If you have young children, you’ve probably told them more than a few times about the importance of getting enough milk to keep their bones healthy and strong, right? And It’s true, the calcium in milk is a key building block for healthy bones. But what if your child doesn’t like milk or is allergic to dairy? Do you know how much calcium your child needs or where it’s found other than milk?
Most elementary school kids aren’t getting nearly enough calcium, even though it’s found readily in everyday, kid-friendly foods. Being deficient as a kid can interfere with growth and increase the risk of osteoporosis as an adult – especially for girls – so calcium is one nutrient that can’t be forgotten in these pivotal early years.
HOW MUCH CALCIUM IS ENOUGH?
During childhood, the body uses calcium to build healthy bones. This process is mostly complete by the end of the teenage years, so it’s important to make sure your child is getting the recommended amount of calcium for her age. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for calcium for kids 4-8 years old is 1,000 mg daily, and that goes up to 1,300 mg per day between 9-18 years of age. For reference, one cup of milk has about 300 mg calcium and one packet of Cal-EZ contains 1,000 mg calcium.
WHY CALCIUM IS IMPORTANT
Calcium is also important for making sure muscle and nerves are working properly, and it plays a part in the release of hormones and enzymes. Without enough calcium from the diet, the body may leech calcium from the only reserve it has — your bones! Without adequate daily intake, a growing child’s bones could be more at risk of fracture, and won’t build mass and strength the way they should. When children get enough calcium during childhood and teenage years, they can start their adult lives with strong bones and a lesser risk for osteoporosis in their senior years.
Making sure your child gets enough calcium doesn’t have to be stressful or require constant monitoring, but it does need to be on your radar, especially if you have picky eaters or allergies in your house.
CALCIUM FOR PICKY EATERS AND LACTOSE-INTOLERANT KIDS
Blending one Cal-EZ packet into a smoothie is a quick, easy and discreet way to add calcium to your child’s diet. You can even freeze smoothies in popsicle molds for a summery treat that’s secretly healthy! Yogurt and cheese are also kid-friendly foods high in calcium. If your child is lactose intolerant, soy, nut and other plant-based milks are still great sources of calcium – some are even fortified to have more than dairy milk. Tofu is also a great source of calcium, and since it’s flavorless, you can season it with your family’s favorite flavors, crumble it into sauces, puree and bake into muffins or blend into smoothies.
Here’s one of my favorite kid-friendly smoothie recipes that’s dairy free and packed with calcium, protein, and fiber.
BERRY BANANA BLAST SMOOTHIE
Yield: 1 serving
½ cup fresh or frozen strawberries (or your favorite berries!)
1 small frozen banana
2 tablespoons rolled oats
1 Tbsp honey, optional
⅓ cup organic silken tofu
½ cup fortified almond milk
Directions: Blend all ingredients until smooth and enjoy!