When weight-conscious teen-age daughters and their mothers drink diet sodas and skip meals instead of eating a balanced diet, they may be sacrificing their long-term good bone health, according to the California Dietetic Assn.
"A balanced diet doesn't have to be fattening--especially when only minor changes are needed to ensure good health," said Cheryl Loggins, a registered dietitian with the group.
Beginning in the teen-age years, one of the most critical nutritional concerns is getting enough calcium to prevent osteoporosis later in life. Osteoporosis is a painful, bone-thinning disease that is caused, in part, by long-term inadequate calcium intake. It affects one in four American women older than 60.
Dairy foods provide about 75% of the calcium in the American diet. Other calcium sources include sardines, salmon with bones, tofu, broccoli and almonds.
"Increasing dairy food intake by just a glass of milk or a carton of yogurt a day will boost a woman's recommended calcium intake by one-third, and a teen-age girl's by one-fourth," Loggins said.
One dairy food serving equals eight ounces of milk, 1 1/2 ounces of cheese and one small carton of yogurt.
If you're watching calories, try low-fat milk, cheese or yogurt.
"Instead of skipping a meal, grab a carton of yogurt, or instead of having a diet soda with your lunch salad, try having a glass of low- or nonfat milk," Loggins said. "That way, you can feel good about the fact that you've given your bones extra calcium to stave off osteoporosis."
For long-term good health in general, the association recommends eating a variety of foods, including low-fat dairy foods, lean meats and meat alternates, raw or slightly cooked vegetables and fruits and whole-grain breads and cereals.