Calcium Can Give Your Child a Healthy Smile

Pediatric Dentistry for Avon, Connecticut

Calcium Helps Build Strong Teeth and Bones

Getting enough calcium is crucial for children. Calcium helps build strong teeth and bones, promotes nerve and muscle function, helps blood clot, and helps the body convert food into energy.

Approximately 99 percent of the calcium in the human body is stored in teeth and bones. Since children are continually growing, they need a consistent supply of calcium from their diet.

The recommended amount of calcium depends on your child's age. For a child 1 to 3 years old, the recommended amount is 700 milligrams per day. A child 4 to 8 years old should get 1,000 milligrams per day. Your child doesn't necessarily need to get that much every day, but you should try to make it average out to that amount over the course of a week.

Dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, and cheese, are rich in calcium. Other good sources are tofu, blackstrap molasses, fruit yogurt, frozen yogurt, whole grain bread, homemade pudding (from mix or scratch), collard greens, turnip greens, spinach, tahini (sesame seed butter), and calcium-fortified orange juice, cereal, and soy beverages.

Dietary fat in dairy products is important for young children. Kids younger than 2 need to get half of their calories from fat to promote healthy growth and brain development, so you should give a child under 2 full-fat dairy products. Children over 2 should eat and drink low-fat or non-fat dairy products to stay at a healthy weight.

Many children do not get the recommended amount of calcium because they drink juice and other non-dairy beverages instead of milk.

Here are some simple ways to work more calcium into your child's diet:

  • Use milk instead of water to prepare hot cereal and hot cocoa.
  • Use evaporated milk instead of regular milk in recipes. Evaporated milk has twice as much calcium as regular milk.
  • Add yogurt to fruit salad.
  • Add non-fat milk powder to pancake batter, sauces, and smoothies.
  • Add cheese to vegetables, sauces, and mashed potatoes.
  • Serve calcium-fortified juice, bread, and cereal.
  • Be sure that your child gets 600 international units (IU) of vitamin D per day to help with calcium absorption.

Kids 1 to 8 years old should not get more than 2,500 mg of calcium per day. That is roughly equal to eight 8-ounce glasses of milk. If your child drinks a lot of milk, be sure that he or she is not getting too many calories from milk or filling up on milk and not eating enough healthy foods. It is unlikely that your child will get too much calcium from food and drinks alone, but excess calcium supplements can lead to problems such as kidney stones or constipation.

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David Epstein
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18 Dec 2018 12:50 PM