Calcium and Your Growing Child


Calcium is a necessary building block for strong and healthy bones. Yet the majority of children fail to get the recommended amount of milligrams of calcium per day. It is not surprising since many kids prefer soda over milk. But parents must insist that at every age, from infancy to adolescence, calcium is something kids simply can’t afford to skip.

Many people know that calcium is important but do not know what calcium does for our bodies. During childhood, our body uses calcium to build strong bones. This process is fairly complete by the time we are teenagers. Calcium also plays an important role in muscle contraction, transmitting messages through the nerves and the release of hormones.

A major roadblock to enough calcium in a child’s diet is that some children do not like milk. Or many children are allergic to dairy products. But you can find other sources of calcium. Some examples of calcium-rich foods are calcium-fortified orange juice, soy products and bread. Other examples of food that have a lot of calcium are collard greens, white beans, almonds, bok choy, cooked rhubarb, red beans, cooked broccoli, cooked kale, cooked, okra, cooked beet greens, oranges, English muffin, pancakes, some ready to eat cereals, taco salad, cheese pizza, sardines with bones and canned salmon with bones.

If your child is lactose intolerant, there are many lactose-free dairy products on the market today. You can also find lactase drops that can be added to dairy products and lactase tablets that can be ingested so that those with lactose intolerance can eat dairy products. Hard cheeses such as cheddar are lower in lactose. Yogurt that contains active cultures is less likely to cause lactose problems and are easier to digest.

If your child is allergic to milk, talk to your child’s doctor. If you are feeding her an infant formula, you can find soy-based or hypoallergenic formula. If your child is older, she can ingest calcium enriched rice or soy milk, or vegan products.

You can try creative tactics if your child is a finicky eater and hates the idea of dairy products. Try adding cheese to meals and snacks by adding it to an omelette, or a sandwich, or making burritos filled with the usual goodies plus cheese, or by creating mini pizzas. Your child may drink her milk if you put a little strawberry or chocolate syrup in it. Always offer non-dairy foods that are calcium enriched. Add white or red beans to a favorite soup. Serve chilli with red beans and cheese. Serve calcium-fortified breads and cereals. Cook dark green, leafy vegetables and offer with every dinner.

Some people would prefer to take a calcium pill. The American Medical Association prefers that calcium-rich foods are eaten, rather than pills. Some of the reasons they cite are that food tastes better, it is easier to remember to eat rather than to take a pill and eating food supplies many, important nutrients besides calcium. But if you would rather give your child a calcium supplement, make sure it contains vitamin D. This helps with the calcium absorption rate.

Probably the most helpful tactic in getting your child to eat enough calcium is for you to consume a lot of calcium yourself. You are the role model. After all, you can use the calcium too!

Michael Russell

Your Independent guide to Calcium []

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