Calcium Supplements for Kids

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Are your kids getting enough calcium in their diet? We all know that calcium is important for building strong bones, but we don't always know how to ensure our kids are getting enough in their diet.

Calcium Requirements

Parents are often surprised by how much calcium their kids actually need each day. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children who are:

  • 1-3 years old get 700 mg per day (about two cups of milk)
  • 4-8 years old get 1,000 mg per day (about three cups of milk)
  • 9-18 years old get 1,300 mg per day (about four cups of milk)

Unfortunately, most children, especially teens, often get much less than their recommended daily calcium requirements.

Calcium-Rich Foods

Like most other vitamins and minerals, children are best off getting their nutrition from the foods that they eat and drink, including calcium-rich foods such as milk, cheese, and yogurt.

In addition to milk, cheese, and yogurt, children can also get calcium from nondairy foods, such as canned salmon, tofu, collard greens, and broccoli. In addition, many foods like cereals, bread, and orange juice are fortified with extra calcium.

Many kids don't drink enough milk though, choosing to drink juice and soda instead. In addition to extra sugar and calories, these drinks don't have any nutritional benefits and take the place of drinks that do.

Choosing a Calcium Supplement

If your kids aren't getting enough calcium in their diet, you may need to give them a calcium supplement each day. Choosing a calcium supplement can be confusing though, as there are many different products that are available, including calcium carbonate, calcium gluconate, liquid calcium, and more.

Adding to the confusion, most nutrition labels don't include the amount of elemental calcium the supplement contains, which is what the daily recommendations include, and they don't always include the percent of the daily value (%DV) based on the AAP recommendations. The %DV on these supplements is typically based on a daily requirement of 1,000 mg instead.

Unfortunately, many children's "complete" multivitamins that claim to have calcium in them don't actually contain very much calcium and definitely don't have enough to meet your child's daily needs. This fact confuses parents even more.

For example, one popular brand of children's multivitamin that touts itself as being an "excellent source of calcium," actually only has 200 mg of calcium, which is less than an 8 oz. glass of milk and much less than the daily requirements for a child at any age. Although it can be a nice supplement for kids who are getting a moderate amount of calcium in their diet and just need a little boost, it is hard enough for kids who meet most of their daily calcium needs using a daily vitamin.

Other Calcium Supplements

People have often taken antacids as a way to get extra calcium in their diet. Kids can now also use this approach by using a product specially formulated for children.  Although marketed to adult women, if you are still looking for another option for a calcium supplement for your child, you might ask your pediatrician about giving your child a calcium soft chew product. These often contain around 500 mg of elemental calcium each.

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