Childhood Bone Health
A majority of your child’s lifelong bone health depends on how much calcium and vitamin D they get now. Not getting enough calcium and vitamin D during childhood can lead to weak bones, fractures, and even osteoporosis later in life.
Why Vitamin D?
Calcium alone isn’t enough to build strong bones, especially without the help of Vitamin D. Vitamin D is important because it helps the calcium that your child eats go straight to their bones, but many children don’t get enough of it. It isn’t found in many foods naturally, so making sure that your child gets enough Vitamin D-fortified milk ensures that their bones will be strong later in life. Vitamin D is also found in egg yolks, fatty fish, fortified juices, and cereals.
What if my child is lactose intolerant?
It’s not uncommon for children to have trouble digesting milk, and many people become lactose intolerant as they get older. However, this doesn’t mean that your child can’t eat anything with milk or dairy. Cutting out dairy products from your child’s diet might mean that they won’t get enough calcium or vitamin D, so it’s worth it to include dairy in your child’s diet, if possible. Many people who are lactose intolerant can enjoy certain dairy products without side effects, depending on what works for them. Here are some examples of things you can try with your child to reduce the side effects of lactose intolerance:
- Instead of drinking milk by itself, have it alongside other foods at a meal or snack.
- Drink lactose-free milk, such as Lactaid, which has the same amount of calcium and Vitamin D as regular milk. You can also try fortified soy milk if your child likes the taste.
- Yogurt and hard cheeses, such as parmasean and sharp cheddar, have a lower amount of lactose than a glass of milk. Try serving a yogurt parfait at breakfast or making a grilled cheese sandwich with cheddar cheese for your child.
How much is enough?
It’s important to know what your child’s calcium needs are to build strong bones.
Kids 4-8 years old typically need 1000 mg of calcium per day, which is equivalent to about 3 glasses of milk, or 2-3 servings of other dairy per day.
Kids and teens ages 9-18 need 1300 mg of calcium per day, which is equivalent to about 4 glasses of milk, or 4 servings of other dairy per day.
Check out this recipe, "Crunchy Fish Tacos" attached below from the National Dairy Council. Each serving has over 300 mg of calcium, making it a rich source of calcium for you and your family.