Getting kids to eat their fruits and vegetables is a constant battle in many households. But as a mother and nutritionist, there is one war that I am not willing to lose and that’s when it comes to calcium.
Calcium is a mineral needed to build strong bones and teeth and can help prevent bone loss (osteoporosis) from developing later in life. Bone mass peaks at around age 25 to 30 and after that, bones begin to weaken. So it’s important that kids eat lots of calcium-rich foods now as their bones are growing and strengthening to prevent weak bones and fractures from occurring later on.
The good news is that some pretty tasty and kid-friendly foods contain calcium like milk, yogurt, cheese and ice cream.
So parents, put aside the soda and sugary juices and offer milk instead. It may be the easiest way to give kids the calcium they need. Depending on their age, kids need 500 mg (age 1 – 3) to 800 mg (age 4 -8) to 1,300 mg (age 9 – 18) of calcium daily. To put that in to perspective, 1 glass of milk contains about 300 milligrams of calcium and it doesn’t matter if the milk is whole or skim, the calcium content remains about the same. Plus, milk is fortified with vitamin D which helps the body absorb and use calcium.
For kids who don’t love milk, add a little chocolate, strawberry or vanilla flavoring, but mix it yourself as store bought versions tend to be loaded with sugar. For those with lactose intolerance you can try lactose-free milk and for those less inclined towards dairy, try calcium fortified orange juice or breads, almonds, canned sardines, salmon, dark leafy greens and broccoli instead. The important thing is that your kids eat enough calcium-rich foods now to ensure healthy bones and teeth to last a lifetime.
— Ilaria St. Florian