Protein and Osteoporosis

Are you thinking, “Doesn’t she mean Calcium and Osteoporosis?”

Up until a few years ago, I know that would’ve been my question.

For most of my life, I thought of protein as the most important thing when it came to healthy meal planning. I was always careful to make sure that my family and I had enough protein at each meal. I figured if some is good, then more must be better, right?

Not necessarily. Not in this case.

I started coming across books and articles that talked about how too much protein in your diet can cause problems with bone loss:

(Let me interrupt for a minute – The following is based only partly on my experience. I base all of my informative-type posts on research from the most reputable sources I know, looking for clinical trials when available. I provide this info to you along with links so that you can look further into these topics and make your own decisions. My goal is to empower you to look beyond marketing schemes and crazy fad diets, and to help you to find what will benefit you and your family’s health! 🙂 )

  • “The digestion of protein releases acids the body usually neutralizes with calcium and other buffering agents in the blood. Eating lots of protein…requires lots of calcium. Some of it may be pulled from bone.”  The Okinawa Diet Plan, page 66
  • “In their exhaustive review of the scientific literature, Dr. Lanou and Mr. Castleman found that ‘two-thirds of clinical trials show that milk, dairy foods and calcium supplements do not prevent fractures.’ They conclude that the high fracture rate in countries that consume the most milk and dairy products results from the fact that ‘these affluent Western countries also consume the most meat, poultry and fish.’”
  • Cultures with the highest calcium intake have the highest osteoporosis rates. Support your body’s acid-alkaline balance to keep much-needed minerals in your bones by avoiding excess animal protein, refined grains, sugar, and preservatives.”

So how much protein is too much?

Nutritionists’ research shows that humans need about .4 grams of protein per pound of body weight. The amount you need can be calculated by multiplying your body weight times .4. So a woman who weighs 135 pounds needs about 54 grams of protein.

Let’s look at a typical day’s protein intake for a lot of people:

11 g       1 egg, 1 slice whole wheat toast, orange juice

26 g      2 oz. turkey and 1 oz. lite swiss cheese on whole wheat bread, apple

38 g      3 ounce portion chicken breast, baked potato, broccoli, salad with tomato, cucumber, onion and black olives

And don’t forget snacks:

6 g        6 oz. lowfat yogurt

0 g        ½ cup blueberries

6 g        Handful (1 oz.) almonds

The day’s total:  87 grams of protein!

How can this menu be changed to reduce the protein load a bit? Well, have 1 oz. turkey instead of 2 in the sandwich and add lettuce and tomato; make chicken pot pie or soup or  enchiladas using 1 oz chicken and adding vegetables to compensate; or have a vegetarian entree for dinner on a day that you have meat for lunch.

Some surprises:

Did you know that 2 slices of whole wheat bread has 8 grams of protein?

And that 1 large stalk of broccoli and 1 large baked potato each have 7 grams of protein, the same amount that’s in 1 large egg?!

I’m sure most people don’t think of broccoli as a source of protein!

Surprise! I didn’t know that either! 😉

Now don’t get me wrong! Protein is not the enemy! Excessive protein is what we’re concerned with. Protein is important and we certainly have to be aware of getting enough.

But it’s just like with calories.

There’s a specific amount we should have for optimal health,

and too much or too little will eventually cause problems.

It makes sense, right? 🙂

Let’s see what I had today:

13.5 g    Oatmeal with 1 T rice bran, 1 T seed mix, 1 T sliced almonds, ½ c 2% milk

16 g       Huevos rancheros – 2 corn tortillas, ½ c black beans, 1 egg, fresh salsa

3.5 g      5 Brazil nuts

18 g       1 pint 3-bean vegan chili

0 g         Large green salad with tomato, cucumber, onion and olives

My total:  51 grams of protein plus the 6 grams I’ll have later in my yogurt with blueberries

Oh, I also had ½ of a gluten-free vegan banana chocolate chip muffin. Give up chocolate? I’m not crazy! 😉

Is this even important?

For me, it is. You see, I have a family history of osteoporosis.

Even if I didn’t, it’s projected that by year 2020, one in two Americans aged 50 years or older will be at risk for fractures from osteoporosis or low bone mass. Some men and many women, even in their 30s, begin to lose bone mass.

So it might be important for you, too.

 Is there anything we can do? You bet there is!

We can take the appropriate vitamins and minerals.

We can avoid foods that can increase inflammation: sugar, processed foods, caffeine, and refined carbohydrates.

We can do weightbearing exercise at least 5 times a week.

And we can play it safe with protein by simply reducing our portion sizes of high-protein items and reaching for fruits and vegetables to fill us up!

For further information:


Vegetable “lasagne”

Dan:  Hey, Babe, what’s for dinner?

Pam: Uh…vegetable lasagna, I think. Sort of. We’ll see. 🙂

Last post, I shared how I tend to think of vegetables first when it comes to planning meals. Today was the perfect example – driving home I thought, “I know I bought yellow squash at the farmer’s market on Sunday. And that cauliflower is just starting to get a few spots. Gotta use that. And I bought those 3 potatoes at the market, too. And I have all those tomatoes from the garden! Hmmm. I wonder if I can…”

So this is what I came up with and, oh, it was good!

For the tomato sauce:

Core, halve and seed about 15-20 tomatoes. Place tomatoes into 3 quart wide saucepan on medium high heat and cover for only about 10 minutes. (Wide pan is best so the liquid can evaporate and let the sauce get all concentrated and flavorful!) Remove the lid and, using tongs, begin pulling skins off the tomatoes. They should slip right off. Using a stick blender, blend remaining tomatoes in pan. Boil uncovered, stirring frequently, until reduced in half. Add 8-10 fresh basil leaves and salt to taste, and a few shakes of crushed red pepper if you like it a little spicy like we do!

Lacking fresh tomatoes, of course you could use your favorite jar or recipe of homemade sauce.  😉

While sauce is reducing, start preparing ingredients for layering:

1 T extra virgin olive oil

1 large onion, sliced

2-3 large cloves garlic, minced

½ head cauliflower, sliced (it will crumble – that’s okay)

3 yellow zucchini or crookneck squash, sliced into coins

3 large Yukon gold potatoes, sliced

1-2 cups mozzarella

¼ cup grated romano

1. Saute onion and garlic in oil in large frying pan (I use a non-stick) for 5 min. Remove to small bowl. Set aside.

2. In same pan, put cauliflower slices, a light sprinkling of salt, and ½ c water. Steam till just barely tender. Strain. Remove cauliflower to another bowl. Set aside.

3. Do the same thing as in #2 to the zucchini slices and then the potato slices.

You have now dirtied 4 bowls, but only 2 pans!

Now to assemble:

Spoon about 1 cup tomato sauce into bottom of a 8×11” pan (enough to just cover).

Using half of each bowl of veg, place in layers over tomato sauce in pan: first potatoes, then onion/garlic mixture, then cauliflower, then zucchini, then ¾ -1 more cup of sauce, then ½-1 cup mozzarella, then 2 T romano. Repeat, ending with sauce and cheese on top. You should be able to make 2 full layers.

Cover with foil and bake in 375 oven for about 10 minutes. All of the vegetables are cooked already – they just have to be heated through. Then remove foil and bake for another 5 minutes till cheese is melted and golden. Let sit for 5 minutes before cutting into servings. This makes about 6 servings, depending on appetite! Note: For vegan option, use shredded Daiya mozzarella or make your favorite cashew “cheese.”

As gooey and fattening as this looks, the entire recipe only has 1 1/4 cups of cheese (if you choose to use that) and 1 tablespoon oil, so it’s actually a very “light” meal because the bulk of it is vegetables.

Can’t wait – there’s enough leftover for lunch tomorrow!

10 Tips for Increasing Vegetables in Your Diet

What’s not to love about vegetables?

  • They provide alkalinity to balance all the acid-forming carbs and proteins we eat.
  • They provide fiber.
  • They fill you up without adding a lot of calories.
  • They provide phytonutrients, i.e. antioxidants, plant sterols, enzymes.
  • They provide variety of color, texture and taste in a daily diet.
  • They provide water.
  • They help you keep, um, regular. 😉
  • Deeply colored vegetables are powerhouses of vitamins and minerals.

This only scratches the surface, I’m sure, of the benefits of vegetables.

The question is: How can we get more of them into our diets?

Some practical ideas:

1. Make a list of all the vegetables you can think of and keep it on you while you shop. I keep this list in the Notes section of my cell phone.

2. Keep a current inventory of all the vegetables you have in the house (fresh, frozen and dried) on your refrigerator at eye level, and use it to plan menus. Check them off as you use them. Don’t go shopping again until you’ve used them all up!

3. Buy fresh and locally grown, preferably at a farmer’s market – they taste better so you’ll be more likely to eat them!

4. When you go out to eat, try a vegetarian restaurant. They tend to be more creative with their use of vegetables. So many restaurants focus so heavily on meat and starch offerings that they overlook what can be done with veggies. And while you’re there, ask for their take-out menu to bring home. I have many take-out menus I keep in a file. They give me ideas when I don’t know what I’m in the mood for.

5. Make green smoothies.

6. Try three new vegetables every week.

7. Salads don’t have to be made from lettuce. Experiment!

8. Plan on filling at least 1/2 your dinner plate with vegetables. Plus salad on the side.

9. Add them to breakfast – veggie omelets and frittatas, over-light egg on cooked greens, huevos rancheros with plenty of fresh salsa.

10. Have more lettuce and tomato in your sandwich than meat or cheese. Also, try adding thinly sliced cucumber and onion, avocado, sprouts. For that matter, have a veggie sandwich!

Tip Number 2 has been the most profitable thing I’ve done to use more veggies. I mean well, but when my fridge is packed with fresh veggies, things get shoved to the back and I forget they’re there! Now when I think, “What am I going to make for dinner?” I go to that list, choose a few vegetables, then add a protein and maybe a carb.

Personal note: The weight control aspect of consuming a lot of vegetables is what I appreciate most right now. I have struggled to maintain a healthy weight my whole adult life, and for many earlier years, didn’t succeed. So I really appreciate how intentionally incorporating many veggies into my diet has helped in this area. I feel so much better now!

I think mostly it involves a change in thinking.  For years, I thought, “Ok, dinner. Uh…chicken and brown rice. Oh, yeah, and broccoli.” But now I consider vegetables first when it comes to meal planning, pack vegetables for snacks at work, and plan my meals to be at least 1/2 vegetables. That includes breakfast, too, since I have a smoothie just about every day loaded with kale or other greens.

So I encourage you to incorporate some of these practices into your food lifestyle. You will not be sorry!

Name change

Along with  the other changes I’m making to this blog, I knew “What’s for Dinner?” didn’t quite encompass what I want to share now.

Why “Enjoying Real Food While Living in the Real World”?

I don’t live on a farm. I don’t have unlimited time. And I certainly don’t have an abundance of extra money.

But I DO want to do the best I can with what I’ve got!

I live in the real world.

As much as I’ve dreamed of homesteading, in reality, my house is on a small property, and I grow a small (11×30) garden, and my growing season is from May to September.

I work part-time. I have occasional “food factory” days, as I call them, where I cook and freeze a lot of dried beans or bake bread or make a large batch of yogurt. Most of the time though, it’s a challenge being committed to a whole foods lifestyle when some of these meals can take quite a bit of preparation.





Also, I am one frugal lady! I would much rather be able to give or save than spend. We live simply, and our main expense is food. So I invest in our health by buying quality food, but I work hard to find the best prices out there!

the handsome guy on the left is my husband/fellow day tripper 😉

In addition to normal life limitations, we are bombarded with marketing ploys and confusing nutrition claims regarding the food we buy. Are you aware that corporations hire “social scientists to study unconscious human emotions, not for the good of humanity but to help companies manipulate people into buying products”? (What To Eat by Marion Nestle, pg. 18) What’s a person to eat?!

This is my “real world.” Maybe it’s your real world, too. I’d like to share ways that we can enjoy nourishing ourselves and our families with healthy, whole, minimally processed food in spite of these limitations and without it having to take over our lives.

I believe we can truly enjoy real food while living in the real world!

Nutrition and Arthritis

“When Rebecca Soni won a gold medal in swimming, a reporter asked her what made a difference for her in this race. Her reply? She didn’t look at swimmers in other lanes. She focused on what she had to do. You have a race to complete too–it’s called your life. And you don’t have to be like anyone else. No one can do what you can do or change the world the way you can.”    Holley Gerth @

Along those lines, I have a voice. I’m not quite sure what it’s going to say here as I start this blog, but I guess time will tell!

I celebrated my 56th birthday this week. When my husband asked what I wanted to do that day (after work), I said, “Let’s go for a bike ride!” We did and had a blast.

Still celebrating my birthday on Saturday, we went to the Poconos area and hiked Mt. Tammany. We not only made it to the lookout, we made it back down without incident!

This may not seem like such a feat, but my knees have been sensitive since I was in my 20s and banged them up roller skating. As I’ve gotten older, they’ve only gotten worse. X-rays and MRIs have shown, well, really messed up knees. Sometimes I would even say, “Ow! Ow! Ow!” as I merely went down steps, let alone this rocky trail!

But this birthday, I felt good! Strong! Pain-free!


I want to share about this in case it might help anyone else.

Yes, I exercise. I try to do 1/2 hour on my stationary bike daily as well as a bit of Pilates for core work. And I’ve always noticed a difference for the better when I’ve been faithful to this regimen.

But a few months ago, I felt terrible and was so discouraged and tired of feeling pain. I was determined to try anything (short of drugs) to lessen my joint pain. You see, I had joint pain all over. Right shoulder, knees, wrists…I felt much older than 55. So I went online to find information about arthritis and stumbled across a book called, “Foods that Fight Pain,” by Dr. Neal Barnard. I went right to the library, took it out, and devoured the chapter on arthritis. He explained that in the early 1990s, the role of nutrition in arthritis was established beyond any reasonable doubt:

“In 1991, researchers in Oslo, Norway, reported in The Lancet a study in which they eliminated foods believed to be common arthritis triggers in a group of 26 arthritis patients. The average pain score fell from over five, on a scale from zero to ten, to under three. Joint stiffness, swelling, and tenderness diminished, and grip strength also improved. Most importantly, the benefits were sustained on reexamination a year later.

“Numerous studies have shown that, if testing is done with sufficient care, dietary sensitivities can be identified in 20-60 percent of subjects. Pure vegetarian (vegan) diets appear to benefit about half of arthritis patients, including some who have not identified a specific diet trigger.”

The foods he suggested be eliminated on a trial basis were:

Dairy products Citrus fruits
Corn Potatoes
Meats Tomatoes
Wheat, oats, rye Nuts
Eggs Coffee

So I eliminated them, and I lasted about two weeks! Of all of those foods, I wanted my tomatoes, dang it! But I felt better. I had less pain. So I very gradually reintroduced all of the above foods except for gluten-containing foods. I stayed off gluten for the next 3-4 months, which brings me to the present.

Prior to this elimination diet trial and the discovery that I’m evidently sensitive to gluten, I felt pretty hopeless about my future regarding joint pain. No one’s more amazed than I am that I have no pain now!

I could not sleep on my right side for about 8 months because I had so much shoulder pain. Now I can turn back and forth all I want, and it doesn’t wake me up. And I can be more active! When I tried riding my bike (regular bike) for about 5 miles a few months ago, my knees were inflamed for about a week. On my birthday, I rode for 7 miles with no repercussions!!!

I encourage you, if you have joint pain, even a diagnosis of osteoarthritis, you may want to try eliminating the above-mentioned foods for a short time. Gradually reintroduce one food at a time every 2 or 3 days to see if you react. You may find that your body is sensitive to one of these foods and your joints become inflamed as a reaction to ingestion of that food.

So my new adventure, once the weather is consistently cooler, will be learning to bake with gluten-free flours. In the meantime, I’m just grateful for all the foods I’m NOT sensitive to!

For more information:

A quick start before I chicken out…

My husband is tired of hearing me say, “if I had a blog, I would want people to know…” 🙂

So…this will be a food blog. In addition to recipes, I’d like to add some topics to this blog that have become of great interest to me:

Food quality/purity issues.

A little food politics.

Book/cookbook recommendations.

How some health issues can been resolved by a simple change in diet.

Maybe some food prep ideas, shortcuts or economy measures.

It’ll be a place where, when I’m talking to someone at church or in a grocery store or at work and can’t remember the details of an aspect of nutrition that can help them (this happens to me often!), I can say, “Go to this blog. There’s a link there to an article about this very thing!”

I’m not a nutritionist, health care practitioner, or certified anything. Just a wife and mom of three married kids who has always had a passion for studying nutrition and for preparing food for family and friends from whole, natural ingredients.

I am a researcher, though, and I have a high tolerance for searching out possible nutritional answers to health problems. If we chat about avoiding processed foods or why to choose grass-fed meat or the benefits of shopping at your local farmer’s market, I will share what I’ve learned from experience as well as links to articles that can help you choose for yourself.

I’ll also be adding a few personal bits of my life for the sake of loved ones who live at a distance, so bear with me!

So, I guess we’ll see what happens. Just another leg of the journey that’s my life. I hope this little blog will be able to encourage you to wade through the food options available to us and determine how best to nourish yourself and your families. :)