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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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


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!, 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:



• 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


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



For more fast, easy, kid-friendly egg breakfast recipes, check out