Kids and Calcium

Calcium is crucial to your child's well-being and growth: strong bones in youth mean strong bones throughout life.

By FamilyTime

 No one disputes that calcium makes bones strong. Children at all stages of growth need adequate calcium to reach their full height as healthy young adults.

Of equal importance are findings that indicate the children with strong bones are less apt to suffer from osteoporosis and other bone diseases when they age. This is particularly important for girls but boys should pay good attention to calcium intake, too.

How Much Is Enough?
School-age kids who drink two to three glasses of milk a day and eat a balanced diet get enough calcium, Not all kids drink milk or drink nearly enough of it.

Today, children are likely to drink soda and juice with meals as well as in between. It behooves parents to make sure their kids drink milk or get their calcium from other sources. Some children have allergies to milk and need to get their calcium elsewhere.

Young children up to age five need between 500 and 800 mg of calcium a day. Discuss if your child is getting enough calcium with your pediatrician. It's vital for strong bones and teeth.

If your child is school age -- between the ages of five and 11 (or up until the onset of puberty) he needs 800 to 1,200 mg of calcium a day, with needs increasing as he gets older. This means kids in the eight- to ten-year range need closer to 1,200 mg.

Once kids enter adolescence, calcium requirements increase and they need from 1,200 to 1,500 mg a day. They should keep this intake up well into their early twenties, say experts.

Sources of Calcium
Milk is the first foodstuff we think of when we consider calcium. Milk fortified with vitamin D is particularly important and if your children don't drink this, talk to your pediatrician about vitamin D supplements.

If your kids rely on milk, they will get the same amount of calcium whether they drink skim or whole milk. Remember that young children under the age of two need whole, not low-fat, milk.

One cup of milk provides 300 mg of calcium. This means a school-age child who drinks three glasses is pretty well covered. It also means your child's habits need to change once she hits puberty.

To get the full complement of calcium, a teenager should drink milk, eat calcium-rich vegetables, and look for calcium-fortified products such as orange juice, graham crackers, and cereals.

Products can claim to "contain calcium" if they provide 100 mg, or only 10 percent an adult's daily requirement of 1,000 mg. Those labeled "high in calcium" should contain at least 200 mg, or 20 percent of the daily requirement for adults.

Read the labels and do the math. Encourage your teens to do the same.

Other than milk, some good sources of calcium are:
1 cup calcium-fortified orange juice = 300 to 350 mg (read the label to be sure you are buying the right juice)
1 cup yogurt = 300 mg
1 ½ ounces Cheddar cheese = 300 mg
½ cup spinach = 120 mg.
1 cup white beans = 115 mg
1 orange = 40 to 50 mg
½ cup broccoli = 35 mg.

Some parents believe if their kids take a multivitamin, all bases are covered. No so. Most multivitamins contain 75 to 100 mg of calcium. On the other hand, some companies market vitamins very high in calcium. Again, read the label.

Your Kids Will Thank You
They may complain today, but as they grow into strong, active teens, your kids will appreciate their healthy bones.

Adolescence is the time of the most rapid growth for boys and girls when they need more calcium than at any other time in their lives. Young bones need all the help they can get.

Boys and girls grow at different times, with girls getting much of their height earlier than boys. By age 14, both boys and girls will have achieved a good percentage of their adult height and if they don't have enough calcium during these critical years, they may not grow as tall and strong as they can.

As they continue to grow during their teen years, kids develop bone density. At this time, they store calcium in their bones, which they will draw on during their adult life. There is no way to re-coop this valuable calcium in later years - although there are ways to help.

Even if they don't "get it" now, when they are older adults with strong bones rather than brittle ones, your kids will be grateful they listened to their mother and drank their milk and ate their spinach!