5 Ways to Help Kids Meet Their Calcium Requirements

June 15, 2016

In honor of National Dairy Month, here are my top five ways to help kids meet their calcium requirements throughout the week!

Do your kids get enough calcium in their diets? Here are 5 ways to help kids meet their calcium requirements throughout the week. @jlevinsonrd.

This post is sponsored by Chobani in honor of National Dairy Month. I was compensated for my time, but as always all opinions are my own.

June is National Dairy Month and if your kids are anything like mine they love all things dairy – from milk to yogurt to cheese to of course a bowl of ice cream! But for some kids, meeting their calcium requirements takes more work and can be a struggle for parents and caregivers. In this post I share 5 ways to help kids meet their calcium requirements.

But first, since calcium needs vary by age, let’s review how much calcium children of different ages require and what that translates to in servings according to the USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans and MyPlate.

  • 1 to 3 years old: 700 mg calcium per day ⇒ 2 cups of dairy a day
  • 4 to 8 years old: 1,000 mg calcium per day ⇒ 2 ½ cups of dairy a day
  • 9 to 13 years old: 1,300 mg calcium per day ⇒ 3 cups of dairy a day

One cup of dairy is equal to one 8-ounce cup of milk, yogurt, or calcium-fortified soymilk; 1 ½ ounces of natural cheese; or 2 ounces of processed cheese. But not all dairy products are alike, so it’s important to look at the percentage of calcium on the Nutrition Facts Panel to see how much your kids are actually getting from what they are eating.

Before you start stressing out about how you’re going to get your kids to drink two to three cups of milk every day or start counting every milligram of calcium they consume, remember that working towards the goal is what’s most important and don’t forget to look at the week as a whole rather than worry too much about each and every day.

Here are my top five ways to help kids meet their calcium requirements throughout the week.

1. Start the day with a calcium-rich breakfast.

Breakfast is often the easiest meal of the day to include dairy since there are so many options kids tend to like – cereal with milk, yogurt-based smoothies, or a bowl of cottage cheese or Greek yogurt with fruit are especially popular in my house. And for those of us rushing out the door to get the kids to school or camp, yogurt pouches are the best invention ever. My girls especially love the Chobani Kids and Tots Greek Yogurt Pouches, and because they’re made with only natural ingredients and are lower in sugar than many other yogurts, I love them too. Such a convenient and delicious way to ensure the kids get in their calcium! Plus, who doesn’t love hearing their kids squeal with joy “yay, squeezies!!” when they see their food?! That’s how excited my kids get over these pouches!
Do your kids get enough calcium in their diets? Here are 5 ways to help kids meet their calcium requirements throughout the week. @jlevinsonrd.

2. Offer calcium-rich food at every meal of the day.

While breakfast is an obvious placement for dairy, there are many other opportunities throughout the day to offer children calcium-rich foods. Most kids love gooey cheese, which means a grilled cheese sandwich or cheese filled omelet or scrambled eggs will go over well. But think beyond dairy foods and try a canned salmon sandwich instead of tuna or almond butter and jelly instead of the classic PB&J. Three ounces of canned salmon with (edible) bones has 180 mg calcium and two tablespoons almond butter has about 100 mg calcium.
For dinner, try serving up some calcium-fortified tofu for 250 mg calcium in ½ cup – my kids absolutely love the crispy tofu I add to my Peanut Soba Noodles. Or roast a head of broccoli and serve it with a cheese sauce, add spinach or other leafy greens to tomato sauce like I do in my Homemade Tomato Sauce with Mushrooms, or add beans to your favorite sauce or dip – my Quick and Easy Creamy Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato Pasta is a kid fave! Getting the kids in the kitchen to help make their meals will also improve their chances of eating what’s served, so let them help make personal tortilla pizzas topped with calcium-rich shredded mozzarella cheese!

3. Snack time is calcium booster time.

Part-skim string cheese, a handful of almonds, and a yogurt smoothie all make for nutrient-rich snacks that will also add to the calcium totals for the day. One of my girls’ favorite afternoon snacks are frozen yogurt pops. They especially love them during the hot days of summer coming our way, but they’ll eat them all winter long too. Sometimes I make my own, but often I just stick a box of Chobani’s Kids Greek Yogurt Tubes in the freezer and my kids are set with a snack that’s calcium-rich, has 25% less sugar and twice the protein than the leading kids’ yogurt.
Do your kids get enough calcium in their diets? Here are 5 ways to help kids meet their calcium requirements throughout the week. @jlevinsonrd.

4. Don’t forget about dessert.

Kids looove sweet treats and those whines for dessert every day may get on your nerves (they certainly get on mine), but they can also be an opportunity to meet your kids’ nutrient gaps from the day – especially calcium. Ice cream and frozen yogurt are the obvious choices for a calcium-rich dessert, but there are other sweets that can play that role too. Greek yogurt adds moisture and helps you cut the fat in baked goods like this Chocolate Pear Bread and it makes for a nutritious and delicious sauce or dip for grilled or baked fruit (just see my June recipe in Today’s Dietitian Magazine for proof). A glass of milk with a cookie is also a classic and fabulous way to easily get in one serving of calcium.

5. Introduce your kids to something new.

Some of the non-dairy foods with the most calcium are not the most well-liked by children – think sardines, kale, and bok choy. We know from years of research that you have to introduce children to foods at least 15 to 20 times before you can actually determine that they do or don’t like said food. So if your kids are really struggling to meet their calcium needs, don’t forget to think out of the box and allow them time to adjust to new flavors. Start small by adding kale to smoothies or finely chop sardines into puttanesca sauce and serve over a bowl of spaghetti (what kid doesn’t like pasta?!). You won’t know unless you try and you may be pleasantly surprised by what they eat.

Do your kids get enough calcium in their diets? Here are 5 ways to help kids meet their calcium requirements throughout the week. @jlevinsonrd.

This June, celebrate National Dairy Month by ensuring your kids get enough calcium in their diets. Whether you rely on calcium-rich convenience products like Chobani’s Kids and Tots Greek Yogurt Tubes and Pouches or think outside the box by incorporating calcium-rich foods into your recipes, I’m sure you’ll be able to accomplish the goal of 3-a-Day!

What calcium-rich foods do your kids like?

What’s your top tip for ensuring the kids get enough calcium in their diets?

Share with me in the comments below!
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    1. Thanks so much Liz! I personally love grilled sardines, but I know I’m a rare breed when it comes to that lol! Hope you try it in a sauce soon!

  1. I don’t eat dairy (or sardines 🙂 ), but fortunately there are plenty of calcium rich foods out there. And I don’t have little kids to convince to eat their kale and spinach. Though it may be just as hard to convince my husband!

    1. Thanks for sharing Debbie! Those husbands can be just like kids sometimes, can’t they?! LOL! Hope you’re getting enough calcium in your diet!

  2. These are all great tips! I think it’s especially important to be patient with introducing and trying new calcium-rich foods. My daughter is getting more opinionated about what I’m offering her lately (and actually says, “NO!” sometimes, much to my dismay), so I am constantly reminding myself to keep offering the foods even though she refused them before.

    1. Thanks Melanie! And thank you for sharing your experience. I feel for you – the NO! phase is a tough one! But this too shall pass. Just keep doing what you’re doing and offering her what you make. In time she’ll come around!

  3. These are great tips for adults too! We didn’t grow up in the era of Greek yogurt but I eat it almost every day now. Luckily we were huge milk drinkers when I was growing up so hopefully my bones are nice and strong! 🙂

    1. Thanks Kaleigh – I agree they are definitely good tips for adults too! And yes, no greek yogurt when I was growing up! Hope your bones are nice and strong and stay that way!

    1. Good question Karly. Canned sardines and canned salmon with bones, soybeans and other soy products (tofu made with calcium sulfate, soy yogurt, tempeh), and some leafy greens (collard and turnip greens, kale, bok choy) are calcium-rich. Also calcium-fortified foods. The amount of calcium that can be absorbed from these foods varies though, so you may want to take a calcium supplement as well. Always check with your doctor first though.