Lifestyle

Build Your Bones -- Why It's Crucial When Young

Cynthia Dermody
1
calcium and vitamin D requirements

Photo by mediamom

Because I'm fairly thin and small-boned, my doctor says I'm at super risk for osteoporosis, the bone-degenerating disease that leads to curvature of the spine, hip issues and other structural problems. Being pretty young yet, that's not a word I expected to hear during a recent doctor visit. C'mon, that's something you talk about with old people! Right?

Nope. In fact, osteoporosis is often considered a young people's disease because it's caused by low bone mass in adolescence. So, that's when we all have to start preventing it!

For me, the damage is already done. I have no idea if I got enough calcium when I was little. Best I can do is make sure I get plenty of calcium and vitamin D (which helps your body absorb it) from food and, in my particular case, from supplements, do plenty of weight bearing exercises, and hope for the best.

Now my goal is to make sure my similarly built ectomorphic kids are getting enough. I don't want them to have to worry about this when they're older, plus they're going to need to be in good shape so they can take care of me!

According to the National Academy of Sciences, the government group that sets nutrition standards, my kiddos need 800 miligrams of calcium a day. That's because they're both in the 4-8 age range. It amounts to about 1 1/2 servings of calcium rich or fortified foods. Children 1-3 need 500 mgs and those 9-18 need about 1,300 a day, upward of adult levels, about 4 servings a day.

How do I make sure my kids are getting enough? I'd be lying (and you'd know it) if I told you that I read nutrition labels, count ounces of milk, and keep a running tab. That's just not real-world mom.

So, I just try to feed them as many calcium-rich foods as possible: spinach and other green leafies, almonds and oranges, and plenty of dairy in the form of milk, yogurt, and even ice cream -- our favorite family treat.

I also know that many foods are now fortified with calcium, including orange juice and cereals. It's a relief to know that when my little ones gobble up their morning fare they are getting a pretty good dose of the bone-boosting mineral, too. In fact, the National Osteoporosis Foundation says that calcium supplemented foods "provide a suitable alternative for people who are lactose-intolerant and for vegan vegetarians."

And that's good news for plain-old picky eaters as well!

How do you make sure your child is getting enough calcium for strong and healthy bones? What are his favorite calcium-rich foods?

 

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