The latest Australian National Children’s Nutrition Survey found that many children are not getting enough calcium in their diets. In fact, of all the nutrients, school-aged children were least likely to meet their daily calcium needs.
Calcium is essential for strong bones and teeth, especially during childhood and adolescence when bones are growing rapidly. A long-term lack of dietary calcium can result in thin and fragile bones (osteoporosis) and bone fractures later in life.
Dairy foods are the major source of calcium and provide about 60% of our daily intake as well as many other essential nutrients. Most children need at least 3 serves of dairy foods per day.
A serve of dairy equals:
- 1 glass of milk (250ml)
- 2 slices of cheese (40g)
- 1 tub of yoghurt (200g)
Remember, reduced-fat dairy foods should not be given to children under age two.
Calcium-fortified soy milk is an alternative for children who can’t drink cow’s milk. Smaller amounts of calcium are also in some other foods such as canned fish with edible bones (e.g. salmon, sardines), green leafy vegetables (e.g. broccoli, spinach), nuts such as almonds, breakfast cereals and legumes.
Tips for getting 3 serves of dairy
- Breakfast. Have milk on cereal or yoghurt on fresh fruit.
- Lunch boxes. Add a tub of yoghurt, cheese in sandwiches or a cheese stick. Frozen flavoured milk or frozen yoghurt also help keep the lunch box cold.
- Dinner. Add cheese to pasta, mash potatoes, vegetables and pizzas. Add skim milk powder to casseroles, soups.
- After school. Try a fruit smoothie made of fruit, yoghurt and milk.
- Before bed. Have a warm glass of milk with honey which also helps with sleep.
For more information visit www.dairyaustralia.com.au/kidsneed3.
Please note this information was correct at time of publication.
For up to date information, speak to your doctor.