Often, when I am speaking to large groups about nutrition, they have questions about calcium. I love to seize the opportunity to talk about calcium rich foods and the many ways you can include them in the diet.
It’s one nutrient I think parents, and maybe even professionals, might be overlooking.
Are Kids Getting Enough Calcium Foods?
When you think about the wide range of foods that are replete with calcium, it’s mind-boggling that kids aren’t getting enough.
Helping your child grow healthy bones has never been easier, or more important.
According the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), one third of children aged 4 to 8 years do not meet their Adequate Intake (AI) levels for calcium.
In children aged 9 to 13 years, only 15% of girls and 22% of boys meet the AI levels.
And, only 10% of 14- to 18-year old girls meet their calcium requirements, while 42% of boys of the same age do.
I get it, not everyone likes milk. Or dairy substitutes. Or even vegetarian sources of calcium.
Milk lovers will say, “Drink 3 cups a day,” while anti-milk advocates counter with, “Eat more greens.”
While both are true and reasonable efforts at helping kids eat enough calcium, the truth is that kids in our nation aren’t eating or getting enough of it.
In other words, some kids are falling short on calcium.
Calcium Foods Help Growing Bones
There are a couple of pieces of good news when it comes to helping your child meet his calcium needs.
One, food alone isn’t solely responsible for kids to grow healthy bones. Other things contribute to healthy bones, such as exercise.
Secondly, there are a plethora of foods that provide a decent source of calcium.
So whether you’ve got a dairy-loving kid or a vegan, you can make sure your child is offered plenty of calcium foods in his daily diet with a little bit of planning.
Plan for Calcium Foods in the Diet
It does take a bit of effort on your part to think about and plan calcium into your child’s diet. Just thinking about milk, or alternatives to milk, isn’t enough.
[Listen to Milk Alternatives: Which is Best for My Child?]
There are also certain medical conditions, medications, and high-risk periods during your child’s development that make calcium an “at risk” nutrient.
Translated: you may think your child is getting enough, but based on these factors and his changing needs throughout childhood, he may not be.
Last, the timeframe for building bones is short.
[Listen: Healthy Bone Growth in Kids]
Mostly, kids are done with bone building by age 19 or 20.
The time is now—childhood– for setting your son or daughter up for a lifetime of healthy bones and preventing a future of fractures, breaks or even osteoporosis.
The Calcium Handbook
I think calcium is so important to kids’ diets and future health that I wrote a book to help you navigate, calculate, and creatively ensure you child gets enough of this important nutrient in his diet.
The Calcium Handbook will help you:
- Understand what calcium does in your child’s body, from building bones to regulating muscle contractions, and more
- Know how much calcium your child needs each day, based on his age and gender
- Understand the risk factors that may get in the way of calcium absorption and bone health
- Find calcium foods, from dairy products to vegetables, and more
- Plan calcium-rich meals, using sample meal plans based on your child’s age
- Calculate your child’s calcium intake, and bump it up if necessary, or relax, knowing you’ve hit the mark
- Know when and how to supplement calcium, and which supplements are best, if needed
- Bring a variety of calcium foods into your family’s diet
Just like protein is important for overall growth, and carbs are essential for an athlete, calcium is a must-master nutrient for all kids of all ages!
Don’t let your child fall behind on this important nutrient.
Written by: Jill Castle, MS, RDN
Published on: November 5, 2015
Updated on: September 19, 2019