Food Q&A: The Dairy Dilemma

How can I increase my calcium intake without gulping down a gallon of the white stuff?
Food Q&A The Dairy Dilemma
Need ideas for coping with restaurant buffets? Want some good snack ideas? In our Q&A series, nutritionist and food editor Leslie Fink, MS, RD, answers questions about food, nutrition and weight loss.

Q: I have the worst time getting dairy products in my diet, and I'm not a fan of milk. Do you have any suggestions to help me meet my calcium needs?

A: If the "Got Milk?" advertising campaign doesn't make you crave a brownie (a low-fat one, of course) washed down with an ice-cold glass of skim milk, then I hope you'll find some of my ways to "sneak" dairy products into your diet intriguing.

You can rely on vegetarian items for your calcium intake, but keep in mind that animal sources of calcium are better absorbed, and normally provide a much larger calcium boost, than those from plant foods. That's not meant to discourage you from eating spinach salads, but rather to encourage you to keep quantity in mind: Whereas you can reap nearly 440 milligrams of calcium from a cup of low-fat vanilla yogurt, you&39d have to eat about 15 cups of uncooked chopped spinach to get the same amount.

Say Moo
  • Use milk to add creaminess to homemade vegetable "cream" soups.

  • Whip up a batch of pudding made with skim milk.

  • Blend together low-fat or fat-free yogurt with fruit and ice for calcium-rich smoothies.

  • Incorporate low-fat yogurt into a dip.

  • Top Mexican food, salads or chili with shredded low-fat Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese.

  • Mix fruit salad with calcium-fortified cottage cheese (regular cottage cheese is not a good calcium source).

  • Treat yourself to an occasional dish of calcium-containing low-fat ice cream or yogurt; compare labels for the greatest calcium kick.

Tree Foods Only, Please
  • Incorporate calcium-fortified tofu and/or soy milk into stir-fries, smoothies, scrambled eggs and cream sauces. (Tofu and soy milk are not naturally rich in calcium.)

  • Drink a glass of calcium-fortified juice or use it to add sweetness and moisture to smoothies.

  • Enjoy a small amount of roasted almonds as a snack or mix plain, slivered almonds into a salad or homemade trail mix.

  • Toss canned salmon or sardines with bones (people either love them or hate them) into a salad, turn them into a sandwich filling mixed with low-fat mayonnaise and seasonings, or find a tempting recipe for a baked salmon loaf.

  • Rely on other fish – like shrimp and oysters – for a mini calcium lift.

  • Think green … leafy green. Spinach, turnip greens and collard greens, for example. Try them in salads, on sandwiches, in a frittata or a casserole.

  • Whip up a pot of "cream" of broccoli soup thickened with pureed, calcium-fortified soft or silken tofu.

  • Purchase cereals and snack bars that are calcium-fortified or enriched.

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