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.
- 1 ounce natural or processed cheese - 200 mg
- 1 cup yogurt - 300 mg
- 1/2 cup green, leafy vegetables - 100 mg
- 1 cup calcium-fortified orange juice - 300 mg
Tips for Increasing Your Child’s Calcium:
- Add flavorings to milk such as strawberry or chocolate powders
- When serving cooked cereal, soups, and gravies, use milk instead of water
- Blend milk with fruit, such as bananas and strawberries, to make fruit smoothies
- Make desserts that contain calcium, such as custard, pudding, and cheesecake
- Add cheese to vegetables or make foods that contain cheese, such as lasagna, grilled cheese, burritos
- Broccoli and sweet potatoes are also sources of calcium
- Most dry cereals are calcium-fortified so check the labels
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.
Calcium, of course, is one of the building blocks of the bone. It helps us have strong bones. So we need to have enough of it in our bodies to maintain that bone strength.
For the young child it's very important because that's the time when they're growing.
We really only build our bone mass until we're about 30 years of age, so it's really important to build that strong bone mass when you're a child and adolescent. If you don't, you won't be able to do it later.
What are some calcium-rich foods?
The dairy products are the best sources of calcium but there are other things such as dark, green vegetables have some calcium in them. There are fortified breads and some of the different types of fish. You can always get fortified juices. So if you have a child that really doesn't like dairy, there is other ways of finding it. I think it's better to get it through the diet but if that's just not possible you can always supplement.
What are the dangers of low calcium?
You don't have enough calcium you'll end up with weaker bones, which may lead to various diseases and, of course for kids, may make it easier for them to fracture their bones.