How can I make sure that my children are getting the calcium they need?
Q: My kids won’t drink milk, and I can’t stand drinking it myself — should I worry about the amount of calcium we’re getting?
Milk is an easy way to get calcium, but it is certainly not the only way. All dairy foods contain calcium, and many kids enjoy eating yogurt and string cheese. Broccoli and kale are also good sources (if your child will eat them), as are almonds.
Whenever possible, substitute foods your kids already eat with calcium-fortified versions. For example, there are calcium-fortified waffles and orange juice. For children ages 1 to 3, aim for 500 mg calcium per day, which equates to about 2 servings of calcium-rich foods per day. Kids 4 to 8 years old require 800 mg, or 3 daily servings of calcium-rich foods. Older children and teens (ages 9 to 18) need 1300 mg per day, which equates to about 4 servings of calcium-rich foods per day.
If your children are consistently falling short on calcium, you can always try one of the candy-flavored calcium chews. My experience has shown that most kids don’t like the chocolate flavors that adults are drawn to — they may eat them for a couple days, but then the appeal wears off. Instead, choose one of the other flavors, such as caramel or fruity flavors. (Always be careful to store the supplements where your children can’t get them: If they think of them as candy, you can bet they’ll be looking for opportunities to grab extras, and too much calcium can be dangerous.)
Another way to slip some calcium and vitamin D into your kids’ diets is to buy a pill crusher at your local pharmacy and mix one crushed calcium pill into a yogurt, low-fat pudding, or other soft foods.
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