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.

School’s Out: Balancing Kids’ Lunchtime with MyPlate

NawalToday’s blog post is written by Nawal Al-Nouri, ENC’s Dietetic Intern. Nawal studies Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and will be eligible to sit for the RD exam in December of 2013. She maintains a balanced lifestyle by staying active and exposing herself to new ideas, and enjoys cooking and experimenting with different food genres and flavors.Summer is known for a bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables, but frozen sugary treats, drinks and other goodies can often sneak in to our eating habits. Learning to balance meals will help curb these cravings, while keeping these classic summer foods as occasional treats.

Summer is one of the simplest times to be active as a family. Biking or skating, swimming or surfing, amusement parks or museums—summer recess and a warmer climate are meant to help kids both increase outdoor activities and decrease screen time. Providing children a MyPlate friendly lunch can assure they are receiving the energy they need to run around throughout the day. The following ideas can be used with your clients, as well as with your own families too. Here at ENC, we advocate bundling convenience and health into one. Below are some ideas on how to develop MyPlate friendly lunches:

Go PRO(tein)-Choose  protein options such as lean meat and poultry, fish, beans, or eggs.  Scrambled Mini Pizzas and Hard-Boiled Egg Dippers egg-dipper-150x150 are fun, nutritious and easy –requiring 20 minutes or less of prep & cook time.

Make Most of Mother Nature- Watermelon, peaches, cherries, and other fruits are at peak mouth-watering season during the summer. Embrace these summer fruits to make meals colorful and full of vitamins and minerals.

Sneak in Some Green- For a fun treat, make a refreshing kid-sized smoothie chock full of seasonal fruit and spinach or kale.  Veggies and dip are a great choice too.

 Add Whole Grain- Whole grains add vitamins and texture for a balanced snack. Whole wheat crackers with cheese or a hardboiled egg on half a toasted whole wheat english muffin are two easy choices.

Do up the Dairy– It is recommended that children and adolescents consume two to three cups of dairy per day. Consider freezing low-fat yogurt with fruit for a tasty and nutritious treat or add it to the above kid-sized smoothie.


The key to success is to think and plan ahead, filling your fridge and pantry with smart choices. Spend some time preparing hardboiled eggs, salads, vegetables, and fruits. Turn meal preparation into a family activity—as is age appropriate, teach them how to cut and slice fruits and vegetables, peel hardboiled eggs, and prepare sandwiches. Finally, consider taking them on a picnic to reward them for their (and your) hard work.

A final tip: keep everyone well-hydrated by drinking water through the fun and active summer heat!

Pregnancy, Protein, and Promoting Growth

Adequate protein intake is essential in every life stage; however, some stages require increased protein intake for optimal health. During pregnancy, it is recommended that women consume 1.1 g/kg body weight of protein per day, which is up from 0.8g/kg prior to pregnancy. The second and third trimester are the most important times to pay attention to protein levels, as this is when the baby will be growing  fastest, placing more demand on the mother for all essential nutrients.


Why is protein so crucial during pregnancy? The healthy pregnancy position paper from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics notes that “Unbalanced diets during pregnancy, particularly with respect to protein and carbohydrates, have been linked to adverse pregnancy outcomes, including low birth weight and other long-term effects on blood pressure.” More specifically, protein is necessary to help build the baby’s tissues and promote adequate growth in the womb.

Eggs, in particular, are a good source of all-natural, high-quality protein, which helps support fetal growth and is associated with a healthy birth weight. They also provide other nutrients that are vital to a baby’s development, such as folate, choline, iron, vitamin D and zinc.


For a healthy diet during pregnancy, give eggs the company they deserve, and pair with plenty of fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy and whole grains. Also keep in mind that food safety is especially important for those who are pregnant. Eggs should be cooked until the whites and yolks are firm or, for dishes containing eggs, until an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit is reached. has specific information on ways to build a healthy plate during pregnancy and lactation. USDA’s Supertracker tool can also be used to personalize information based on height, weight, and stage of pregnancy. The recipe below is a great example of combining eggs with other nutritious ingredients to boost protein, folate, iron, choline and vitamin D.

Hash Brown-Crusted Mediterranean Quiche

Makes 4 servings


  • 3-1/2 cups frozen shredded hash brown potatoes
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 small zucchini, quartered, thinly sliced (2 cups)
  • 1 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 1 cup chopped drained oil-packed artichoke hearts
  • 4 EGGS
  • ½ cup milk
  • ½ cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese (2 oz.)
  • ½ tsp. dried basil leaves
  • ½ tsp. dried oregano leaves
  • 2 cups marinara sauce, warmed


  1. HEAT oven to 425°F. PRESS potatoes evenly on bottom and sides of greased 10-inch quiche dish or pie plate. COAT lightly with cooking spray. BAKE in 425°F oven until potatoes are lightly browned and crisp, about 30 minutes. Reduce oven setting to 375°F.
  2. HEAT butter in large nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot. ADD onion and garlic; sauté until tender, 3 to 4 minutes. ADD zucchini, bell pepper and artichokes; sauté until crisp-tender.
  3. BEAT eggs, milk, cheese, basil and oregano in large bowl until blended. ADD zucchini mixture; mix well. POUR into potato crust.
  4. BAKE in center of 375°F oven until knife inserted near center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. LET STAND 5 minutes. CUT into wedges; serve with marinara sauce.

Nutrition Information (per serving)

Calories: 452, Total Fat: 17g, Saturated fat: 6g, Polyunsaturated fat: 3g, Monounsaturated fat: 4g, Cholesterol: 206mg, Sodium: 845mg, Carbohydrates: 57g, Dietary Fiber: 8g, Protein: 19g, Vitamin A: 2701.2IU, Vitamin D: 60.2IU, Folate: 81.5mcg, Calcium: 233.5mg, Iron: 3.8mg, Choline: 158.4mg


Mayo Clinic. “Pregnancy diet: Focus on these essential nutrients.” Retrieved from

American Dietetic Association. Position of the American Dietetic Association: Nutrition and Lifestyle for a Healthy Pregnancy Outcome. JADA. 2008; 108 (3): 553-561.

Eggs, Eyes, and Other Emerging Evidence

Frittata with chicken and spinach and fresh spinach
Eggs provide a wealth of nutrients that can support our health, some of which aren’t even listed on the nutrition facts label. Here’s the scoop on two of these nutrients, lutein and zeaxanthin:

What are lutein and zeaxanthin? Lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoids that are found in high levels in the retina and macula of the eye. Both have a yellow-orange pigment and are known for their antioxidant capabilities.

What is their function in the body? Both lutein and zeaxanthin work to filter harmful blue light in the eye and prevent the production of free radicals. Over time, these antioxidants may help reduce the risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, which can lead to blurred vision and even blindness. Preliminary research also suggests that lutein and zeaxanthin may be protective against different types of cancer, coronary heart disease, and stroke.

What are common food sources? Eggs! One egg yolk contains small amounts of both lutein and zeaxanthin (an average of 0.29mg of lutein and 0.21mg of zeaxanthin). Other common sources include spinach, kale, collard greens, peas, broccoli, onions and corn.

What makes eggs special? Carotenoids that are part of a lipid matrix, such as the lutein and zeaxanthin naturally found in eggs, have been found to have increased bioavailability. In one recent study, Chung et al observed that after consuming the same total amount of lutein from multiple sources, serum lutein levels were highest after consumption of eggs compared to supplements and spinach, suggesting that these nutrients may be more bioavailable in eggs than some sources with higher content.

How much do we need?  There is no consensus on daily recommendations for lutein and zeaxanthin intake. The American Optometric Association does, however, recommend 10 mg lutein and 2 mg zeaxanthin per day for healthy eyes.

Try whipping up some scrambled eggs and adding plenty of chopped spinach or kale for an extra boost of lutein and zeaxanthin! Check out the ENC website for additional research articles related to lutein and zeaxanthin.



Chung HY, Rasmussen HM, Johnson EJ. Lutein Bioavailability Is Higher from Lutein-Enriched Eggs than from Supplements and Spinach in Men. Journal of Nutrition 2004; 134: 1887-1893.

Handelman GJ, Nightingale ZD, Lichtenstein AH, Schaefer EJ, and Blumberg JB. Lutein and zeaxanthin concentrations in plasma after dietary supplementation with egg yolk. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 1999; 70: 247-51.

Ribaya-Mercado JD, Blumberg JB. Lutein and Zeaxanthin and Their Potential Roles in Disease Prevention. Journal of the American College of Nutrition 2004;23(6):567S-587S.

What’s All the Buzz About School Breakfast?

dhToday’s post comes from Dayle Hayes, MS, RD. Dayle is an award-winning author, educator and registered dietitian. She is known in cyberspace for School Meals That Rock on Facebook, Twitter and her blog of the same name. Her creativity and common-sense have made her a sought-after speaker across the USA. As a parent and member of the School Nutrition Association, Dayle is dedicated make school environments healthy for students and staff. She collected school success stories for Making It Happen, a joint CDC-USDA project, and co-authored the Position of the American Dietetic Association: Nutrition Guidance for Healthy Children Ages 2 to 11 Years.

 In recognition of her professional and volunteer leadership, Dayle has received numerous honors, including Montana Dietitian of the Year, and an ADA Excellence in Consultation and Business Practice Award. In January 2012, she received the Silver FAME Award as a Friend of Child Nutrition from the School Nutrition Association. FoodService Director magazine named her as one of their “20 Most Influential for 2012.”

This is National School Breakfast Week (NSBW, March 4 through 8, 2013) – and it promises to be one of the best NSBW celebrations ever! For years the only folks paying much attention were moms (we’ve been nagging about the importance of breakfast for centuries) and school nutrition professionals who are all-too-aware of hungry children. Most administrators and teachers only emphasized breakfast during standardized testing. Now, everyone is talking about breakfast – realizing that students need nutrition to learn every school day, not just on test days.

So, who’s talking about school breakfast? On February 27, 2013, the No Kid Hungry® campaign of Share Our Strength released a high profile report, Ending Childhood Hunger: A social impact analysis. This white paper focuses the potentially life-changing benefits of breakfast – beyond nutrition – at school, including:

  • Children who eat school breakfast on average attend 1.5 more days of school per year and score 17.5% higher on standardized math tests
  • Students who attend school more often and have higher math scores are 20% more likely to graduate from high school – and less likely to experience hunger as adults
MN ISD 196Burrito
Breakfast burritos from a school in MN

The tipping tip for school breakfast may come from the American Association of School Administrators (AAAS), which has devoted the entire winter issue of School Governance & Leadership to Improving Attendance, Health and Behavior: Moving Breakfast Out of the Cafeteria. Declaring that school breakfast is “An Issue of Leadership,” AAAS argues persuasively for alternative (outside the cafeteria) breakfast service because it is less stigmatizing to low-income children and increases participation. While the AAAS emphasizes the academic benefits of school breakfast, they also outline research showing that:

  • Children who eat breakfast are more likely to have healthier weights and that teen girls who eat school breakfast are less likely to be overweight
  • Children with access to school breakfast eat more fruit, drink more milk, consume a wider variety of foods, and have better intakes of calcium, fiber, folate, and protein

The best NSBW news is that many schools are already meeting or exceeding the new breakfast meal pattern that goes into effect in July 2013. As required, they are offering fresh and frozen fruit, whole grain cereals and breads, and low-fat/fat-free milk. And, recognizing the importance of protein, many schools also offer extra lean meats, yogurt and eggs to their breakfast meals. To see outstanding examples of school breakfasts, visit these Facebook pages: School Meals That Rock and Tray Talk (from the School Nutrition Association).

Balanced breakfast with a green eggs and ham theme

Focus on Folate


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







  • 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.)


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