Creative Ways to Teach Bone Health, Calcium, Osteoporosis Awareness

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Creative Ways to Teach the Importance of Calcium (skeletons, Swiss cheese, doilies and tennis rackets)
• Jean Bianchetto, RD, Consulting Dietitian in Ambulatory Nutrition at Boston Regional Medical Center, created a poster from foam core and staples empty packages of calcium-rich foods to it. Next to each package is a flip card with a question mark on it and the amount of calcium under the flip card. Jean points out that people are already consuming many foods that contain calcium and can use the poster to find foods they like, but do not regularly eat, to get even more calcium. She demonstrates using the food label to quickly scan the amount of calcium in food e.g. 20% Daily Value of calcium equals 200 mg. calcium. A doily is an excellent visual to explain the intricate matrix of bone material.
• Susan Kessler, RD, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Nassau County, uses bags of flour to represent the amount of calcium in the human skeleton: Newborn: ¼ cup, 10 year old: 3½ cups, 15 year old:7 cups (850 grams), adult: 10 cups (1200 grams) (Source: Dairy Council). In teaching kids, she uses poster-sized paper cut out in the shape of a bone and has them punch holes in it to show how lack of calcium causes the bone to lose its integrity. Bone models show consequences of not enough calcium consumption.
• Sharon Hoelscher-Day, MA, CFCS, University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, shows alternative sources of calcium since her population is lactose intolerant. She uses diagrams with how much calcium of various foods equal one glass of milk.
• Dolce Corpora, MS, PHE, Onondaga County Health Department teaches the importance of calcium during her nutrition wellness presentations. She emphasizes the need for strength training which makes the bones absorb more calcium, thus strengthening them. She also states that high-protein drinks marketed to body builders are not necessary because excess protein depletes the body’s calcium. Dulce claims that skim milk is more palatable when served very cold and out of an opaque glass (so you can’t see it).
• Beth Steinberg, RD, CDN, Empire Blue Cross and Blue Shield Health Education Department has a relay race for kids that teaches them about good sources of calcium. Starting with a table of food models and packages, she discusses which ones are good sources of calcium. Kids are divided into two teams and go to the table relay style and grab one food at a time, putting items in to a grocery bag. The team with the most calcium in their grocery bag wins the race.
• Kari Bachman, Program Coordinator for New Mexico State University uses rubbery chicken bones. They boil up a big batch of drumsticks and then strip all the meat off. Then the bones get soaked in vinegar for a week or until the calcium is dissolved and the bones get rubbery. Each educator keeps several of these bones in ziplocs so the kids can feel them. This is a graphic way to show kids how bones are weakened when they don’t get enough calcium in their diets and their bodies have to steal calcium from their bones.
• Laurie Wadsworth, College of Pharmacy and Nutrition, University of Saskatchewan, Canada, uses Nasco food models and empty food packages of foods high in calcium for a display while talking. A local pharmacy always lends a huge bag of calcium supplements so different kinds can be discussed. A mini x-ray of side by side spinal columns with and without osteoporosis is a great visual tool. Laurie uses Swiss cheese to show that holes are naturally found in cheese and bone, but if the holes get too large, the strength of the bone/cheese is lost.
• Anne Hanson, Food and Nutrition Specialist, Canada has come up with a unique presentation which she gives in 20 minutes to the general public attending Toronto’s Royal Winter Fair. Her simple message: Your bones are like a bank. She uses a halloween skeleton lying on its side (from a party supply store) and a bag of seemingly unrelated items: tennis shoe, can of salmon, carton of milk, handful of almonds, tennis racket, sunglasses, tin of sardines, a weight and some apricots. She asks what all the things in the bag have in common and then explains the importance of weight bearing exercise, vitamin D and calcium-rich food for the prevention of osteoporosis. She also has another bag of prizes and gives them away during her talk when members of audience answer her questions right.
• Tammy Baker, Dairy Council of Arizona, has great tips for using more nonfat plain yogurt in your regime: in dips, in place of eggs and oil in brownie mixes (use ½ cup), in place of mayonnaise (or mix half and half with nonfat mayo), in smoothies, as the cream-base for salad dressings, dolloped on pancakes, french toast & waffles, mixed with cereal on the way to work (you won’t spill it while driving!) and as a dressing for pasta salad.
• Jan Ritter, RD, LD, Nutrition Educator Westerville City Schools, has her attendees rank foods (using food models including: tomato juice, skim milk, broccoli, waffles, salmon, tofu, frozen yogurt and yogurt) from highest to lowest calcium. Everyone is usually amazed when they find out the actual figures.
• Robert Haney, MD, University-Professor and calcium expert at John A. Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, says the best way to educate prevention of osteoporosis is with a three-legged stool. The first leg is exercise; the second leg is maintaining healthy weight and lifestyle; the third leg is following the National Health Institute’s recommendation for adequate calcium intake.

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