Nathan Asher, M.D.
Calcium is one of the most important elements in a child’s diet. It is necessary for the healthy development and maintenance of the body. However, parents commonly worry that their child is not getting enough of this essential mineral.
Calcium is found in a variety of foods, including dairy products, eggs, peanut butter, breads, cereal, pasta, green leafy vegetables, and calcium-fortified orange juice.
Typically, a child receives the majority of his or her calcium from dairy products, such as milk and cheese.
How much calcium a child needs each day depends on his or her age. As your child gets older more calcium is necessary to develop strong bones and teeth, as well as help other basic bodily functions perform properly.
Boys Town Pediatrics recommends that children ages one to three need around 500 milligrams (mg) of calcium each day. Children ages four to eight should consume 800 mg a day. And, children ages nine to eighteen need 1300 mg per day.
Cow’s milk can provide a child with enough calcium. For example, one cup of milk has 300 mg of calcium. Therefore, just two cups of milk each day will give a child age one to three more than enough calcium. However, if your toddler drinks more than three cups of milk a day, it may not leave enough room in his stomach for other essentials foods his body needs. Milk or calcium intake should be a part of a well balanced diet.
Although parents should encourage their child to drink milk, some children will not drink enough milk or will refuse it completely. Several other foods can provide significant amounts of calcium.
In general, adolescents do not consume enough milk or calcium. Calcium is especially important for bone health in adolescent girls, but they might be worried about the fat content of some of these foods. Low-fat options are available and parents should encourage a well rounded diet that includes adequate amounts of calcium.
A child, who doesn’t get enough calcium, even after substituting calcium-rich foods in her diet, may need calcium supplements. Talk with your child’s pediatrician before giving supplements.
If you think your child is not getting at least 200 milligrams of calcium a day or you suspect dairy allergies, contact his or her physician.