Calcium is vital for bone development and proper growth in your child. But many kids do not get adequate amounts of calcium on a daily basis. Will calcium supplements for kids help this problem, or is there another way?
Calcium needs in children
Kids 1-3 years old need 700 mg of calcium each day. Between 4 to 8 years old they need 1,000 mg a day, and that increases to 1,300 mg a day for kids between the ages of 9 and 18.
Calcium supplements for kids
Unfortunately, many kids are not meeting their needs when it comes to calcium. Whether it’s because they are just not big eaters, or don’t eat a lot of high-calcium foods, the reasons can run the gamut. Often times parents immediately turn to supplements to help. In this case, though, the research unfortunately does not support the efficacy of calcium supplements for kids.
Most reviews show little effect of calcium supplements on bone density in children, which is a primary outcome that we are looking for. Not to mention that calcium supplementation without adequate vitamin D stores doesn’t help your child actually absorb the calcium, either. We also know that in adults, calcium supplementation can actually have negative effects on health in many instances. In other words, supplements are not always going to be the best option to turn to first! As a dietitian, I will always recommend focusing on foods, first and foremost!
Sources of calcium for children
Most people know that dairy is a good source of calcium. And it’s true, one 8oz glass of cow’s milk can provide around 300mg of calcium. That’s almost half of a 1-3 year olds needs! But what happens if your child doesn’t really drink milk?
Other forms of dairy are also great sources of calcium, like cheeses and yogurt. But there are many other sources too! Dark leafy greens and broccoli both have good amounts of calcium in them. Tofu and almonds are also good options.
For a full list of the top food sources of calcium, as well as all the other important nutrients your young child needs, check out the Grow Baby Grow ebook. It walks you through all of the foods you can introduce to your child’s diet to help them meet their needs.
My child won’t eat any of the calcium-rich foods
Eating is a process, and new foods take time to learn. So if you are just starting to introduce these foods to your child, don’t give up and be patient! Sometimes it takes consistent exposure for children to eat something!
If you have a very selective eater, or one with a medical concern affecting their appetite, then it might be worth considering supplementation. Prior to supplementing, I always recommend working one on one with a dietitian to help evaluate your child’s specific diets and needs. This tailors things to your child, and ensures that they are getting just the amount that they need and no more or less. Many doctors, at least here in the states, can refer you to dietitians for medical reasons which insurance will cover.
Bottom line with calcium supplements for kids
I am by no means anti-supplements. They have a time and a place. But for most of us, working on exposing our children to adequate calcium-rich food options is the best way to go. Food is going to work best to help with calcium levels, and has so many other added benefits, too!