Are you concerned about whether your child is getting enough calcium in their diet? Calcium for kids can be a challenge, particularly if they are intolerant to dairy. But you can take some simple steps to boost their intake.
Let’s talk about calcium for kids
Many parents face the challenge of getting calcium into their children, especially if dairy is no longer an option. But why is it critical to get enough calcium into their diet in the first place?
Calcium is an essential mineral for the body. We all need calcium to stay healthy, but as they are growing, kids need it even more. During the younger years, the health and density of bones are built up. In fact, we hit 90% of our bone mass peak by age 20!
It’s not just the bones that rely on calcium. Muscles, skin and the nervous system function all need the right amount of calcium available. If we don’t have enough calcium, the body will pull it out of the bones to use elsewhere in the body. This can lead to osteoporosis down the track.
But calcium isn’t a mineral that works alone. It teams up with a variety of other nutrients to perform its duties, including vitamin D, vitamin K, phosphorus and magnesium.
So what does that mean for your child? Getting enough calcium is important, but we also want to ensure the supportive nutrients are in place to ensure the calcium is being absorbed and utilised properly. If your child is struggling to have enough calcium, you want to make sure these nutrients are also getting a boost to reduce the impact.
Sources of calcium in the diet
When we talk about calcium, the first option that always come to mind is dairy products. Milk, cheese, yoghurt – yes, these are all high in calcium. But they may not be the right choice for your child, depending on how they tolerate dairy and if there are underlying health concerns.
What about non-dairy options? There are still plenty out there.
One of the easiest sources of calcium is any kind of fish that has bones. The most common options are sardines and salmon. Both the flesh of the fish and the bones are sources of calcium.
Unfortunately, many parents hesitate to give their kids these types of fish as they don’t like them personally! You might like to try them mashed into salmon or sardine patties, or add some sardines into a pasta dish.
Tahini, which is made of sesame seeds, is another excellent source. This is a great one if your child doesn’t like fish. Add tahini into your sauces, dips (you’ll find it in many brands of hommus!) and your baked goods. It’s an easy one to add into homemade snacks such as bliss balls.
Green leafy veggies are packed with calcium. Now of course, many kids are unlikely to sit down and wolf down a big green salad, so we need to incorporate it into what they do like.
Add them to smoothies, blend them into sauces, dips, soups and stews. You can even add them to other cooked options – some parents love adding blended spinach to pancake mix to make ‘monster pancakes’ or pikelets! You may like to start with subtle-tasting greens like spinach and work up to adding in strong flavours like kale.
Beans are another kid-friendly option for calcium. The best is cannellini beans, but most beans contain a decent amount of calcium. You can use beans to make dips, add them into your baking, blend them into soups and stews, or simply serve some baked beans at breakfast for a fibre, protein + calcium boost!
This is not a complete list, but hopefully, it gives you some inspiration for how to increase your child’s calcium intake in an easy, achievable way.
Worried that your child isn’t getting the nutrients they need to be healthy and happy?
As an experienced paediatric naturopath, I’m here to help. Click here to learn more about the children’s health issues I work with.
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