Ever wonder if your child is getting enough calcium? Kids need plenty of calcium to sustain the rapid growth of bones and teeth. It’s also important for muscle and brain function. Between the ages of 1 to 12 kids need between 800- 1300mg of calcium a day. A cup of milk contains about 300mg of the good stuff.
Calcium can be found in dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt, but these aren’t the only sources – or the best sources for that matter. Lactose intolerance and the possible hormones in milk might be a deterrent for some. Vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts and seeds all contain calcium. Dark-green leafy vegetables like broccoli and kale are good sources, as well as asparagus and sea vegetables such as kelp. Dried fruits like figs, dates and raisins are also high in calcium. Unlike leafy greens, kids are usually quite happy eating almonds and raisins as a snack. High concentrations can also be found in sesame seeds. Hummus (a spread made with tahini and chickpeas) is very easy to prepare and packed with calcium. It makes a great dip that kids love.
Back home most soy milks are fortified with calcium and vitamin D. Vitamin D is important because it facilitates the absorption of calcium when consumed together. Unfortunately local brands of soymilk don’t have added calcium, so be sure to check the label. If it’s not fortified one cup of soymilk has about 80mg of calcium.
If your child isn’t a picky eater, sardines with the bone are an excellent source. A can of sardines has about 300mg of calcium. If your little one won’t touch a sardine with a 10ft pole, then yogurt is another great option. An 8oz. (225g) serving of plain yogurt has over 400mg of calcium! Mixed with fruit, muesli, and a drizzle of maple syrup, it makes a very nutritious and delicious breakfast.
If you give your child a multivitamin be aware that different brands have different quantities, and some don’t even have calcium. But on average, kids multi’s will have between 100 to 200mg of calcium. It isn’t enough on its own but it might just be a great top up, added insurance if you will.
In essence it’s important to get calcium from many different sources, especially because some are better absorbed than others. If your child has a varied diet then you can rest easy because more than likely than not, they’re getting all the calcium they need.
Dr. Melissa Rodriguez is a Naturopathic doctor who lives with her family in Beijing.