Everyone knows that calcium builds strong teeth and bones. This mineral is particularly important to children, as this is the time when the teeth and bones are growing. Proper amounts of calcium in a child’s development years will help reduce their risks of osteoporosis and other weak bone issues later in life.
Recent studies in the US indicate that as many as 50% of all children are not getting enough calcium in their diet. This could be due to the rise in dairy allergies or just the general reduced milk intake of many children.
So how much calcium does your child need? Well, that depends on their age. Your child’s need for calcium increase as they grow. Here are the guidelines:
- Children age 1-3 need 500 mg per day.
- Children age 4-8 need 800mg per day.
- Children 9 to 18 need 1300 mg per day.
Best Sources of calcium: Milk is the best source of calcium, because it also contains vitamin D which helps the body absorb calcium. An 8-ounce glass of milk has 300 mg of calcium, and one cup of yogurt has 400 mg of calcium. If your child is not a milk drinker or has a dairy allergy, there are plenty of other food sources for calcium. They include:
- Leafy green vegetables: Broccoli, kale, spinach
- Fruits: Oranges
- Beans and peas: Soy milk or cheese, tofu, peanuts, peas, black beans, baked beans
- Fish: Salmon, sardines
- Miscellaneous: Sesame seeds, blackstrap molasses, corn tortillas, almonds, brown sugar
Read Labels: Some packaged foods, such as waffles, juice, and popsicles are calcium-fortified.
- Foods labeled:”High in Calcium”, “Rich in Calcium” or “Excellent Source of Calcium,” have at least 200mg or more.
- Foods labeled “Calcium Enriched”, “Calcium- Fortified” or have “More Calcium,” will have about 100mg of calcium.
What should you do: Add up your child’s calcium intake for an average day. Monitor it, by recalculating it once a month. Make adjustments to your child’s diet to increase calcium-rich foods at the critical ages of 4 and 9. Try to make sure your child has something containing calcium at every meal. If your child is coming up short, try a calcium supplement, such as Tums, Viactiv, or One A Day Kids Scooby Doo Calcium Chews. (allergy caution: some of these contain dry milk solids, read the labels)