Calcium intake is so important for children.  During these years bone growth and development is taking place.  In order for bone growth to occur kids need to take in calcium from their diets. Also important is adequate Vitamin D, a hormone which promotes calcium absorption. During the first year of life babies get most of their nutrition from milk, and so their calcium needs are easily met.  At around one year, as babies become toddlers, their nutritional needs become met more by solid food and less by milk.  If milk intake is too low, and kids have a restricted diet, some children may not be able to meet their calcium requirements.   According to the American Academy of Pediatrics the average daily consumption of calcium in children and adolescents in the U.S. is far less than the daily requirements. In kids from 1-2 years about 80% of kids are meeting their calcium requirements

Calcium Requirements for Children

During the adolescent years calcium needs are even higher as puberty brings on rapid bone growth and mineralization.  Adolescents may not be getting calcium needs especially if their intake of dairy products lessens and they more processed foods. When reading food labels note, that the Percentage of Daily Requirement or “Recommended Daily Allowance” (RDA) for Calcium reflects a daily intake of 1000mg which is the adult requirements.  Since adolescents need more than 1000mg, the percentages are actually lower than reported for an adult. For example, a food with 300 mg calcium may be reported as “30% RDA”, but will actually be only 23% RDA for an adolescent.  Note that lowfat milk, which is usually recommended for children after the age of 2 has the same amount of calcium as whole milk.

If children do not consume a large amount of dairy products, fortified food items are a great idea.  A cup of fortified orange juice, for example contains almost the same amount of calcium as a cup of milk.  Knowing what foods naturally have higher calcium and making those foods are regular part of the diet can be very helpful. Calcium in dark green vegetable tends to have better absorption than calcium in dairy foods.  Vitamin supplements may also be another way to get some calcium, but be careful when choosing a supplement and read labels carefully.  Not all multivitamins include calcium, and even those Children’s vitamins that boast that they have added calcium may have 100-200 mg at best.  Vitamins are a great way to supplement what it being offered in the diet, but parents should not rely on these as the sole source of calcium.

Dietary Sources of Calcium

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