Sodium levels, Vegetarian children, Biscotti calories

Q: I’m trying to be mindful of the sodium listed on food labels. How much is too much?
Q: Do vegetarian children need any special supplements?
Q: Are biscotti cookies low-calorie?

Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN
American Institute for Cancer Research

Q: I’m trying to be mindful of the sodium listed on food labels. How much is too much?

A: One quick tip is to look at the “% DV” – percent of Daily Value – listed for sodium. Total daily sodium consumption should be less than the DV of 2400 milligrams (mg). If a food supplies 20 percent of sodium’s DV (480 mg), it is considered high in sodium. If the product is a whole meal or a prepared main dish, more than 600 mg per serving is considered high. If you eat out a lot or tend to eat high-sodium snack foods or processed foods, you should practice extra caution with your other food choices. Aim to fill the majority of your diet with naturally low-sodium vegetables, fruits and unprocessed grains. Also note that the nutrient content percentages on food labels apply to the designated serving size. If you eat a larger portion than what is listed, you can quickly increase your sodium intake. Finally, since the “% DV” refers to the limit of 2400 mg of sodium, it’s not an accurate gauge of the 1500 mg limit that is recommended for those who are salt-sensitive (people with high blood pressure and many African-American, middle-aged and older adults). If this includes you, you can still use the “%DV” figure to scan for higher and lower sodium foods, but realize that you are aiming to keep your daily total at roughly 60 percent of DV.

Q: Do vegetarian children need any special supplements?

A: Children who are growing normally while eating well-planned vegetarian diets generally meet all of their nutritional needs with food, especially when dairy products are included. Diets that eliminate all animal products, including eggs and dairy products, need fortified soymilk added or supplements of calcium and vitamins B-12 and D. Children have high calorie and nutrient needs, but their stomachs are small. Since a vegetarian diet’s higher fiber content can make it more filling, these children, especially, need several nutritious snacks throughout the day. Good choices include concentrated sources of calories, such as: seeds and nuts (after age four to avoid choking risks), beans, nut or bean spreads, juice and dried fruits, along with enough added fat in the form of healthy oils and salad dressing. Fortified cereals can also help provide vitamin B-12, iron and zinc.

Q: Are biscotti cookies low-calorie?

A: The crisp Italian cookies called biscotti have become a popular accompaniment to coffee. Their double baking makes biscotti dry enough that they may seem low fat, but most contain enough oil or butter that they are not. In fact, biscotti are actually quite concentrated in calories. A typical one-ounce biscotti contains about 130 calories, with 4 to 7 grams of fat and up to 12 grams (3 teaspoons) of sugar. That’s basically the same as having an ounce of popular sandwich cookies (about 3 of them). If you enjoy biscotti, it’s fine to indulge in one occasionally, just make sure to choose low-calorie, filling and nutritious fruit for your snack and dessert choices most of the time.

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