The skeleton contains 99% of all body calcium. Adequate dietary calcium prevents the body using stored calcium from bone to maintain blood levels of calcium, keeping bones healthy and strong. The best source of calcium is dairy food ie milk, cheese and yoghurt as the lactose (milk sugar) increases the absorption of calcium. Fish with bones like tinned salmon are also a good source of calcium. For the non-milk drinker calcium-fortified soymilks are the best option. Milk and yoghurt are also a good source of low GI Carbohydrate.
Kids need 2 – 3 serves of dairy or equivalent foods a day.
A serve is – 250ml of milk, or 1-2 slices of cheese (40g), or 200g of yoghurt (a tub), or a 200ml of calcium fortified soy milk,
Other foods that provide a serve of calcium include – ½ cup of tinned salmon (with the bones), 5 sardines
Children over the age of 2 can have low fat dairy foods (not skim milk). Children under 2 need the extra energy from full fat dairy foods. Babies less than 1 year old should be having breast milk or infant formula as their main drink, not cow’s milk. However small amounts of cheese, yoghurt, custard and milk can be introduced from around 9 months old.
If your child won’t drink milk try some of the following:
Use milk in dishes (white sauce, custard) or add milk powder to pancakes, muffins, stewed fruit, mashed vegetables or soups.
Make up smoothies or milkshakes using yoghurt, milk and fruit or flavouring.
Grate cheese over vegetables, soups, or pasta.
Serve fruit salad with fruit or plain yoghurt as a dessert or snack.
Use low fat plain yoghurt as the base for dips instead of sour cream. Or offer cheese and crackers as a savoury snack.
Choose salmon with bones (mash the bones in)instead of tuna in fish cakes for increased calcium.
Children should not have soft drinks especially caffeinated/cola drinks, these cause a loss of calcium from the body. Milk and water are the best drinks for kids.