Eat for Strong Bones!

Nutrition pro Joy Bauer shares the five strategies that help keep her bones strong—the same tips she gave her mom when she found out she had osteoporosis!

Kathleen Engel
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She’s the best-selling author of seven books on food and nutrition—including her latest, Food Cures—the nutrition expert for the Today show and the nutritionist for the New York City Ballet.

Living in New York City with her husband and three children, Joy Bauer has got a lot on her plate. But that doesn’t stop her from planning meals to keep her bones—or those of her loved ones—healthy. “I always think about my bone health—especially because of my mom, and my size.”

Joy knows she has two significant risk factors for osteoporosis: One is her petite size—she’s 5 feet tall and camera-trim. "I’m small but mighty!” Joy jokes. The other is her genetic predisposition to the disease. Her mom has low bone mineral density. In fact, she takes medication for it.

Luckily, her bone density tests have improved over recent years, because of the bone med, sure—but also thanks to the tiptop nutrition tips, including these, that Joy gives her to help her feed her bones well!

1. Get in your daily calcium! Although food is the best way to get your calcium, supplements can help if you fall short. Here’s how Joy recommends you get your daily dose of bone-strengthening minerals:

During the day, aim to get in 3 servings of “high-calcium” foods at your meals and snacks. Options include skim or low-fat milk, reduced-fat cheese, nonfat or low-fat yogurt, and unsweetened milk alternatives like almond and soy milk. Round out meals with calcium-rich veggies. “I love kale chips,” says Joy. “Or I’ll make a dish of broccoli with whole-grain penne. Whatever you like works!”

At the end of the day, review your food intake. If you didn’t eat three calcium-rich food sources, you may need a supplement. Discuss your calcium needs with your healthcare provider if you find yourself falling short often.

2. Make snacks count. Sneak in bone-loving nutrients throughout your day. At snack time, try whole-grain crackers with hummus (a dip made from chickpeas) or almond butter—both rich in magnesium.

3. Make sure you’re getting your vitamin D! It enables calcium to be absorbed. “Fatty fish is a good source,” says Joy. “I have my mother eating wild salmon when she can.” Fill your shopping cart with vitamin D-fortified juices, cereals, dairy and nondairy beverages. Note: Your body makes vitamin D with sun exposure, but don’t rely on the sun for your D needs—ask your doctor if you need a supplement.

4. Incorporate produce at every meal. An array of nutrients help protect bone. Potassium, found in plentiful supply in produce, is one of them. To get the variety you need, change up the produce you eat, starting with breakfast. “When I make a morning omelet, I’ll add spinach, bell peppers and mushrooms. If I have an English muffin, I’ll top it with tomato and reduced-fat cheese.”

Lunch is often a main course salad: chicken or fish on a base of mineral-rich greens like arugula or mesclun, studded with vegetables and topped with half a cup of beans (great sources of bone-strengthening magnesium). Dinner might be a veggie-packed stir-fry or an entrée with a side of sautéed kale or spinach—greens rich in vitamin K, which has been shown to slow bone loss.

5. Move your bones to strengthen them! It’s a nonfood tip that bears mentioning: Moving your muscles stimulates bone-building cells called osteoblasts to create more bone. Joy walks an hour a day, rain or shine. Three days a week, she also performs a 20-minute full-body strength-training routine (using mostly her body as resistance) in her living room.

For more bone-healthy eating tips, "Like" Joy on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.

February 2014