps to narrow down what you’re looking for: Do you want something to help you plan healthy meals, or are you more interested in tracking calories, managing blood sugar or finding restaurants that serve gluten-free food?

Once you have narrowed down what kind of information you’re looking for specifically, talk more to your friends about the apps they use and what they like or don’t like about them. If they say they like their app but that it’s “clunky” or otherwise cumbersome, search around for other options that offer the same type of information, and test them yourself.

As for making sure the food- or nutrition-related content is accurate, nothing beats guidance from a registered dietitian. If your health plan offers dietetic services or nutrition coaching, it might not be a bad idea to sign up for a session or two and, during your consult, inquire about recommended apps.

If that seems a bit much, you can take a look online at apps reviewed by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics — the professional organization for registered dietitians.

Academy dietitians started reviewing apps in late 2011, and their initial offerings, grouped under the categories of “Diabetes,” “Gluten-Free” and “Weight Management,” are online at the organization’s website, These apps, all available to download free and primarily geared for the iPhone, are listed in alphabetical order under each category. You can scan the initial listing relatively quickly to see how well each app rates on the academy’s 1- to 5-star scale, and then click on an app to get more information.

Since that time, the academy has continued to review apps and list the reviews on its Food and Nutrition magazine website, Each review details the app’s pros and cons as well as the dietitian’s star-rating and “bottom line.” The apps are listed in reverse-chronological order — that is, the most recently reviewed apps are at the top. There’s no search function, but it’s relatively easy to page through the 62 apps currently listed and click on reviews you’re most interested in reading.

Don’t keep sugary beverages at home

dv2014065I stopped buying soft drinks to have at home because I’ve read that they are a big reason why so many children are overweight. But my kids said they would stop eating so many snacks if I started buying soda again. Does that sound like an even trade?

Depending on what kind of snacks your children are eating, it might be a good idea to cut them back. But it’s always a good idea to restrict sugary drinks. Don’t negotiate on that.

Today, more than one-third of U.S. children and adolescents are overweight or obese, and the percentage who are obese tripled between 1980 and 2008.

Of course, there are many reasons for these increases, but sugary drinks have been in the spotlight because they are the primary source of added sugar in children’s diets. Each 12-ounce can of sugary soft drinks contains about 10 teaspoons of sugar.

At least one study, published by The Lancet in 2001, indicated that for each 12-ounce serving of sugar-sweetened drinks consumed by sixth- and seventh-graders each day, their risk of obesity increased by 60 percent.

One of the problems with sugary drinks is that they provide a lot of calories very quickly: A 20-ounce bottle has 240 calories or more. But even with that many calories, beverages usually don’t help people feel as full as if they had eaten the same number of calories in solid food. As a result, they eat just as much as they would if they hadn’t had the soft drink. So, they’re just consuming additional calories — calories that don’t provide a nutritional boost.

Sugary drinks aren’t just carbonated beverages. Calorie-laden “fruitades,” such as lemonade or Gatorade, also qualify as sugary drinks, as do energy drinks and fruit drinks that aren’t 100 percent juice.

Your children will likely not stop drinking sugary beverages altogether. Schools have been cutting back, but obviously, they’re still widely available. Still, you don’t have to buy them and have them at home. Instead, encourage your kids to drink water or low-fat milk. A moderate amount of 100 percent juice is OK, too.

For more information about sugary drinks and obesity for children and adults, see the Harvard School of Public Health’s fact sheet at