Statistically children and adolescents do not get the recommended amount of calcium foods in their daily diet. The consequences could be poor bone mass and risks of fractures or osteoporosis. Learning about high calcium foods such as; milk, cheese, and yogurt will help to ensure that your children are getting enough calcium in their daily diet. Children should eat 3 servings of dairy products per day and adolescents should eat 4 servings of dairy products per day or the equivalent in calcium foods.
How much calcium that children need varies by age. In general children aged 1-3 need 500 mg, children aged 4-8 need 800mg, and children aged 9-18 need 1300 mg. When reading food labels for the percent Daily Value be aware that these percentages are based on an adult requirement of 1000 mg per day. Doing the calculations is fairly easy. If the percent daily value was 40% that would be the equivalent to 400 mg of calcium. Look for foods that have a high percent daily value of at least 20%. You will find that the percentages vary among different foods and even brands of foods. A few examples of calcium rich foods are:
Milk: low fat, non fat, or whole
Yogurt: plain or fruit
Cheeses: American, ricotta, cheddar, and mozzarella
Cheeses are good examples of calcium foods where the percent daily values vary. Be sure to check the food label for cheeses with high calcium content and foods that are made with calcium rich foods as ingredients. For example: nachos, pudding, and macaroni and cheese.
Some children have allergies to milk which makes finding calcium foods more challenging. The following non dairy foods are good sources of calcium for children who have milk allergies.
In the event that you have a fussy child that doesn’t like drinking milk there are other choices. Many foods are now fortified with calcium. Read the labels looking for the words calcium fortified. A few good choices are:
Calcium fortified orange juice
Calcium fortified soy milk
Calcium fortified cereals with 100% daily value of calcium per serving: GM Whole Grain Total, Total Raisin Bran, and Total Honey Clusters
Calcium fortified English muffins and bread
Calcium fortified Instant Breakfast Drinks
There are numerous choices in calcium foods available even for the fussy eater. Try mixing it up a bit by making grilled cheese with calcium fortified bread. Or breakfast cereal with calcium fortified soy milk. Aside from getting enough calcium in your child’s diet exercise is also needed for healthy bone development.