Calcium Supplements for Kids

Childhood Nutrition Basics

Girl Drinking Milk
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Are your kids getting enough calcium in their diet? We all know that calcium is important for building strong bones, but we don't always know how to ensure our kids are getting enough in their diet.

Calcium Requirements

Parents are often surprised by how much calcium their kids actually need each day. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children who are:

  • 1-3 years old get 700 mg per day (about two cups of milk)
  • 4-8 years old get 1,000 mg per day (about three cups of milk)
  • 9-18 years old get 1,300 mg per day (about four cups of milk)

Unfortunately, most children, especially teens, often get much less than their recommended daily calcium requirements.

Calcium Rich Foods

Like most other vitamins and minerals, your child is usually best off getting her nutrition from the foods that she eats and drinks, including calcium-rich foods such as milk, cheese, and yogurt.

Kids can also get calcium from nondairy foods, such as salmon, tofu, collard greens, etc., and many calcium-fortified foods, including many varieties of bread, orange juice, and cereals.

Many kids don't drink enough milk though, choosing to drink juice and soda instead. In addition to extra sugar and calories, these drinks don't have any nutritional benefits and take the place of drinks that do.

Choosing a Calcium Supplement

If your kids aren't getting enough calcium in their diet, you may need to give them a calcium supplement each day.

Choosing a calcium supplement can be confusing though, as there are many different kinds, including calcium carbonate, calcium gluconate, liquid calcium, and more.

Adding to the confusion, most nutrition facts label don't seem to include the amount of elemental calcium the supplement contains, which is what the daily recommendations include, and they don't seem to include the percent of daily value (%DV) based on the AAP recommendations.

The %DV on these supplements is typically based on a daily requirement of 1,000 mg instead.

Unfortunately, many children's "complete" multivitamins that say that they have calcium in them don't actually contain very much calcium and definitely don't have enough to meet your child's daily needs, which confuses things even more. 

For example, one popular brand of children's multivitamin that touts itself as an 'excellent source of calcium,' actually only has 200 mg of calcium, which is less than an 8 oz. glass of milk and much less than the daily requirements for a child at any age. Although it can be a nice supplement for kids who are getting a moderate amount of calcium in their diet and just need a little boost, it is hardly enough for kids who meet most of their daily calcium needs using a daily vitamin.

A much better choice if your child is not getting many calcium rich foods in his diet is a calcium supplement with much more calcium per serving. A calcium supplement with vitamin D is also a great idea, since if your child isn't getting enough calcium in his diet, then he likely isn't getting enough vitamin D either.

Other Calcium Supplements

People have often taken antacids as a way to get extra calcium in their diet.

You can now do this for kids too by giving them a product specially formulated for children. Although marketed to adult women, if you are still looking for another option for a calcium supplement for your child, you might ask your pediatrician about giving your child a calcium soft chew product. These often contain around 500 mg of elemental calcium each.  

What to Know About Calcium Supplements for Kids

If you can't get your kids to drink more milk or eat more calcium rich foods, then you should likely give then a daily supplement with calcium and vitamin D. Remember that daily exercise is important for strong bones too though.

Abrams, Steven A. Dietary Guidelines for Calcium and Vitamin D: A New Era. Pediatrics. March 2011, VOLUME 127 / ISSUE 3

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