Calcium-Rich Foods Can Do a Child's Body Good

Calcium is essential for building strong and healthy bones. Yet despite those essential health benefits, studies show that the majority of children today don't get enough calcium-rich foods on a regular basis.

The Need for Calcium

Whatever your child's age and stage, you need to be aware of her calcium needs for healthy bones and teeth. It's never too soon to start getting enough calcium to prevent osteoporosis, a degenerative bone disease that affects people later in life (women are particularly at risk for this condition).

Exactly how much calcium your child needs will vary by age (note: babies shouldn't consume whole-milk products until they reach their first birthday). The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests that children eat three servings of dairy products each day (four per day for adolescents). For children age two and older, the AAP recommends skim milk, low-fat yogurt, and other low-fat products so your child will get the calcium benefits without excessive calories.

The AAP also recommends that all kids get 400 IU of vitamin D every day. This nutrient is essential to help their bodies absorb calcium and maintain optimum bone health. (You may want to discuss this with your pediatrician, as most children need to take Vitamin D supplements in order to reach this goal.)

Kid-Friendly Calcium-Rich Foods

Here are some delicious ways to incorporate calcium foods into your child's meals and snacks:

  • Add cheese into scrambled eggs and omelets.
  • Pack small cheddar cheese slices or string cheese as a snack.
  • Include Swiss or provolone cheese on a ham, turkey, or roast beef sandwich.
  • Sprinkle low-fat mozzarella cheese on a mini bagel with sauce for do-it-yourself pizza.
  • Make grilled cheese with wheat bread and low-fat American cheese.
  • Melt low-fat shredded mozzarella cheese over pasta and sauce.
  • Spread cream cheese on a multi-grain bagel or celery sticks.
  • Serve strawberry low-fat yogurt with whole grain cereal sprinkled on top or decorate low-fat frozen yogurt with fresh fruit for healthy summer desserts.
  • Add a dab of chocolate syrup to plain low-fat milk.
  • Offer calcium-fortified orange juice and bread.
  • Serve broccoli and other dark green leafy vegetables on a regular basis.

A Word of Warning

If you have an older child who drinks soda or may be experimenting with tobacco and alcohol, you should know that in addition to the other dangers they pose, these substances can also reduce the absorption of calcium and can put her at increased risk for bone problems later.

Also keep in mind that while getting your calcium from whole foods is always best, if you don't think your child is getting enough on her own, talk to your doctor about using vitamins or supplements to ensure she gets what she needs.


American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)/Healthy Children

Kids Health/Nemours

Milk Matters Campaign