The following blog can be printed and used as an educational handout for children. It goes over the very basics of calcium and why it is so important for children to get enough of it. Most Australian children are not meeting their calcium requirements.
Did you know that peak bone mass (strength and density of bones) is generally reached by the age of 20? After this age, it significantly slows until it eventually stops. This is why it is particularly important to ensure your kids are eating enough calcium whilst they are younger, for good bone health further down the track.
Ensuring you and your children receive enough vitamin D will also assist with the absorption of calcium.
What is calcium?
Calcium is a mineral that is found in some types of food. Minerals are good for our health.
Where does calcium come from?
There are a few different sources of calcium.
- Dairy foods
- Plant foods
- Fish bones
- Calcium added foods
Dairy foods and foods with calcium added to them (calcium fortified) are the best sources of calcium.
Cows make milk which is then used to make other dairy foods. Dairy has lots of calcium!
What are some dairy foods?
Some plant foods also provide calcium. This includes vegetables like broccoli, kale and cabbage. It also includes some nuts and legumes.
Fish have bones that are full of calcium – like ours. We can get calcium by eating the bones in fish. These bones need to be soft and can come from canned sardines or salmon
Foods with calcium added
Some foods have calcium added to them. These foods can include juice, breakfast cereal and soy products such as soy yoghurt and tofu.
Milk can also be made from plant crops like rice, oats, soy and almonds. These types of milk have had calcium added to them so they are similar to cow’s milk. This is good because not everyone can eat dairy foods but they still need to get their calcium from what they eat.
Why do you need to eat calcium?
We all need calcium to grow big and to keep our bones and teeth strong! Almost all of your calcium is stored in your teeth and your bones – this keeps them hard.
Your bones get stronger as you age. However, their strengthening significantly slows down when you get older – at around 20 years old. This is why you need to make sure you get enough calcium whilst you are still growing!
Calcium is also needed to make your muscles move, keep your heart beating and to help send messages between your brain and other parts of your body.
If we don’t eat enough calcium, our body takes calcium from our bones to give to our blood. Our bones then get weak and can break.
How much calcium do you need each day?
How much calcium you need will depend on your age and if you are a boy or a girl. Look at the picture below and circle how many serves of calcium you think need each day.
What is one serve of dairy?
Now you know how many serves you need, find out how you can meet them. The points below tell you how much of each food or drink is equal to one serve.
- 1 cup (250ml) milk
- ½ cup (120ml) evaporated milk
- 2 slices (40g) or 4 x 3 x 2cm cube (40g) of hard cheese, such as cheddar
- ½ cup (120g) ricotta cheese
- ¾ cup (200g) yoghurt
- 1 cup (250ml) Soy, rice or other cereal drink with at least 100mg of added calcium per 100ml
Now you know all about calcium, fill out the following:
I need _______ serves of dairy/ dairy alternatives each day.
I can meet these serves by eating or drinking (list some foods or drinks that will provide you with your serves of dairy/ dairy alternatives):
Why is calcium important?
Good work! Now you can colour in the pictures below.
Contact us for results focused nutritional advice
This article was written by our dietitian Belinda Elwin who is a Dietitians Association of Australia member and Accredited Practising Dietitian and Nutritionist.
If you have questions about calcium for kids, nutrition education for kids or other nutrition related issues, make an appointment. We‘ll provide you with a simple and effective routine targeted to your concerns. Contact us today.