Healthy calcium levels for children

How much calcium do my children need?

Kids need lots of calcium every day because of the rapid growth and development that occurs during childhood. As your child grows, their calcium needs increase steadily until they reach puberty, continuing at a higher level until early adulthood. The recommended dietary intake (RDI) of calcium for children therefore differs according to age:1
  • 1‐3 years old: 500mg Calcium daily (2 serves of dairy)
  • 4‐8 years old: 700mg Calcium daily (3 serves of dairy)
  • 9‐11 years old: 1000mg Calcium daily (3 serves of dairy)
  • 12‐18 years old: 1300mg Calcium daily (4 serves of dairy)

How can I help my child reach the recommended daily calcium intake?

Making sure your little ones get enough calcium in their diet may not be as difficult as you think. A great source of dietary calcium is found in dairy products such as milk, butter, cheese and yoghurt. A warm glass of milk before bed is an excellent way to encourage sleep and over time can become a much loved part of a bedtime routine. Cheese can be added to lots of meals, such as sandwiches, omelettes and pasta dishes. You could also offer cheese slices and crackers as a between meal snack, or add pieces of their favourite fruits to yoghurt for a delicious treat. Many other foods contain calcium in smaller quantities, so a varied diet full of fruit, vegies and cereals will go a long way to ensure an adequate intake of calcium (as well as lots of other essential vitamins and minerals!).

What if my child won’t eat certain foods?

Despite our best efforts, sometimes kids have their own plans when it comes to what they will and won’t eat. If your child is a fussy or poor eater, making sure they are getting the nutrients they need can be both confusing and stressful. The most important thing is to keep calm and remember that children will never voluntarily starve themselves! Keep offering them a variety of different healthy food and drinks. You may also consider a kid’s multivitamin and/or calcium supplement to help close the gap between the nutrients they need and what they may be getting through their diet. Supplements will help to ensure your child receives enough vitamins and minerals to stay healthy, even when their diet is not ideal.

What if my child is allergic to dairy products?

Fortunately, children with a dairy allergy or intolerance can still get enough calcium through other foods and milk alternatives. There are many foods and drinks available on the market that contain added calcium as well. For example, substitute yoghurt with calcium enriched soy yoghurt or soy custard for a tasty snack. Tinned sardines are high in calcium and can be served on toast for a quick and easy meal. Other sources of calcium include baked beans (many a child’s favourite dish!), tofu, almonds and sesame seeds. Although bread and cereals such as muesli contain small amounts of calcium, they can contribute significantly to calcium intake because they are usually a big part of most diets.2

Where can I find more information on supporting my children’s calcium needs?

If you think that your child may not be getting enough calcium to meet their needs, speak to your health care professional about your concerns. They may suggest a kid’s multivitamin and/or calcium supplement to help take the guesswork out of feeding a fussy or allergic child. A good kid’s supplement will provide enough calcium to "top up" your child’s daily intake and ensure they always get what they need for strong, healthy bones and teeth.1