Is Your Family Getting Enough Calcium?

Turns out, when your mother told you to finish your milk, she knew what she was talking about.

Currently, about 75 percent of Americans are not getting enough calcium, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. "Less than 10 percent of women ages 19 to 50 consume the daily recommendation of 1,000 milligrams," says Susan Barr, Ph.D., professor of nutrition at the University of British Columbia.

Recently, to encourage moms and kids to get at least three servings of dairy products every day, the American Dairy Association/National Dairy Council unveiled a new "3-a-Day" program. New packaging and types of dairy products will probably help the program succeed. Over the past three years, more than 300 new milk products have appeared, including "juice box" size milk containers and an endless variety of milk flavors such as cotton candy, cappuccino, and cookies and cream. You can now find more than 50 different yogurt flavors. And to encourage healthy snacking, there are countless "grab and go" products, such as string cheese with pizza sauce in the middle and squeeze tubes of yogurt that you don't need a spoon to eat.

While dairy products are considered the best source of calcium, many women and teen girls avoid them, fearing weight gain. Dieters need to be reminded that low-fat and nonfat dairy products contain just as much calcium as their full-fat counterparts. And a number of studies have indicated that a balanced diet containing dairy products may help with weight loss and actually decrease body fat. In addition to dairy products, green leafy vegetables (such as kale and collard greens), sardines, almonds and tofu are also rich in calcium. Another way to bone up? Choose juices and cereals with added calcium.