The National Osteoporosis Foundation estimates that osteoporosis and low bone mass affect 54 million Americans over the age of 50.  Osteoporosis causes an estimated two million broken bones each year, and the aftereffects are often devastating, resulting in pain, loss of mobility, and the need for long-term care.  You can reduce your risk of getting osteoporosis by getting plenty of calcium in your diet now.  It is never too early to start eating for bone health.

Lunchbox Pizza
Lunchbox Pizza

A diet rich in calcium is as important for growing bones as it is for aging ones.  The National Institutes of Health recommends children over 4 years-old get at least 1,000 mg per day, with adolescents needing at least 1,300 mg per day.

Getting enough calcium in a kid’s diet can be challenging, especially if they do not like to drink milk.  Most kids like cheese, though, (at least mine do) so cheese can be an effective secret weapon in the fight to calcium fortify our kids.  Hard cheese, like cheddar and jack, have 200 mg of calcium per one ounce serving, while Swiss or gruyere contain 270 mg per serving.  (An ounce of cheese is about one inch cubed or one 3-inch-by-3-inch slice.)

Prepackaged cheese sticks make it easy to add calcium to the lunchbox every day.  The cheesy recipes below will help you add a little calcium at lunch and dinnertime as well as please little palates.


Stove Top Mac-n-Cheese

This recipe is based on Alton Brown’s recipe at Food Network.  The original is very good and can be found here.  I modified the recipe based on my kids’ tastes.

½ pound elbow macaroni
4 TBS Butter
2 Eggs
¾ cup Milk, Cream, or Half-and-Half (Whatever is in the fridge.)
1 tsp salt
Fresh Black Pepper to taste
¾ tsp dry mustard
10 ounces Sharp Cheddar, shredded

Cook macaroni according to package directions and drain.  Return to the pot and stir in butter until melted.

Whisk together eggs, milk, salt, pepper, and mustard.  Stir into the pot along with the shredded cheese and stir over low heat until creamy and the cheese is melted.

Yields 4-6 servings


Lunchbox Pizza

1 Flour Tortilla
2 TBS Pizza Sauce, packed in a plastic portion cup
Mozzarella Cheese, sliced or shredded

Package each item separately.  Kids can assemble the tortilla, pepperoni, and cheese at lunch, roll it up, and dip it in the sauce.


My Favorite Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Version 1

Two slices honey wheat bread
Three slices Genoa salami
Two slices provolone cheese
½ pear, thinly sliced
Fleischman’s Olive Oil Spread

Version 2

Two slices honey wheat bread
Three slices ham
Two slices cheddar cheese
½ apple, thinly sliced
Fleischman’s Olive Oil Spread

Lay two slices of bread flat, and put a slice of cheese on each piece of bread.  Assemble remaining ingredients and close up sandwich.  Spread Fleischman’s Olive Oil Spread on each slice of bread, and cook in a skillet over medium heat until bread is brown and the cheese is melted.


Karla Jacobs is a member of the Georgia Commission on Women.  She lives in Marietta with her husband two kids, a dog, and some fish.