The average American child is at risk for bone problems like osteoporosis and fractures! According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the amount of calcium kids consume each day is “well below the recommended levels”.
It is clear that we need to increase the amount of calcium in our children’s diets. Yet we are also warned that dairy products contain large amounts of saturated (“bad”) fats that can cause heart disease. So what is a parent to do?
The answer is simple: low fat or fat-free dairy products!
Low fat or fat-free dairy products are delicious, low in calories, and a great source of calcium for kids. There are also many other healthy, non-dairy sources of calcium out there. Read on to learn more.
How much calcium does your child need?
Children age 2 to 6 need two servings of dairy a day. Older kids need three servings a day. Teens need four servings a day.
Serving size differs based on age. In other words, a serving of skim milk for a three year old is less than a serving of skim milk for a fifteen year old. A basic rule of thumb is that a 2 or 3 year old’s serving size should be 2/3 that of an older child’s serving size.
Total Daily Calcium Needs:
Age 1-3, 500 mg a day
Age 4-8, 800 mg a day
Age 9-18, 1,300 mg a day
Adults, 1,000 mg a day
Why You Can’t Go By A Label’s Percent Daily Value
The percent daily value on the nutrition label is based on an adult’s needs and do not accurately reflect a child’s.
For example, if you eat a yogurt that is 20% of the daily value for calcium, it would contain 200 mg of calcium. Referring to the table above, that would be 25% of a 6 year old’s requirement but only 15% of a teenager’s requirement.
Let’s look at some foods that contain high levels of calcium.
Non-fat Milk 1 cup, 300 mg calcium
Reduced fat Milk 1 cup, 300 mg calcium
Nonfat Yogurt 1 cup, 490 mg calcium
Swiss cheese 1 oz., 270 mg calcium
Mozzarella, part skim 1 oz., 210 mg calcium
American Cheese 1 oz., 140 mg calcium
Cottage Cheese 1 cup, 160 mg calcium
Parmesan cheese,grated 2 T, 140 mg calcium
Pudding, prepared 1/2 cup, 150 mg
Frozen yogurt 1 cup, 200 mg
Ice Cream, light 1/2 cup, 200 mg
Getting enough calcium can be a especially hard if your kids are allergic to milk. Many nondairy foods can be good choices for kids with milk allergies who need calcium. Food manufacturers help to make it even easier to give our kids the amount of calcium they need! Many non-dairy foods are now fortified with calcium and other vitamins. These are also good to check out.
NON-DAIRY / FORTIFIED FOODS
Black Beans 1 cup, 120 mg calcium
Navy Beans 1 cup, 130 mg calcium
Fortified Cereal 1 cup, 300 mg calcium
Fortified Orange Juice 1 cup, 300 mg calcium
Soybeans, cooked 1 cup, 180 mg calcium
Spinach, cooked 1/2 cup, 130 mg calcium
Bok Choy 1/2 cup, 80 mg calcium
Kale, cooked 1/2 cup, 90 mg calcium
Broccoli, cooked 1/2 cup, 20 mg calcium
Corn Tortilla 1, 6 inch, 50 mg calcium
Greens, mustard 1/2 cup, 100 mg calcium
Canned Salmon w/bones 3 oz, 180 mg
Fortified Cereal 1 cup, 300 mg
Waffle, fortified 1, 150 mg
Soy milk, fortified 1 cup, 400 mg
Greens, mustard 1/2 cup, 100 mg
Tofu 1 cup, 40 mg
Almonds 2 oz., 150 mg
Oysters 3 oz., 80 mg
Remember, new foods are constantly being fortified with calcium to look at food labels to find new sources of calcium.
If you are unable to get your child to eat the recommended amount of calcium, consider a calcium supplement. Most children’s multi-vitamins don’t supply enough calcium. So be sure to give a separate calcium supplement.