Calcium is a vital mineral for a child's growth and development. It is essential for building healthy bones and teeth, and plays an important role in muscle and nerve function, blood clotting, and hormone release.
Children at 1-3 years old need to consume 500mg of calcium per day.
Calcium absorption begins to decrease naturally in early adulthood, so we need to ensure that our children get plenty of calcium in their younger years in order to enter adulthood with the strongest bones possible. If a child doesn't consume enough calcium to build their bones to their maximum potential by adulthood, then they are at greater risk of developing the bone disease, osteoporosis.
Our bodies like to maintain a fairly strict level of calcium in the blood to ensure normal cell function. If we aren't maintaining this level of calcium from our diets, our bodies will leech it from bones which in turn weakens them.
Vitamin D also plays an important part in bone health, as it helps the body to absorb dietary calcium. The main source of vitamin D is simply exposure to sunlight. Most people get enough sunlight during typical daily activities to meet their vitamin D requirements.
Dairy is the most commonly recommended source of calcium for children. Dairy products are very high in calcium and are easy to incorporate into a child's diet.
There are many children who cannot consume dairy products due to lactose intolerance, or because they are being raised on a vegan diet. Some children simply do not enjoy dairy products.
Luckily there are plenty of healthy, calcium-rich foods that can contribute to your toddler's bone health. We will take a look at some of them, as well as some ideas for incorporating them into your toddler's diet.
Dairy products are foods produced from the milk of mammals. Dairy products include milk, cream, butter, yoghurt and cheese.
The calcium levels present in various dairy products are:
- 1 cup of milk (300mg calcium)
- 1 slice of cheddar cheese (202mg calcium)
- 100g of greek yoghurt (110mg calcium)
Some ideas for serving your toddler these dairy products are:
- Grating cheese onto their vegetables
- Using greek yoghurt as a dipping sauce
- Adding greek yoghurt to their cereals
Take a look at some of these recipe ideas using calcium-rich dairy products:
One ounce (28.4g) of almonds contains 75mg of calcium. These delicious nuts are a fantastic source of calcium for your toddler. Just make sure you serve them chopped up to avoid choking hazards.
Some ways of serving almonds are:
- Chopped up and added to cereals
- Mixed into greek yoghurt with berries and fruits
- Ground into almond butter and spread on toast/sandwiches.
Take a look at these recipes containing calcium-rich almonds:
Dark leafy greens
Dark leafy greens such as broccoli, spinach, kale, kelp, and bok choy.
The calcium levels in these vegetables are:
- Broccoli, 100g (47mg of calcium)
- Spinach, 100g (99mg of calcium)
- Kale, 100g (150mg of calcium)
- Kelp, 100g (168mg of calcium)
- Bok choy, 100g (105mg of calcium)
Some ideas for serving them are:
- Finely chop broccoli and add to salads or wraps
- Add spinach to scrambled eggs
- Blend kale and kelp into delicious smoothies
- Add chopped bok choy to stir fries and fried rice.
Take a look at some of these recipe ideas containing calcium-rich green vegetables:
It is important to note that the body doesn't absorb calcium from dark leafy greens as efficiently as it does from dairy products. If you intend to get all your daily calcium requirements from dark leafy greens, I suggest you talk it over with your GP.
Calcium fortified products
Extra calcium is sometimes added to certain food products, including some breads, cereals, soy milks and tofu. These are great options for toddlers who are unable to have dairy, but remember to check ingredients lists on all packaged food items to ensure that they don't contain artificial ingredients or excessive salt and sugar.
FISHED CANNED WITH THEIR BONES
Fish such as canned salmon and sardines are a fantastic source of calcium, because they contain bones that are tiny and soft enough to eat. They are also naturally rich in vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium. This makes canned fish a very potent calcium source.