We know of the importance of calcium intake, and that health experts now include adolescents in guidelines. But the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is now urging the nation’s pediatricians to start checking on whether kids are getting enough calcium starting in the toddler years. Children, the Academy says, need to be checked at age 2-3, again at age 8-9, then again during pre-adolescence and during adolescence, when the peak rate of bone mass growth occurs. Infants, children, and adolescents also need to receive adequate amounts of vitamin D to help with calcium retention, they are reminding pediatricians.
As calcium intakes on food labels are based on adult requirements, not children's, the AAP’s updated policy statement urges pediatricians to help parents read and interpret the calcium content on food labels so they can better determine how much calcium a child may be consuming.
Most people can achieve the recommended calcium intake, the AAP says, by eating three age-appropriate servings of dairy products per day (4 servings per day for adolescents). Low-fat dairy products including skim milk and low-fat yogurt are preferred sources of calcium. Calcium supplements and non-dairy foods such as calcium-fortified juices and soy products are an alternative, but these products do not offer the benefits of other nutrients found naturally in foods.
Whole milk is not recommended until after 12 months of age; although yogurt and cheese with modest amounts of added sweeteners can be introduced after 6 months. Check with your pediatrician!
The following website offers good information on kids’ calcium requirements, plus a table of suggested calcium-rich foods: www.keepkidshealthy.com/nutrition/calcium_requirements.html.