The Facts of the New Milk Options

By: Lisa Zook, Dietitian

Remember when you wanted to add milk to your cereal and there was only one type available – milk from a cow?  Consumer choices were so much simpler in the past. Choosing milk from the store has gotten a lot more complicated.  Here’s a nutrient breakdown on the most popular choices per 8-ounce serving:

TypeCaloriesTotal FatSaturated FatProteinSugar% Calcium% Vitamin D
Whole MilkCalories: 150Total Fat: 8Saturated Fat: 5Protein: 8Sugar: 12% Calcium: 30% Vitamin D: 25
Nonfat MilkCalories: 90Total Fat: 0Saturated Fat: 0Protein: 8Sugar: 12% Calcium: 30% Vitamin D: 25
Original SoyCalories: 110Total Fat: 4.5Saturated Fat: 0.5Protein: 8Sugar: 6% Calcium: 45% Vitamin D: 30
Unsweetened SoyCalories: 80Total Fat: 4Saturated Fat: 0.5Protein: 7Sugar: 1% Calcium: 30% Vitamin D: 30
Original AlmondCalories: 60Total Fat: 2.5Saturated Fat: 0Protein: 1Sugar: 7% Calcium: 45% Vitamin D: 25
Unsweetened AlmondCalories: 30Total Fat: 2.5Saturated Fat: 0Protein: 1Sugar: 0% Calcium: 45% Vitamin D: 25
Original RiceCalories: 120Total Fat: 2.5Saturated Fat: 0Protein: 1Sugar: 10% Calcium: 30% Vitamin D: 25
Unsweetened RiceCalories: 90Total Fat: 2.5Saturated Fat: 0Protein: <1Sugar: <1% Calcium: 30% Vitamin D: 25
Original CoconutCalories: 70Total Fat: 4.5Saturated Fat: 4Protein: 0Sugar: 7% Calcium: 10% Vitamin D: 30
Unsweetened CoconutCalories: 45Total Fat: 4.5Saturated Fat: 4Protein: 0Sugar: 0% Calcium: 10% Vitamin D: 30
Original CashewCalories: 60Total Fat: 2.5Saturated Fat: 0Protein: <1Sugar: 7% Calcium: 45% Vitamin D: 25
Unsweetened CashewCalories: 25Total Fat: 2Saturated Fat: 0Protein: <1Sugar: 0% Calcium: 45% Vitamin D: 25

So Let’s Review:

  1. Cow’s Milk

Packed with nine essential nutrients – calcium, potassium, phosphorus, protein, vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin B-12, riboflavin, and niacin – milk is a nutrient powerhouse. The 12 grams of sugar come from naturally-occurring sugar, lactose, which is not added sugar.  There’s lots of emerging research on whether the saturated fat found in whole milk is beneficial for you; however, there’s no official verdict yet. If you don’t consume a lot of saturated fat in your diet overall, perhaps there’s room for it in your diet. However, for most people, I would still recommend nonfat or 2 percent milk as a better choice.

  1. Soy Milk

Soy milk has always been a good alternative for people with a milk lactose intolerance or allergy. Packed with heart-healthy soy, 7 to 8 grams of protein and almost no saturated fat, it can definitely be a smart choice. Do keep in mind that the sugar found in the sweetened and original varieties are added sugar (from cane sugar), so if you’re watching your total sugar consumption, you might want to stick with the unsweetened kind.  Also, if you have a history of breast cancer, you may want to limit large amounts of soy in your diet.

  1. Almond Milk

Rich in calcium and a good source of vitamins D, E, and A, almond milk has definitely become more popular in the last couple of years. Its taste and texture make it a great alternative for milk. However, just like with soy milk, if you buy the original or sweetened varieties, the sugar is from added cane sugar. But there are several unsweetened and now “light” varieties available, with 0 grams and 3 grams of sugar, respectively. Surprisingly, almond milk has minimal protein, so if you’re hoping to use it as a protein source with your meal, you are out of luck. But the good news is there’s room to add some protein to your breakfast meal or smoothie since almond milk is low in calories. 

  1. Rice Milk

Original rice milk has more calories than the other milk alternatives (not including whole milk), but the high sugar amount is naturally-occurring. Rice milk has the least amount of nutrition compared to the others. However, for people with multiple food allergies, rice milk could be the best choice.

  1. Coconut Milk

Coconut milk is a hot trend right now. It isn’t high in calories, but it’s the highest of the milk alternatives in saturated (bad) fats. Some studies show that coconut milk fats can raise your cholesterol levels and LDL levels. If you really love the taste of coconut, go ahead and include a little in your diet – just keep in mind that, per serving, there is no protein and the drink has the least amount of calcium compared to the other “milk” options.

  1. Cashew Milk

Another nut option, cashew milk has not picked up as much momentum as almond milk. Cashew milk’s creamy taste, though, lends itself to be a perfect low-calorie swap in many recipes. Rich in calcium, just like almond milk, it can be a good source for people who avoid milk products. However, if you’re looking for a good protein addition for your meal, you might want to look elsewhere.

Bottom line: When choosing a “milk” beverage, a lot of it comes down to a taste preference – which obviously varies from person to person. If you don’t have any allergies, then all of them can be included in a healthy diet. Just keep in mind that some might be a better choice with certain snacks or meals depending on what else you’re consuming.  Most have some added calcium and vitamin D; some have protein while others do not. Buy some and try the different flavors for yourself!

Sprenger Chef Shares Healthy Recipes for Nutrition Month

Whether you want to eat healthy to lose weight or just for overall wellness, changing your diet and sticking to it can be tough. However, it doesn’t have to be! Planning your meals in advance is a great way to ensure you stick to the diet you intend. For National Nutrition Month, we asked our very own Chef Jim Smith, Dietary Director at Towne Center Community Campus, to share some of his healthy recipes. With these recipes, not only can eating healthy be good for you, it can also be delicious! Try out these recipes and see how easy and enjoyable eating healthy can be.

Southwest Veggie & Black Bean Burrito

Prep: 20 Minutes

Servings: 4

  • 4 sun-dried tomatoes tortilla wraps
  • 1/4 cup sweet roasted peppers, sliced
  • 1 Tbsp. black olives, sliced
  • 2 cups roasted fresh sweet corn
  • 1 Head romaine lettuce, ribbon cut
  • 2 oz. hot pepper ring
  • 1 fresh avocado, sliced
  • 2 cups Chef Jim’s black beans
  • 2 cups Chef Jim’s Fresh Salsa
  1. Spread sun-dried tomato wraps on a flat work surface.
  2. Strain any excess juice from Salsa and black beans.
  3. Starting 2” from the bottom of the sun-dried tomato wrap, divide

equal amounts of each ingredient vertically on each wrap. Be sure to leave 2” on both sides of the wrap uncovered.

  1. Fold sides in and roll the wrap, beginning at the bottom.
  2. Slice in half and serve.

Chef Jim’s Black Beans

  • 2 c. black beans, canned
  • 1 tsp. fresh shallots, minced
  • 1/4 tsp. Sriracha hot sauce
  • 1 tsp. Sazon seasoning
  • 1/4 c. fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 stalks celery, diced small
  • pepper, to taste

Mix all ingredients together and let rest for 3 hours.

Chef Jim’s Salsa

  • 3 fresh tomatoes, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 orange bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 1 tsp. Sazon seasoning
  • 1/2 c. V-8 juice
  • 1 tsp. fresh garlic
  • 1/2 c. cilantro
  • 1/2 tsp. Sriracha sauce
  • 1/2 Taco sauce
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Mix all ingredients together and let rest for 3 hours.

Balsamic Chicken and Pears

Prep: 10 minutes

Cook: 20 minutes

Makes 4 main dish servings

  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 4 small skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 2 pears, not peeled, each cut in half, cored, and cut into 8 wedges
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • ¼ cup dried cherries or raisins

In a nonstick 12-inch skillet, heat 1 teaspoon oil over medium-high heat until very hot. Add chicken and cook until chicken is golden brown and loses pink color throughout, 4-5 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to plate; keep warm.

In same skillet, heat remaining 1 teaspoon oil. Add pears and cook until tender and golden brown.

In cup, with fork, blend broth, vinegar, cornstarch, and sugar. Stir broth mixture and dried cherries into skillet with pears. Heat to boiling, stirring; boil 1 minute. Return chicken to skillet, heat through.

FRUITS and VEGETABLES: A healthy part of your diet

By: Lisa Zook, Dietitian 

Looking to improve your diet this Spring?  Eating a varied diet, including plenty of fruits and vegetables, is one of the keys to good health. However, to stay healthy, it’s equally important to makes sure the produce you consume is safe to eat. One way to do that is to make sure any fruits or vegetables you use have been washed well before you peel, cut, eat, or cook with them. Pesticides can also be reduced by washing fruits and vegetables properly.

How Fruits and Vegetables Become Contaminated

Although most people understand that meat products such as chicken need to be properly handled to prevent food-borne illnesses, some do not realize that fruits and vegetables may also cause illness if not handled and stored properly. In fact, in recent years, contaminated fruits and vegetables have been the culprit in several large outbreaks of food-borne illness. That is because they are eaten in the raw state at most times. Some of the ways fruits and vegetables can become contaminated include:

  • Harmful substances present in the soil or water during growing
  • Poor hygiene among workers during harvest, packing, and transporting
  • Pesticide use during growing to prevent plant disease and pest infestation

The following fruits and vegetables have been found to have larger amounts of pesticides:

  • Apples, strawberries, grapes, celery, peaches, spinach, bell peppers, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, and potatoes. They have levels within the USDA limits but should be washed carefully before eating to make them safer to eat.

How to Wash Fruits and Vegetables

  • Start by choosing produce that’s free of bruises, mold, or other signs of damage. If you are purchasing precut items, make sure they have been refrigerated or displayed on ice at the supermarket.
  • Once home, store perishable fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator (at 40 degrees F or below) until you’re ready to use them. Always store precut fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator, too.
  • Wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and warm water before and after handling fresh produce.
  • Use a sharp paring knife to cut away any damaged or bruised areas of the fruit or vegetable.
  • Wash the produce before you peel it. That way, contaminants will not be transferred from your knife to the fruit or vegetable.
  • Hold the fruit or vegetable under cool running tap water, gently rubbing it as you rinse it.
  • For firm produce, such as melons and winter squash, use a clean vegetable brush to scrub the surface as you rinse it. Do not brush too hard.
  • Produce with bumpy, uneven surfaces, such as cauliflower and broccoli, should be soaked for 1 to 2 minutes in cold water to remove contaminants, soil and bugs from the nooks and crannies.
  • Use a clean cloth or paper towel to dry the produce before using it.

How to Wash Salad Greens

Salad greens require special attention. First, discard the wilted outer leaves; then prep and wash greens as directed for each type. 

  • For leafy lettuces, such as green or red-tip leaf, butter head, and romaine as well as endive, remove and discard the root end. Separate leaves and hold them under cold running water to remove any dirt.
  • For smaller greens, such as spinach and arugula, swirl them in a bowl or a clean sink filled with cold water about 30 seconds. Remove the leaves and shake gently to let dirt and other debris fall into the water. Repeat the process if necessary. Drain in a colander.
  • For iceberg lettuce, remove the core by hitting the stem end on the countertop; twist and lift out the core. Hold the head, core side up under cold running water, pulling leaves apart slightly. Invert the head and drain thoroughly. Repeat if necessary.
  • For mesclun (a mixture of young, small salad greens often available in bulk at farmers markets), rinse in a colander or the basket of a salad spinner.

  Other Tips for Washing Fruits and Vegetables

  • Do not use soap or detergents when washing produce.
  • You need not seek out a special produce wash to clean fruits and vegetables. Cool, clean, running tap water is fine. Studies have shown that tap water is effective as vegetable sprays and vinegar or lemon water.
  • Wash all produce before using, even if you are going to peel it including bananas. Any dirt and bacteria on the outside of unwashed produce can be transferred from the knife into the fruit or vegetable.

Tip: Even organic fruits and vegetables, as well as produce from your own garden or local farmer’s markets, should be washed well.

Healthy Aging With Nutrition and Exercise

By: Dr. Jim Collins, MD

We are all aging. That’s a fact. Despite this, there are many things that are in our control to slow down the aging process and help us age well. Among these – nutrition and exercise provide the greatest positive impact on how we age and stay healthy later in life. Nutrition and exercise are good for the brain and bones, mood and self-confidence, independence and management of disease and pain. Simply put, there are no down sides to eating an “age-defying” diet and maintaining an active lifestyle.

Age-Defying Foods

What we eats makes a big difference in how we feel and how we age. Our skin will stay more youthful and our heart can stay stronger throughout our lives. There is a plethora of advice on eating healthy foods as we age in books and magazines, on television and radio and on the Internet. So, where do we begin?

Foods to Put on Your Plate

Let’s get as practical as we possibly can. There are certain foods that should be on your breakfast, lunch and dinner plates every day. Why? These foods are well-known as anti-aging foods. They provide good sources of antioxidants, vitamins, beta-carotene, fiber, protein and Omega 3.

  • Eat at least 5 portions of colorful fruits and vegetables daily, including dark leafy greens, blueberries, carrots, and deep red tomatoes. Eat brightly-colored produce such as corn, peppers, oranges and melons. These foods maintain good vision and protect your vision from macular degeneration. Vitamin C helps to keep the skin younger-looking and eating yellow and green vegetables daily can reduce wrinkling and other signs of aging skin.
  • Resveratrol is a power anti-oxidant found in grapes and red wine. Scientists have been telling us for years that getting these in our diets can reduce risk of cancer, heart disease and premature aging.
  • Whole grains are not only heart-healthy, they can reduce your chance of developing type two diabetes. Oats, quinoa, wheat, barley, and brown rice are grains rich in fiber. Eat at least 3 portions of these daily as a part of your anti-aging diet.
  • Two portions of fish per week will provide all of the Omega-3s you need to protect your heart, reduce your risk of having a stroke and minimize the odds of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Dairy is a healthy source of calcium and vitamin D, which are important for health bones and preventing osteoporosis in aging women. Eat a minimum of 3 portions daily. Choose low fat dairy options to avoid cholesterol problems. For those who don’t eat dairy products, good alternatives are soy products, almond milk and cereals.
  • While you’re at it, throw a few almonds on your plate to add healthy fat, which has been shown to reduce high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Beans also provide great anti-aging benefits, including high fiber and protein, which can reduce risk of heart disease and diabetes. One more piece of advice: reduce your salt and sodium intake due to its association with high blood pressure and kidney disease.      

Medical studies show that risk for developing cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and even Alzheimer’s disease can be significantly reduced by maintaining a healthy diet as we age.

Exercise and Aging Well

As we age, exercise becomes more important than ever. It gives us energy, helps to maintain independence, and can benefit already-existing diseases and pain. Exercise is good for both the body and brain. It enhances memory and mood, maintains or helps with weight loss, and strengthens mobility, flexibility and balance. Regular exercise can also help with sleep, reduce the impact of illness, manage pain and build self-confidence. Regardless of your current health condition, there are exercises that can benefit everyone.

Tips to Get Started

Before beginning an exercise routine, consult your physician to see what exercises you should and shouldn’t do. Take into account your current health conditions – it’s better to be safe than sorry. Start low and go slow. This means build your exercise program little by little. Always warm up and listen to your body. Commit to an exercise schedule for around 3 to 4 weeks, so you create a new habit. Find exercises you enjoy and stick with them. If exercising ever makes you dizzy, weak, short of breath or you begin to experience chest pain or joint pain, stop and consult your physician. Become focused and mindful of your body, breathing and movements and make every session count!

Building Your Exercise Plan

A good exercise plan begins with cardio endurance exercises, including walking, swimming, climbing stairs, cycling, tennis and dancing. These exercises will get your heart pumping and prepare you for the next type of exercise – strength and power training.

Strength and power training can be done with the use of free weights, machines or elastic bands. These exercises build muscle, improve balance and help to prevent bone loss with aging. They can also increase your speed and help to avoid falls.

Next, add flexibility exercises, such as stretching and range of motion. Yoga is a good example. Flexibility exercises help keep your body limber, increase range of motion of your muscles and joints, and help with everyday activities, such as driving, showering and playing with your grandchildren.

The last group of exercises to add is those that help with balance, which include standing and stability, while stationary or moving around. Examples of this type of exercise include yoga, Tai Chi and other posture exercises. They improve your balance, posture and your quality of walking.

Aging involves many changes in our bodies and brains that may be outside of our control. Despite this, we can control how we care for ourselves as we age. In particular, diet and exercise are among the most important areas where we do have control. Putting more age-defying foods on your plate and remaining active can only produce positive results as you age, regardless of the condition you are currently in. It is never too late to start! Eat smart, exercise and have fun!    

Explore the New Dietary Guidelines

By Lisa Zook, Registered Dietician

The new dietary guidelines for Americans were released January 7th by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Health and Human Services. These new recommendations emphasize healthy lifelong eating patterns rather than singling out specific foods to avoid.

The guidelines may seem confusing, but can be broken down into sections to make it easier to implement into your diet.


Continue to limit those “bad” fats such as trans-fat and saturated fats (butter, whole milk, cream, animal fats, hydrogenated fats and palm or coconut oil). Instead of going on a low fat diet and thus eating more sugars and carbohydrates, use good fats such as avocados, olive oil, flaxseed oil, fatty fish, nuts, seeds and liquid plant oils in moderation. Protein foods should be low in fat, such as fish, lean chicken and other lean meats, low fat dairy products, yogurt, beans and soy products. This allows for a wider choice of food, which can curb overloading on empty calories.


The exclusion of eggs and other high cholesterol foods has been dropped. Science has shown that it is the saturated and trans-fats that needs to be limited, not cholesterol rich foods that have little fat content (shrimp and shellfish).

Added Sugars:

Added sugars are from foods such as desserts, ice cream and soda pop. A specific goal has been set as 10% of your daily calorie intake. For a 2000 calorie diet, this would be 200 calories per day from added sugar. At 4 calories per gram of sugar, the limit would amount to 50 grams of sugar per day. (200 calories divided by 4 calories per gram = 50 grams of sugar). Labeling laws will most likely be changed in the future to identify the number of grams of added sugar in a product. Natural sugars from dairy products and fruit are healthier choices. Water should be substituted for diet drinks sweetened with artificial sweeteners.


Coffee and caffeine products are now noted to be part of a healthy diet. The upper limit is suggested to be 400 mg daily. Generally coffee has 90-150 mg caffeine per 6 oz. and tea 50-100 mg per cup.

Grains and Fiber:

A diet rich in fruits, vegetables and fiber-rich whole grains is again promoted as part of a healthy diet. Refined white bread, cereals and crackers should be replaced with whole grain breads, whole wheat pastas, brown rice, fiber-rich cereals and whole grain snack bars.


A limit for sodium has been suggested at 2,300 milligrams per day. This is a difficult goal unless you limit canned goods and highly processed foods. Switching out to frozen vegetables, avoiding fast foods and convenience foods will make it easier to reach this goal. Herbs can go a long way in seasoning foods rather than using salt. Reading food labels is a must, as there are many hidden sources of sodium. Good choices should have less than 300 mg sodium per serving.

These guidelines strive to provide suggestions for a healthy all around diet. Balance and moderation is the key.

Fighting Chronic Illness with Proper Nutrition

By: Chris Phillips, Sprenger Dining Services

It’s projected by the year 2030, 22%of the world’s population will be 65 years old or older. You probably don’t need me to tell you, but this is a large amount of people! In fact, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the same demographic only accounted for 4% of the world’s population at the beginning of the century. Chances are, if you don’t fall into this category, you know someone who does. Someday you’ll fit this category and it’s important to know what you can do to improve not only the number of years in your life, but the quality of those years.

It’s commonly known as we age, we’re more susceptible to disease and disability. Heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes and other chronic degenerative conditions all affect the elderly.

There are different techniques and care plans for each condition, but the one thing that can help with all of these conditions is proper nutrition. It will give your body the necessary nutrients to fight any chronic condition and prevent it from becoming worse.

If something like proper nutrition is so important to your health it must be hard to maintain, right? The answer is no!

Older people don’t need to ingest as many calories as younger people due to factors like a slower metabolism, but they do need to make sure they maintain a proper level of minerals and vitamins. This can be done by choosing nutrient dense foods like fruit, fat free cheese and whole wheat crackers instead of sugar filled snacks like cookies and ice cream. Choosing fish, poultry and soy protein foods like tofu will give you your necessary protein. Calcium can come from low-fat milk, calcium fortified orange juice and broccoli. Vitamin B12 can be attained by eating low-fat meat, poultry, fish and fortified cereals. Get your Vitamin D from fortified milk and milk products, and fatty fish. Be sure to include fruits and vegetables for fiber and top it off with 6-8 glasses of water a day.

When preparing food, you should bake your food instead of incorporating other techniques, such as broiling. High heat causes foods to develop toxic compounds called Advanced Glycation End (AGE) products. These AGEs can contribute to hardening of the arteries, wrinkles and stiff joints and should be avoided to achieve optimal health.

Don’t let diminished senses keep you from maintaining healthy nutrition. Add flavor to your food by using low sodium seasonings, such as lemon juice, ground pepper, curry pepper and fresh or dried herbs of all types. Diversity in color and texture of your food can make your food look more appetizing. If you’re having trouble eating, try eating small meals throughout the day instead of three big meals to increase the appetite and stimulate the senses.

One day age catches up with all of us, but it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. Adopt these techniques and you can age well while fighting whatever chronic conditions life throws at you.