Getting enough calcium in your growing child’s diet is important for building strong bones.

Eating foods fortified with vitamin D helps your body absorb the calcium it needs. We also get vitamin D through sun exposure although this isn’t always an easy task in Michigan! Calcium requirements are met up until one year of age through breast milk and formula consumption. Vitamin D is present in all formulas but not in breast milk. Breastfed babies should receive 400 IU of Vitamin D supplementation each day, see recommended daily intake below.

  • 1 year-3 years: 700 mg/day which equals 2 cups of milk a day plus calcium-rich foods
  • 4 years-8 years: 1000 mg/day which equals 2-3 cups of milk a day plus calcium-rich foods
  • 9 years and up: 1,300 mg/day which equals at least 3 cups of milk a day plus calcium-rich foods
  • Each 8 oz cup of milk contains about 300 mg of calcium
  • Most children between 12 and 24 months of age should be drinking whole cow’s milk
  • Children ages two years and up should be drinking fat-free or low-fat cow’s milk or calcium and vitamin D fortified soy milk
  • Dairy milk comes from animals and is always fortified with Vitamin D. Nondairy milk alternatives such as soy, almond and coconut milk are extracts derived from plant sources. Among these plant-based milk, soy milk is the most similar to cow’s milk in its nutrient profile.
  • Many children do not get sufficient calcium and vitamin D in their diet and for this reason, supplementing may be a good option. It is recommended that no more than 500 mg of calcium be given at one time.

Good food sources of calcium include:

  • Milk and dishes made with milk
  • Cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Dark green leafy vegetables such as kale
  • Canned fish
  • Tofu that has been processed with calcium sulfate
  • Calcium-fortified bread and cereals
  • Calcium-fortified juice
  • Calcium-fortified granola bars
    • It’s also important for teens to stay physically active. Weight-bearing and resistance exercises such as jogging, walking, hiking, climbing stairs, lifting weights and dancing help bones grow stronger.