Milk has always been a must-have in kids' diets. Nothing compares to a tall, cold glass of milk. With 15 essential nutrients, milk is a good source for the calcium and protein that kids need along with other essential growth nutrients.
Calcium is a key building block for strong, healthy bones. But most kids ages 9 to 18 don't get the recommended 800 milligrams of calcium per day. That's not surprising when you consider that many kids now drink more soda and caffeinated beverages than milk, which is one of the best sources of calcium. But at every age, from infancy to adolescence, calcium is one nutrient that kids simply can't afford to skip.
What Calcium Matters so much?
Calcium plays an important role in bone formation, muscle contraction, transmitting messages through the nerves, and the release of hormones. When kids get enough calcium and physical activity during childhood and the teen years, they can start out their adult lives with the strongest bones possible.
If blood calcium levels are low (due to poor calcium intake), calcium is taken from the bones to ensure normal cell function. Younger kids and babies with little calcium and vitamin D intake (which aids in calcium absorption) are at increased risk for rickets (a bone-softening disease that causes severe bowing of the legs, poor growth, muscle pain and weakness)
By the end of adolescence, 90% to 95% of a child’s total bone density is already built from the calcium and vitamin D they’ve consumed. That means that kids can't make up later for these key nutrients they get from dairy products like milk if they miss out on them when young. It’s critical that they drink enough milk while they’re growing.
Good Sources of Calcium
For growing kids and teens alike, nothing's better than milk. Cheese and most dairy food like yogurt, cottage cheese are rich sources of calcium. It is also found in fish, white meat, nuts like walnut, pecans, almonds and hazelnuts, different types of beans, like chick peas, kidney beans, moong beans and vegetables like broccoli. Also, it is important to provide Vitamin D as it works with calcium to build strong bones and teeth. Good sources of Vitamin D are butter, margarine, eggs and fatty fish, fortified cereals and fortified milk. It is a good idea to let your kid get enough sunlight during morning hours, so as to have appropriate vitamin D absorption and synthesis.
How much Calcium do kids need?
For optimal bone health, ICMR recommends:
•1 to 9 years old — 600 milligrams of calcium daily
•10 to 17 years old —800 milligrams of calcium daily
If you don't think your kids are getting the nutrients needed, talk to your doctor about modifying their diet or using vitamin supplements.
Minding Your Milk
Milk and other dairy products are among the best and most convenient sources of calcium you can find. But just who should get what kind of milk and when?
Infants under 2years old only be given breast milk as major source of nutrition during the first two years .For first six months, kids should be exclusively breastfed and complimentary foods should be started six months onwards.
After age 2, most kids can switch to regular milk.The good news is that all milk from skim to whole contains about the same amount of calcium per serving.
When Kids Can't or Won't Eat Dairy
Some kids can't or won't consume dairy products. Here are some ways to make sure they get enough calcium:
Kids with lactose intolerance: Kids with lactose intolerance don't have enough of the intestinal enzyme (lactase) that helps digest the sugar (lactose) in dairy products. These kids may have cramps or diarrhea after drinking milk or eating dairy products. Fortunately, low-lactose and lactose-free dairy products are available. Hard, aged cheeses (such as cheddar) are also lower in lactose, and yogurts that contain active cultures are easier to digest and much less likely to cause lactose problems.
Kids with milk allergy: The proteins in milk might cause allergic reactions in some people. Talk to your doctor if you think your child may be allergic to milk. For older kids, good alternatives to milk and milk products include calcium-enriched rice or soy milk (if soy is tolerated), vegan products (such as vegan cheese), and other soy-based (again, if soy is tolerated) or rice-based frozen desserts, sorbets, puddings. Talk to your doctor about your child’s condition and the right diet to follow.
Kicking Up the Calcium:Of course, some picky eaters just don't like the idea of dairy products. To make sure they get enough calcium, try these creative tactics.
- Put some cheese in an omelette, sandwiches, rolls or wraps, salads etc
- Create mini-pizzas by topping whole-wheat muffins or bagels with pizza sauce, low-fat mozzarella cheese and toppings like mushrooms, green peppers, tomatoes, or chunks of grilled chicken
- Make grilled cheese sandwiches or piece of cheese appealing by using cookie cutters to create hearts, stars, and favourite animal shapes
- Top vegetables (especially those that usually prompt an "Ick!" or an "Ew!") with melted low-fat cheese
- Put some creativity in regular milk by adding a touch of fruits by making fruit shakes. Steer clear of store-bought flavored milk drinks, though, which can be packed with unnecessary sugar
- For dessert or an afternoon snack:
- Serve frozen yogurt topped with fruit
- Create parfaits with layers of plain yogurt, fruit, and whole-grain cereal
- Give kids a glass of ice-cold milk to wash down a couple of favourite cookies or graham crackers