CalciumFood surveys by the USDA show that as much as 60 percent of boys and 70 percent percent of girls between the ages of 6 and 11 fall short of the recommended daily calcium intake. What's worse is that these numbers are likely to increase since milk -- the primary source of calcium for most children -- is steadily losing dietary ground to soda and fruit-flavored beverages. Despite the appeal of milk-mustached celebrities, children haven't "got milk." Nor do they have much of other calcium-rich foods such as green leafy vegetables, yogurt, and calcium-fortified orange juice and cereals.
The importance of calcium for growing bones should not be underestimated. "A person can only build up the integrity of their bones with good nutrition until about age twenty. After that it's too late," says Carol Coughlin, a registered dietitian and author of Good News About Good Food. "That's why we say that osteoporosis is a pediatric disease with geriatric consequences." For optimal bone growth, and healthy teeth and muscle function, children ages 4 to 8 need 800 mg of calcium daily; ages 9 to 14 need 1,200 mg daily.
Best calcium sources:
- 1 cup cooked collard greens: 357 mg
- 8 ounces milk: 300 mg
- 8 ounces calcium-fortified orange juice: 300 mg
- 1 ounce sesame seeds: 280 mg
- 1 ounce part-skim mozzarella: 210 mg
- 1 cup cooked kale: 180 mg