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Teens need to take milk matters seriously

June 07, 2006|by LYNN F. LITTLE

Consuming milk and milk products provides health benefits. People who have a diet rich in milk and milk products can reduce the risk of low bone mass throughout the life cycle. Foods in the milk group, with the best sources being milk, yogurt and cheese, provide nutrients that are vital for health and maintenance of your body. These nutrients include calcium, potassium, vitamin D and protein.

Diets rich in dairy products help build and maintain bone mass. This might reduce the risk of osteoporosis. The intake of milk products is especially important to bone health during childhood and adolescence, when bone mass is being built.

The teenage years are a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to consume enough calcium to help prevent bone fractures and osteoporosis later in life. During the teen years, nearly half of the adult skeleton is formed and about 15 percent of adult height is added, which makes these years critical for achieving full bone mass and height potential.


Milk is vital to teens

Some researchers speculate that by the time today's teens are in their 50s and 60s, they will have the highest rate of bone fractures and osteoporosis of any generation in American history because they are not getting enough calcium in their diets now.

Current trends in soft-drink consumption among adolescents suggest that teens are drinking twice as much soda as milk. What's worse is that the decline in milk consumption is not being made up by an increase in other calcium-rich dairy products. As a result, today's teens are consuming less calcium than their parents did as teens, which puts them at even higher risk for the bone-crippling disease osteoporosis later in life. To put the situation in perspective, some nutritionists and health-care professionals are beginning to look at osteoporosis not as a geriatric disease, but as a pediatric disease.

According to current dietary recommendations, teens need 1,300 milligrams of calcium each day. Dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt, etc.) are our most concentrated food sources of calcium. One cup of milk contains approximately 300 milligrams of calcium, and a cup of plain yogurt boasts around 400 milligrams. In addition to being rich in calcium, milk and other dairy products contain important nutrients for bone health such as vitamin D (if fortified), phosphorus and magnesium.

Even teens who are mildly lactose-intolerant often can enjoy small amounts of dairy products such as yogurt, cheese and lactase-treated milk. Those who must avoid dairy products due to allergies or severe lactose intolerance still can consume significant amounts of calcium from dry beans, fish with edible bones, tofu (if processed with calcium sulfate), calcium-fortified orange juices and cereals, and dark green vegetables such as broccoli, kale, collards and turnip greens.

Drinking milk with meals or snacks is one of the quickest ways to boost the calcium content of your diet. Any form of milk is a good calcium source. Because milk is an animal food, it contains saturated fat and cholesterol. It is a good idea to choose low-fat milk products such as low-fat yogurt, buttermilk, skim milk and low-fat chocolate milk. Choose skim milk and nonfat yogurt often. They are lowest in fat. Cheese, ice milk and ice cream also contain calcium but have more fat and calories. Choose high-fat cheese and ice cream only occasionally. They can add a lot of fat to your diet.

Here are other ideas for increasing milk products and other rich calcium sources in your diet:

  • Make hot cereals and creamed soups with milk instead of water. Tomato soup made with milk is more smooth and creamy than soup thinned with water.

  • Add cheese to your sandwich or to a soft corn tortilla.

  • Make a smoothie with fruit, ice and milk or try one of the new milk or yogurt drinks - they come in a variety of flavors like strawberry, banana and even peanut butter.

  • Dip fruits and vegetables into yogurt for a snack.

  • Add cottage cheese to your diet. Cottage cheese is lower in calcium than most cheeses. One cup of cottage cheese is equal to a half cup of milk.

  • For dinner, make a salad with dark green, leafy vegetables such as spinach. Top your salad with shredded cheese or dress with cottage cheese instead of oily dressings.

  • Serve broccoli or cooked, dry beans as a side dish at lunch or dinner.

  • Add tofu made with calcium to stir-fry or other dishes.

  • Try rice pudding made with low-fat milk for dessert.

Try the following refreshing, cold milk drinks:

Orange Chiller

2 cups low-fat milk

1 can (6 ounces) unsweetened orange juice concentrate

1 teaspoon vanilla

10 ice cubes, crushed

Place all ingredients into a blender container and mix - a refreshing, nutritious treat.

Banana Milkshake

1 cup cold, low-fat milk

1 large banana, sliced

Mix milk and banana together in a blender for a delicious milkshake.

Coco-Nut Banana Treat

1 quart cold, low-fat milk

1/4 cup chocolate syrup

1/4 cup peanut butter

2 bananas, mashed

1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Serves 4

Rainbow Milk

1 cup cold low-fat milk

1/4 cup sherbet (any flavor)

Combine all ingredients in blender, mix well.

Purple Cow

1 (6-ounce) can frozen grape juice

1 quart cold low-fat milk

2 cups vanilla ice cream, ice milk or frozen vanilla yogurt

Place all ingredients into a blender container and mix. It's refreshing and nutritious.

Orange-Banana Shake

1 cup cold low-fat milk

1/4 cup frozen orange juice concentrate

1 large banana, mashed

Mix all ingredients in a blender for a delicious milkshake.

Lynn F. Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with Maryland Cooperative Extension in Washington County.

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