Eggs Across The Lifespan

Eggs contain a number of nutrients that are essential throughout the lifespan:

  • High-quality protein contains building blocks needed to support healthy bones and muscles. Research suggests that exercise, along with optimal protein intake, can slow the effects of sarcopenia or chronic age-related muscle loss.
  • Choline is essential for normal liver function and brain health. It is especially important during pregnancy to support normal fetal growth and development, and most pregnant women do not consume adequate amounts of choline. Consuming eggs during pregnancy is one solution to choline consumption issues.
  • Lutein and zeaxanthin are antioxidants that are believed to reduce the risk of developing cataracts and slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration, a disease that develops with age.

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Focus on Folate

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As discussed in previous posts, eggs are a great food for pregnant women to include in the diet for many reasons—choline, iron, protein, etc.—and today we’re going to focus on one of them: folate. This B vitamin is vital for red blood cell formation and proper cell division, processes that are inherently important during fetal development. Getting adequate levels of folate in the early stages of pregnancy can help to prevent neural tube defects, such as spina bifida. For this reason, it is important that women of childbearing age consume adequate levels of folate each day (AI=400 mcg), and during pregnancy, folate needs actually increase to 600 mcg/day.

In addition to eggs, other natural sources of folate include leafy green vegetables, fruits and fruit juices, beans, peas and nuts, dairy products, meats and seafood. Many cereal and flour products in the US are also fortified with folate to boost intake. One large egg contains 24mcg folate, or 6% of the Daily Value, in addition to providing other important nutrients for women who are pregnant or could become pregnant. By pairing some of these foods in an easy breakfast recipe that can be made ahead of time, anyone can start their day with a folate-rich meal. The recipe below is a great example and is an excellent source of both folate and choline!

What recipes do you use or recommend that combine folate-rich ingredients?

Individual Tomato Florentine Stratas

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Ingredients

  • 2 cups torn fresh spinach (about 4 oz.)
  • 1-1/2 cups whole wheat bread cubes (1-inch) (about 2 slices)
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • 1 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
  • 4 EGGS
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese (1 oz.)

Directions

Step 1 – HEAT oven to 350°F. PLACE 1/2 cup spinach in each of four greased 10-ounce custard cups. TOP with bread, dividing evenly. TOSS tomato with Italian seasoning; spoon evenly over bread.

Step 2 – BEAT eggs and milk in medium bowl until blended. SLOWLY POUR scant 1/2 cup egg mixture over tomato in each cup. SPRINKLE with cheese.

Step 3 – PLACE cups in baking pan. BAKE in center of 350°F oven until custards are puffed and begin to pull away from sides of cups and knife inserted near centers comes out clean, about 30 minutes.

Nutrition Information

Per Serving

Calories: 170, Total Fat: 8g, Saturated fat: 3g, Cholesterol: 195mg, Sodium: 227mg, Carbohydrates: 12g, Dietary Fiber: 2g, Protein: 13g, Vitamin A: 3343.5IU, Vitamin D: 72IU, Folate: 93.9mcg, Calcium: 199mg, Iron: 2.1mg, Choline: 147.8mg

References:

Infant Introduction of Solid Foods

Chris BarryToday’s post comes from Chris Barry, PA-C, MMSc. Barry is a nationally certified physician assistant specializing in pediatrics. He is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Physician Assistants, North Carolina Academy of Physician Assistants and currently serves as the Medical Liaison from the American Academy of Physician Assistants to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Barry currently serves as one of ENC’s Health Professional Advisors.

A question I am often asked by new parents is “when can I start my baby on solid foods?” Many parents can’t wait to feed their babies more than just breast milk or formula. The question seems to come up particularly frequently around the holidays, when many celebrations center around family meals. Each child is different, so parents should consult with their infant’s health care provider before starting solid foods. In general, 4 to 6 months of age is a good time to consider adding complementary foods to an infant’s diet. An individual child’s readiness for solid foods depends on her developmental stage, however. The infant who starts solid food should have good head control and should be able to sit in a high chair or feeding chair. She will typically express some interest in solid foods, exemplified by watching adults eat, reaching for the food and/or opening her mouth when adults are eating.

I typically talk with parents about trying rice cereal as a first food. It has a long history of being a good starter solid food, and is very unlikely to cause allergies. Parents may start by mixing 1 tablespoon of rice cereal in a bowl with breast milk or formula to a consistency of porridge, oatmeal or (here in the South) grits and offering a small amount with a baby spoon. In the beginning, it is normal for a baby to look confused and to reject the solid food, either by turning her head away or by tongue-thrusting the food out. I tell parents that, if this happens, take a break and try again the next day. It may take several attempts before a baby decides she wants to eat solids. I usually recommend feeding the rice cereal once a day for about a week, increasing to twice daily the following week. Once a baby is eating cereal well from a spoon, it’s time to expand her offerings to vegetables and fruits (the order doesn’t matter). Giving only one new food every 4 days, allows parents to watch carefully for any food allergy. A skin rash, vomiting or diarrhea could be signs of an allergy, so parents should contact their health care provider, if any of these occur.

Other foods, such as eggs, fish, and meats may also be given once a baby is comfortable eating other solids. Eggs are an excellent source of protein and are full of nutrients, including Vitamin D, calcium, choline and many more that will complement a baby’s diet. Many parents wonder about the possibility of an egg allergy when feeding their infant eggs. Overall, it is estimated that about 1% of children in the United States are allergic to eggs. Fortunately, most of these children do outgrow their egg allergy as they get older. In the past, avoiding egg whites was recommended during the first year, but evidence has failed to show that introducing egg whites after 1 year of age reduced the probability of an egg allergy, so it is not necessary to wait until age 1 to start eggs. However, if  a child shows any of the signs of allergy listed above, parents should be sure to contact their health care provider.

Exploring new foods should be an enjoyable experience for the whole family, and parents should remember that it may take several attempts before a baby decides she likes a particular food. Keep trying! HealthyChildren.org, a parenting website backed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, has some excellent information on many pediatric subjects. One good article on starting solid foods is linked here.

Breakfast: A Back-to-School Basic

Today’s post comes from Neva Cochran, MS, RD, LD. Cochran is a nutrition communications consultant, appearing regularly in national and local media to discuss nutrition topics. Cochran is a long-standing nutrition writer for Woman’s World Magazine as well as a member of ENC’s Health Professional Advisor panel.

With a new school year on the horizon, parents are busy buying school clothes, school supplies and backpacks to get their children off to the best possible start. Unfortunately, a key ingredient for school success is often missing from many parents’ back-to-school checklists: breakfast.  According to a 2010 survey by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 42% white, 59% African American and 42% Hispanic children are not eating breakfast every day.

Breakfast is essential to ensure children have an adequate nutritional intake and are fueled both physically and mentally. A multitude of studies attest to breakfast’s role in school performance and health:

  • In a study of 656 schoolchildren, those who ate breakfast regularly had better motor function skills and lower BMIs than children who skipped breakfast.
  • Additional research revealed hormonal changes stimulated by eating breakfast were associated with better mental performance compared to no breakfast.
  • School breakfast also improved daily nutrient intake, which was associated with better academic performance and psychosocial functioning in another study.
  • A Harvard School of Public Health report documented that children who eat breakfast are sick less often and have fewer absences and discipline problems.

So what can time-strapped parents do to make sure children eat breakfast before leaving for school? First and foremost, a little planning is essential. Having quick breakfast options available in the pantry and refrigerator makes it easier: eggs, yogurt, milk, fruit, whole grain breads and cereals and low-fat cheese. A meal with protein and fiber will promote satiety and keep children alert all morning long. Some great grab-and-go ideas:

 

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• Hard-boiled egg-on-a-stick and low-fat yogurt mixed with frozen berries and dry cereal
• Orange sections, mozzarella string cheese and a slice of whole-wheat toast
• Whole wheat tortilla stuffed with a microwave cooked scrambled egg and low fat shredded cheese with a glass of orange juice

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• Toasted frozen waffle layered with peanut butter and banana slices with a glass of fat-free chocolate milk

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For more fast, easy, kid-friendly egg breakfast recipes, check outhttp://www.incredibleegg.org/recipes-and-more/recipes

Planning Ahead for Schedule-Friendly Meals and Snacks

Our blog post comes from one of ENC’s Health Professional Advisors, Serena Ball, MS, RD.  Serena is a registered dietitian and mother of four in Chicago. She blogs at www.TeaspoonOfSpice.com.

Today is my daughter’s first day of second grade – but it seems we’ve been getting ready for weeks. She’s tried on clothes from last year to see what fits, there’s a pan of homemade lasagna in the freezer, and we attempted to get to bed a little earlier. While your kids may have been hearing school bells for weeks – and some have yet to start school – it’s not Labor Day yet; and in my mind, by that time us moms are supposed to have the school routine down pat. So as you endeavor toward this goal, here are a few tips on planning ahead to fuel your family with nutritious meals and snacks:

Pack lunches the night before – Morning rushes can be too crazy for lunch box assembly. But a little time spent on prepping appetizing kids’ lunches means the difference between healthy foods nourishing their bellies and lunch tossed in the trash. If they pack it, they will eat it. So at the beginning of the week, mom can portion out munchies in zip-top sandwich bags or reusable containers; store in a bin in the refrigerator or pantry. Then throughout the week, have kids pull out the bins to mix and match their lunch box assembly from these options:

  • Protein power: Kid-sized Greek Yogurt, nut butters, lean lunch meats, string cheese, hard boiled eggs with egg slicer
  • Whole grains: Whole wheat tortilla or pita bread, whole grain crackers, whole wheat bread, reusable containers of whole wheat couscous or brown rice
  • Varied veggies: Celery or carrot sticks with mild salsa dip, cucumber slices with hummus dip, shredded carrots to top sandwiches
  • Fruit fun: Sliced apples, grapes, canned peaches/pears, trail mix of dried cranberries/cherries/raisins and nuts

Plan at least three dinners per week over the weekend – Used the weekend to plan, shop for and even begin some of the prep (like chopping vegetables) for several healthy dinners per week. When time is tight the other nights – or schedules change – fill in with super-quick dinner options like sandwiches or scrambled eggs.

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Your freezer is your friend – If you don’t have big plans over Labor Day, fill your freezer with simple meal solutions that will save time later:

  • Brown ground beef/turkey – Just brown, drain the fat, refrigerate until cool and freeze in zip-tip plastic bags for use in chili, soup, tacos, frittatas.
  • Chop onions, peppers or celery – These veggies freeze well and sautéing them can be a jump-start to almost any recipe.
  • Cook up meals for instant meals – Make and freeze a pot of soup, pasta sauce, lasagna, or one of my favorite grab-and-microwave-and-go breakfasts: The kids will enjoy their “Egg muffins”, i.e. muffin frittatas.

 

 

 

Dietary Protein Needs Across the Lifecycle

Today’s post comes from Dr. Donald Layman. Dr. Layman is the Director of Research at the Egg Nutrition Center and Professor Emeritus at the University of Illinois and a leading researcher studying dietary needs for protein and amino acids.

Dietary protein provides the amino acid building blocks to make new proteins. It’s easy to recognize the importance of protein for children, but new research reveals that dietary protein may be even more important for older adults. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) published a Position Paper in the August issue of the Journal highlighting the importance of the amount and distribution of protein at individual meals for healthy aging. The new research defines the need for older adults to consume 25 to 30 g of protein at multiple meals each day with emphasis on the need for protein at breakfast.

Nearly 50 million Americans are over the age of 65. With life expectancy reaching 90, disability is the #1 health liability for adults. Nearly 50% of adults > 65 years old exhibit disability. Reduced physical activity contributes to weight gain characterized as increased body fat and loss of muscle. Age-related loss of muscle is called sarcopenia and a primary contributor to obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis in adults.

Current dietary guidelines for protein focus on consuming the minimum RDA for protein of 0.8 g/kg body weight with no mention of meal distribution. New research suggests that adults may need 1.0 to 1.6 g/kg of protein and with a minimum of 30 g at each meal. This meal threshold for protein arises from the specific requirement for essential amino acids to repair and replace proteins in muscle. In children and young adults, synthesis of muscle protein is driven by hormones, physical activity, and a good diet. However, when growth ends, adults must maintain muscle without the metabolic advantage of growth hormones and many adults reduce physical activity. These age-related changes emphasize the need for dietary protein.

The average American consumes < 12 g of protein at breakfast, often < 20 g at lunch, and > 65 g at dinner. Any meal that contains < 25 g of protein provides no benefit to muscles and essentially wastes the protein in the meal. Dietary advice for older adults needs to recognize the protein threshold at meals and modify eating patterns to shift protein to meals early in the day.