3 Top Questions Parents Have About Calcium for Kids
Calcium builds strong bones. We get it.
For kids, however, getting enough calcium is critical because their bones are developing and getting enough early in life helps protect them from bone loss as they age. In addition, calcium (and vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium) can help prevent Rickets, which is a disease that softens bones and can lead to stunted growth among other problems.
How much calcium does my child need?
Depending on your child’s age, their calcium requirements will vary. Getting enough is especially important when children are growing the fastest, which is normally between the ages of 9 to 18. Here is a breakdown by age based on the American Academy of Pediatrics website. Please note that the only milk babies should have is breastmilk or formula. Cow’s milk should not be given to children until they are one year of age.
- Babies under 6 months: 200 mg
- Babies 6-11 months: 260 mg
- Children 1-3 years of age: 700 mg
- Children 4-8 years of age: 1000 mg
- Children 9-18 years of age: 1300 mg
These numbers may sound like a lot, but in actuality, the numbers add up pretty quickly. Just six ounces of yogurt, which is the normal size of a small container, provides 300 mg of calcium. One glass of milk delivers 300 mg as well. Can’t do dairy? One cup of kale provides 245 mg.
My child doesn’t like milk. Should I let them drink chocolate milk instead?
Chocolate milk is super yummy, but the reason it tastes so good is because it is full of sugar. That said, chocolate milk does help get kids to their daily requirement (ice cream does too). Does that mean they should drink 3 glasses of chocolate milk per day instead of plain milk? No. Instead, serve them chocolate milk in the morning with breakfast, with dinner or as a snack. Moderation is key and if you can help your child get ⅓ or more of their daily requirement of calcium with a glass of chocolate milk, go for it!
My child cannot eat dairy. What else can we do to provide them with enough calcium?
Cheese, especially hard cheeses like cheddar and yogurt are excellent sources. But what happens if your child cannot or will not consume dairy products? Thankfully, there are many alternative foods that provide plenty of calcium. Here are some to consider:
- Dark leafy greens such as kale and spinach
- Beans (white beans, red beans, and chickpeas)
- Almonds and sesame seeds
Should my child take a calcium supplement?
Kids should get their required amount of calcium through a healthy and varied diet. If this isn’t possible, talk to their pediatrician about whether they should take supplements. Sometimes taking calcium carbonate or citrate supplements are the best option.
If you have concerns that your child isn’t getting enough calcium, schedule an appointment with their pediatric provider. They can provide healthy options to get them back on track.