growing years of childhood, our bodies are building and rebuilding bone
daily. How much we build depends on many things, especially diet and exercise.
Calcium, a mineral found in many foods, helps the body build strong bones.
If you don't get enough calcium as a child, your bones will not become
strong enough to support you later. This can cause osteoporosis later
in life. To build strong bones, children need plenty of calcium for their
growing bodies. According to the National Academy of Sciences, infants
need up to 270 mgs of calcium per day, children ages 1-3 need 500 mgs
per day, children 4-8 need 800 mgs per day, and young people ages 9-18
need 1,300 mgs of calcium per day to build their growing bones.
Most babies and toddlers get plenty of calcium from breast milk and formula.
But after age 3, many kids don't. Most children CAN get the calcium they
need from their diet without taking a supplement. Just three cups of milk
a day provide enough calcium for children under 9. You can help your child
get calcium by serving cereal with milk for breakfast, and a cup of milk
with lunch and dinner. Another option is foods fortified with extra calcium,
like frozen waffles, cereals, and juice. Yogurt, pudding, and cheese make
great high-calcium snacks. Other healthy finger-foods are broccoli or
other vegetables with yogurt dip. Fruit smoothies made with milk, ice
cream, or frozen yogurt are a good source of calcium. And remember to
set an example for your kids in families where parents drink milk, children
tend to have higher calcium intake.
Some children may not get enough calcium from food alone. However, you
should speak to your pediatrician or pharmacist before giving supplements
Exercise is also important for healthy bones. Children who are active
stay healthier and have sronger bones throughout life than those who are
All-around good nutrition is essential for children to become as strong,
smart, and healthy as they can be in their growing years. The food guide
pyramid is an easy-to-use guide for selecting a healthy foods that fit
your family's lifestyle and tastes. Think of the five food groups: Milk,
Meat, Fruits, Vegetables, and Grains as you plan your family's diet, and
try to choose high-calcium foods from each group. Remember, your 9-12
year olds need 1300 mgs of calcium per day more than 2-3 servings of milk.
Building strong bones during childhood and adolescence may help children
and teens avoid osteoporosis later on. Parents and other caregivers can
help children understand that starting healthy habits at a young age can
make a big difference to their bones throughout life.