How to Make Sure Your Child Gets Enough Calcium

Feb 01, 2024
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Calcium is an essential mineral for bone health and other critical body functions. So, how can you be sure your child gets what they need? Keep reading to learn more about calcium and how to ensure your child gets enough.

You know your child needs calcium for healthy bones, but how much do they need, and how can you tell if they’re getting enough? At The Center for Advanced Pediatrics in Darien and Norwalk, Connecticut, our board-certified pediatric providers can answer these questions.

It’s best to schedule an appointment for personalized nutrition guidance. In the meantime, here’s a quick look at what you need to know about children and calcium and how to ensure your child gets enough of this essential mineral.   

What you need to know about calcium

Calcium is a mineral that helps your child build strong bones. Getting enough calcium during their growing years means your child enters adulthood with a strong skeletal system. 

Calcium also plays an essential role in heart health, muscle function, and the nervous system. This makes it even more important that your child gets enough of this mineral in their diet. 

Humans need vitamin D to absorb as much calcium as possible. Your body makes vitamin D when you expose your skin to sunlight; weight-bearing exercise (e.g., running or jumping) also increases vitamin D levels. 

In other words, in addition to ensuring your child takes in enough calcium, you’ll also want to pay attention to their vitamin D levels and physical activity so that their body can absorb as much calcium as possible.  

How much calcium do growing children need?

Your child’s calcium needs change as they grow. The older your child gets, the more calcium they require. Here’s a quick look at calcium needs in the key growth stages:

  • Infants (ages 0-6 months): 200 mg per day 
  • Babies (ages 6-12 months): 260 mg per day 
  • Toddlers (ages 1-3 years): 700 mg per day
  • School-age (ages 4- 8 years): 800 mg per day
  • Older kids and teens (ages 9-18 years): 1300 mg per day

Be sure to talk to your provider about your child’s specific needs.   

Healthy sources of calcium for your child

Dairy products contain calcium, with one serving of dairy containing 200 mg of calcium, so they’re an easy way to ensure your child consumes calcium. However, dairy products aren’t the only way for your child to meet this nutritional requirement. 

Other sources of calcium have the same or higher absorption rates compared to milk, and they come with vitamins and other key nutrients, including fiber. Some examples include:

  • Firm tofu (500-750 mg calcium per serving)
  • Non-dairy milk (300-450 mg calcium per serving)
  • Whole almonds (385 mg calcium per serving)
  • Calcium-fortified orange juice (350 mg calcium per serving)
  • Beans and legumes (50-100 mg calcium per serving)
  • Cooked greens (e.g., spinach) (100-250 mg calcium per serving)
  • Calcium-fortified cereals (250-100 mg calcium per serving)
  • Sesame seeds (280 mg calcium per serving)

These are good sources of calcium if your family avoids dairy, your child is lactose intolerant, or your child has a dairy allergy.  

Tips to make sure your child gets enough calcium

The best way to ensure your child gets enough calcium is by providing a well-balanced diet from different sources and being a role model by eating the same nutritious diet. 

Make healthy food fun by ensuring it tastes great. For example, you can make fruit smoothies with dairy or nondairy milk for a sweet treat with a calcium boost. 

Involve your child in healthy food choices by asking them to help. Even the youngest kiddo can sprinkle hard cheese on top of salads, cooked greens, or bean soups for double servings of calcium.  

Another way to sneak in more calcium is using almond butter instead of peanut butter. And at snack time, try serving up diced tofu, whole almonds, or seeds. 

Finally, encourage your child to eat more dark, leafy greens, and try serving veggie stir-fry with tofu or adding tofu to salads and soups at least a few times a week for a calcium boost. 

Nutritional support from your pediatrician

At The Center for Advanced Pediatrics, our team specializes in helping parents understand their child’s unique nutritional needs. 

Your child’s provider helps you understand how nutritional needs change over time, how you can address picky eating or food allergies, and the impact of food choices on your child's overall health and development.  

Some children may benefit from a calcium supplement or multivitamin because of underlying health conditions or dietary issues. Be sure to talk with our pediatricians first because we can guide you on:

  • Whether a supplement is right for your child
  • The right type and dose of supplement to give your child
  • Any possible interaction with other medications or conditions

For tailored advice on your child’s calcium needs, schedule an appointment online or over the phone at The Center for Advanced Pediatrics Connecticut location nearest you.