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  • Writer's pictureAlison Rosenstock

Your Tasty 7-Day Meal Plan for Osteoporosis (by a Dietitian!)

Did you know that your bone health can be supported by what’s on the end of your fork?


Chances are, you’ll want to take note. Osteoporosis is incredibly common. In fact, as many as 53 million people in the United States have or are at risk for osteoporosis - that’s 15.5% of the population! Osteoporosis is the most frequent cause of fractures in postmenopausal women and older men.


Hello and welcome! I’m Alison Rosenstock, a registered dietitian and freelance writer who is your dedicated resource for women’s health and GI nutrition.

 

After reading the blog, you’ll understand what osteoporosis is, ways you can reduce your risk of developing it, and what foods you can eat to improve the health and strength of your bones.


If you want to check out the 7-Day Meal Plan right away, click here to download the PDF!


Let’s start things off with a quick explanation of what osteoporosis is. 


What is osteoporosis?

Picture a well-built brick wall. Gradually, an occasional brick gets knocked out from that wall, and this keeps occurring until so many bricks are gone that the entire structure is compromised. 


This analogy describes how osteoporosis, which comes from the Latin word for “porous bone,” affects the skeleton on a cellular level. 


The bone tissue goes from being a tightly packed structure to one with enlarged, “pore-like” spaces, a process that diminishes the overall strength and density of the bones and makes them more brittle and vulnerable to breaking.


Osteoporosis is considered a silent disease because most people do not experience symptoms, and often do not know they have it until they break a bone.

 

Osteoporosis often leads to serious and potentially life-altering complications. Approximately half of all women over age 50 will fracture their hip, wrist, or spine in their lifetime.


Who’s at risk? Let’s explore.  


Osteoporosis risk factors

There are many different risk factors for osteoporosis; some of which are within your control to change and some are not. 


Age- Your risk of osteoporosis goes up with age. 

Frame size- Those with smaller frames (both male and female) are at increased risk compared to people with larger bones.

Activity Level- People who are physically inactive (more sedentary) are more likely to have a higher rate of bone loss and an increased likelihood of falling and breaking a bone.

Diet- A low intake of calcium and vitamin D increases the risk for osteoporosis, and not getting enough protein may increase the risk as well.

Medications- Long-term use of certain medications may make you more susceptible to bone loss, including anti-epileptic medications, hormonal cancer treatments, and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Corticosteroids such as prednisone, prednisolone, methylprednisolone, and dexamethasone can interfere with the nutrients that support bone health and increase the risk of bone fracture. 

Hormones- Having low levels of certain hormones can increase osteoporosis risk. These include low estrogen in women after menopause, low estrogen in premenopausal women due to irregular or lack of menstrual periods, and low testosterone in men with conditions that lower testosterone levels.

Family History- You’re more likely to develop osteoporosis if an immediate family member has a history of osteoporosis and/or hip fracture.

Alcohol Use- Excessive drinking can interfere with calcium balance and production of vitamin D and increase the risk for osteoporosis.

Smoking- Smoking increases your risk of osteoporosis and bone fracture.


Now that we know what some of the main risk factors for osteoporosis are, let’s talk about how you can eat to support your bone health. What are the best foods for osteoporosis?

Did you know that your bones are dynamic living tissue, just like your muscles and skin? Having the right foods can help to support your bone health, day in and day out, and reduce your risk of osteoporosis. 


The best eating pattern might just be the Mediterranean Diet; it includes the top five recommended nutrients to support your bone health and also helps to lower inflammation, which is a risk factor for osteoporosis.   


Top 5 Nutrients for Healthy Bones

While calcium is an important nutrient for bone health, it isn’t the only one our skeleton needs. I’ll share the top 5 nutrients to include in your 7-day meal plan for osteoporosis prevention, starting with calcium. 


Calcium:

Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the human body and the critical building block for strong and healthy bones. Low intake of calcium is linked to low bone density and increased risk for fractures.


Daily recommended intake is 800-1000 milligrams (mg) of calcium, with 1200 mg/day recommended for women aged 51+ and adults over age 70. For reference, an 8-ounce serving of plain low-fat yogurt contains 415 mg of calcium.


Calcium-rich foods include:

  • Dairy products (such as yogurt, milk, and cheese)

  • Soy (such as tofu and soymilk)

  • Canned fish with bones (such as salmon, tuna, sardines)

  • Fortified orange juice

  • Legumes (beans, peas, lentils)

  • Spinach

  • Broccoli 

 

Protein:

While you might be thinking about building muscles as protein’s main job, it is also really important for the health of your bones. 


In fact, protein contributes to bone volume and bone mass while also supporting the growth, maintenance, and strength of muscles surrounding bones.


Studies show that older adults aged 65+ should consume at least 1-1.2 grams (g) of protein per kilogram of body weight (one kilogram is approximately 2.2 pounds) for optimal health. E.g. A person who is 150 pounds, or 68 kg, should consume at least 68-82 g of protein daily. According to the Journal of Nutrition, it is recommended to distribute protein evenly at each meal rather than save the largest amount for the evening meal.


Protein-rich foods include:

  • Meat (beef, pork, poultry)

  • Fish and seafood

  • Eggs

  • Dairy products

  • Legumes 

  • Nuts and nut butters (such as peanut, almond, or cashew butter)

  • Seeds and seed butters (such as sunflower seeds and sunflower seed butter)

  • Whole grains (such as whole wheat bread, quinoa, and brown rice)

 

Vitamin D:

Think of vitamin D as the key that allows calcium to get where it needs to go.


Why? Because vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. If you’re low in vitamin D, you will have a much harder time absorbing enough calcium from your meals, even if you’re eating enough. 


The daily recommendation is 600 international units (IU) of vitamin D for people under age 70 and 800 IU per day for people aged 70+. For reference, a 3-ounce serving of cooked sockeye salmon contains 570 IU of vitamin D.


Vitamin D-rich foods include:

  • Fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and trout

  • Egg yolks

  • Cod liver oil

  • Wild mushrooms

  • Fortified milk

  • Fortified plant milks (such as soy milk and almond milk)

 

Vitamin K:

Vitamin K is not just for blood clotting (though it definitely helps with that)! It also helps make proteins that support the structure and integrity of bones.


The daily recommendation for vitamin K is 120 micrograms (mcg) per day for men and 90 mcg per day for women. 1 cup of raw spinach and raw kale contains 145 mcg and 113 mcg of vitamin K, respectively, while ½ cup of raw blueberries contains 14 mcg of vitamin K.


*Note: Those who are taking blood thinning medications such as Warfarin should prioritize getting the same amount of Vitamin K each day.


Vitamin K-rich foods include:

  • Leafy greens (such as spinach, kale, and collard greens)

  • Blueberries

  • Pumpkin

  • Carrot juice

  • Soy products (such as edamame)


Magnesium:

Magnesium helps activate vitamin D and strengthens bones and teeth.


The daily recommendation for magnesium is 400 mg/day for men and 310 mg/day for women aged 19-30 and 420 mg/per day for men and 320 mg/day for women aged 31 and older. (During pregnancy, 350 mg/day is recommended for women aged 19-30 and 360 mg/day for those aged 31+). 

1 ounce of roasted pumpkin seeds contains 156 mg of magnesium, while 1 ounce of dry roasted almonds contains 80 mg of magnesium.


For more info on magnesium’s health benefits, check out my article on YouAligned.com!


Magnesium-rich foods include:

  • Pumpkin seeds

  • Chia seeds

  • Nuts

  • Legumes

  • Leafy greens

  • Soy

  • Bananas

 

Now that we’ve discussed the importance of these bone-boosting nutrients, here are ways to incorporate them into your weekly meal plan.

 

The 7-Day Meal Plan for Osteoporosis

As a dietitian, I know that many people are concerned that meal planning will be time-consuming, overly complicated, and/or costly. That is why I made sure the 7-day meal plan for osteoporosis has affordable options that are easy to follow and don’t take forever in the kitchen! 


There are 7 unique breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks in this meal plan, however the majority of the meals make for great leftovers and can be repeated throughout the week. Most require minimal kitchen equipment (such as one pot, sheet pan, or blender) and there are several plant-based options for vegans, vegetarians, and pescetarians.


That said, these meals are just a suggestion and you can feel free to make swaps which suit your taste buds, budget, and any food allergies or intolerances.


Breakfasts

1.  Tofu or egg scramble with spinach and mushrooms

2. Frittata with salmon, asparagus, and peas

3. Steel cut oatmeal with bananas and blueberries

4. Chia seed pudding with Greek or non-dairy yogurt and berries

5. Nut or seed butter and spinach smoothie 

6. Whole wheat avocado toast with sunflower seeds

7. Overnight oats with sliced apples and nuts

 

Lunches

1.  Tuscan bean soup with kale

2.  Broccoli and cheddar soup

3.  Tuna salad sandwich on whole wheat bread

4.  Black bean, spinach, and avocado wrap

5.  Fried rice (tofu, chicken, shrimp, or beef) with eggs and broccoli

6.  Kale and quinoa salad

7.  Turkey or salmon burger on whole wheat bun

 

Dinners

1. Roasted salmon with broccoli and potatoes

2. Tofu or beef steak with asparagus spears

3. Chicken with mushrooms, broccoli, and whole wheat pasta

4. Coconut curry (chicken, fish, or tofu) with spinach over rice

5. Burrito or bowl (beef, chicken, fish, or vegetarian) with black beans, lettuce, pico de gallo, and cheddar cheese

6. Chicken or salmon skewers with yogurt dip, quinoa, and tomatoes

7. Beef, turkey, or vegetarian chili


Snacks

1. Dried plums and almonds

2. String cheese and berries

3. Apple slices and peanut, almond, cashew, or sunflower seed butter

4. Carrot sticks and hummus

5. Greek or non-dairy yogurt with oats

6. Canned tuna or salmon with yogurt on whole wheat toast

7. Half banana with peanut, almond, cashew, or sunflower seed butter 

 

The Takeaway: Meal Plan for Osteoporosis

 

Osteoporosis is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition, but there are steps you can take to improve your bone health through diet.

 

Getting enough calcium, vitamin D, vitamin K, magnesium, and protein each day will support the health and strength of bones as well as provide other health benefits.

 

The 7-Day Meal Plan for Osteoporosis offers lots of nutrient-dense meal options to help you take charge of your bone health. When you download the (free) guide, you’ll get detailed daily nutrient and food recommendations, a shopping list, and 7 sample recipes that will help you feel confident that you’re nourishing your bones morning, noon, and night!

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