For growing children and teens, getting enough calcium is crucial to building bone mass, which may help guard against osteoporosis and fractures later in life. But by age 12, fewer than 1 in 10 girls and 1 in 3 boys get adequate daily calcium: 700 mg for children ages 1 to 3; 1,000 mg for ages 4 to 8; and 1,300 mg — equal to about 4 cups of milk — for ages 9 to 18. Here are a dozen kid-friendly ways to get calcium into your child’s daily diet.
Dairy Go-round: Milk, Cheese, and Yogurt
According to Ellie Krieger, a registered dietitian, mother, and authority on healthy eating for Everyday Health, “Small amounts of calcium in other foods build up.” But for the majority of us, dairy foods provide the true calcium dose. About the same amount of calcium is present in one cup of cow’s milk as it is in one cup of yogurt, one and a half ounces of natural cheese, or two ounces of processed cheese. Switch to nonfat and low-fat dairy products for kids 2 and older. And when it comes to flavors, Krieger asserts that drinking plain milk is preferable to drinking none at all.
Soy Good: Calcium-Fortified Soymilk
What if your child refuses or is unable to consume cow’s milk? Many foods, including milk, cheese, and yogurt made from soybeans, have calcium added to them. Only 10 mg of calcium are present in a cup of soymilk without calcium supplements, and the body has trouble absorbing this calcium. However, soymilk and other soy products that have been fortified with calcium can contain as much calcium as cow’s milk. As with dairy products, use soy products: Add to cereal, include in a lunch, or offer as a snack.
Get a Calcium Boost With Orange Juice
Each cup of fortified orange juice contains up to 500 milligrams of calcium. However, calcium amount differs amongst orange juice varieties, so carefully study nutrition labels. The % “daily value” that is indicated on labels is based on the requirements of individuals up to the age of 50 and is 1,000 mg. Depending on their age, children and teenagers require 500 to 1,300 mg per day. Krieger suggests fresh oranges in addition to fortified orange juice because they individually naturally contain about 50 mg of calcium.
Toss in Some Tofu
Advanced label-reading abilities are necessary to get the most calcium from tofu. This is so that the calcium content of tofu might vary depending on how it was made. In conclusion, tofu manufactured with calcium sulfate has a higher calcium content than tofu prepared with nigari, or magnesium chloride. According to Krieger, the best part of preparing tofu for kids is that “it tastes like whatever you put on it or sauté it in.” She suggests adding some to a stir-fry by itself or with chicken, or cutting your child’s preferred flavor of tofu into sticks for a fun finger meal.
The Calcium Power of Fish Bones
The bones in canned salmon are made easier to digest by the processing; the bones are what contain the calcium. About 180 mg of calcium can be found in a 3-ounce portion of pink salmon, including the bones. This is about two-thirds the calcium in a cup of milk. Making fish bones appealing to a child is difficult. To make the salmon’s bones less obvious, first mash the fish. Then, substitute canned salmon for tuna in casseroles or use it in fish cakes in place of crab.
Munchable, Spreadable Calcium Source
According to Krieger, almonds have a very high quantity of calcium; a third of a cup, which he refers to as a reasonable serving, has roughly 110 mg. For your children’s sandwiches, Krieger advises substituting almond butter for peanut butter and adding unsalted or low-salt almonds to trail mix snacks along with dried fruit. Almonds can also be added to salads, breakfast porridge, or just given to kids by the handful.
Tempting Treats With Calcium
A cup of cooked sweet potatoes has roughly 76 mg of calcium per serving, compared to about 55 mg per sweet potato. Other minerals are abundant in sweet potatoes as well, and adding cheese or yogurt will increase their calcium content and pique a child’s interest in eating them. Cut potatoes into sticks, toss in olive oil, roast in the oven, and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese; bake a sweet potato with the skin on and top it with low-fat yogurt or shredded cheddar; boil and mash potatoes and top with butter and cheese. (A note about yams: They only provide 19 mg of calcium per cup, so if you’re wanting to increase the kids’ calcium intake, make sure you serve them sweet potatoes instead of yams.)
Calcium’s Better in Beans
About 130 mg of calcium are present in one cup of dried, tiny, boiling white beans, which is about as much as in one cup of milk. White beans in cans have roughly 190 milligrams per cup. About 80 mg are included in a cup of canned chickpeas, commonly known as garbanzo beans. Both kinds of beans can be blended or mashed into kid-friendly spreads and dips using a food processor. Try the classic hummus with lemon and garlic with chickpeas (go light on the garlic for picky kids). Alternately, puree white beans and put them on toast with roasted garlic, a splash of olive oil, salt, and pepper.
Dip Broccoli Trees in Yogurt
Broccoli contains a significant amount of calcium, but you may have a hard time persuading your child to eat 2 1/4 cups of cooked broccoli or about five raw stalks to get the calcium provided by a cup of milk. Yogurt, on the other hand, contains about the same amount of calcium as milk. Double up on calcium content by pairing blanched or raw broccoli “trees” with a simple dip made from yogurt mixed with herbs (chives, cilantro), spices (curry, chili powder), or fruits and vegetables (cucumber, apple).
Green Peas, Please
Each cup of green peas contains roughly 45 milligrams of calcium. But in another way, they might also support better bone health: Vitamin K is abundant in green peas, and some research suggests that taking vitamin K supplements may improve bone strength and mineral density. In addition, green peas contain many other elements besides calcium. They are a great source of protein, vitamins C and A, and, like broccoli, can be eaten with a dairy item to increase calcium intake. Make low-fat milk “creamed” peas or combine peas with spaghetti and a creamy white sauce.
Added Attraction: Calcium-Fortified Cereals
Some ready-to-eat breakfast cereals are fortified with as much as 1,000 mg of calcium in each 1 1/3–cup serving. Add a cup of milk and your teen will get all the calcium he or she needs for the day. Fortified foods are a handy way to get vitamins and minerals into your child’s diet, says Krieger. To add calcium to hot cereals, cook them in cow’s milk or fortified soymilk instead of water.
Waffles With Calcium: An Easy Breakfast
Your children adore the frozen waffles you already use. However, reading nutrition labels attentively pays off once more. Although not all frozen waffles are fortified, those that do can deliver about 100 mg of calcium per waffle. In order to get more nourishment, Krieger advises choosing whole-grain varieties. Try topping your children’s waffles with low-fat or nonfat yogurt combined with a dollop of jam or their preferred slice of fresh fruit to increase the calcium content.
Most adults and children should take at least 3 cups of fat-free or low-fat milk per day, or similar amounts of yogurt or cheese, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005. This relies on consuming 2,000 calories and is combined with a balanced diet. Two glasses per day are required for children ages two to eight.
The USDA’s most recent food pyramid, MyPyramid, demonstrates that foods from all food groups should be consumed everyday for good health and features milk as the blue band.
For the majority of Americans, increasing their intake of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and low-fat or fat-free milk products has significant health benefits. Diets including dairy products typically have a greater level of total nutrients.
If you cannot or do not want to drink milk, consider lactose-free or lactose-reduced products, or consume other calcium-rich meals. Additional calcium-rich foods and beverages are calcium-fortified meals and beverages, soy products like tempeh, nuts, fruits, vegetables, dry beans, and some leafy greens. These foods have varying amounts of calcium that the body can absorb.
The health of your bones depends on eating a calcium-rich diet that includes milk and dairy products. In order to develop their maximal bone mass, which is attained by the age of 20, children and adolescents need calcium. The National Osteoporosis Foundation states that the best prevention for developing osteoporosis, or brittle bone disease, later in life is establishing strong bones during childhood and adolescence. Additionally, bone mass needs to be preserved as we age.
Foods in the Milk Group
The milk category comprises all fluid milk products as well as dairy-based meals like yogurt and cheese that still contain calcium.
Milk: all types of liquid milk, including lactose-reduced and lactose-free varieties as well as fat-free (skim), low-fat (1%), reduced-fat (2%) and whole milk.
Desserts having a milk foundation include milk puddings, frozen yogurt, ice cream, and ice milk.
Cheddar, mozzarella, Swiss, and parmesan are examples of hard natural cheeses. Ricotta and cottage cheese are examples of soft cheeses (American).
Yogurt: all types of yogurt, including whole milk, low-fat, and reduced-fat varieties.
Notably, this food group does not include cream, cream cheese, and butter because they either contain little or no calcium.