Is your child getting enough calcium? Find out how much he needs, and how you can increase his calcium absorption.
"My child is lactose intolerant. Every time he has a glass of milk, he gets an upset stomach. As he cannot drink milk, I am worried that he may not be getting enough calcium. How do I ensure that his calcium intake is adequate? I don't want him to grow up with weak bones."
Although milk is one of the prime sources of calcium, it is certainly not the only source. In fact, certain studies suggest that drinking milk may not be as beneficial as we think it is, especially when there is a possibility that the milk may be adulterated and the cows that supply the milk often have poor health, and are forced to produce milk by injecting them with hormones. A cup of milk in any case has only 300mg of calcium, and even 3 glasses a day is not sufficient for a child above the age of ten.
Here's how much calcium intake is required in a day.
Between ages 1 to 3 years - 500mg
Between ages 4 to 8 - 800mg
Between ages 9 to 19 - 1300mg
Between ages 20 to 50 - 1000mg
After the age of 51 - 1200mg
Non-vegetarian? More calcium!
Vegetarians absorb more calcium than non-vegetarians because animal protein actually inhibits the body's ability to absorb calcium. The acids that the body releases to digest the animal protein sucks calcium from your bones. As a result, if your diet is primarily non-vegetarian you will need to eat more calcium than your vegetarian friends.
Vegetables are a rich source of calcium, but unfortunately most children don't enjoy eating vegetables. If your child does not like vegetables, try sneaking vegetables into her food.
Vegetables, when pureed, are not as loathsome to children as when they are in their original state, so try and puree vegetables whenever possible. For example, children love soup, so make it a point to feed your child vegetable soup once a week.
Add shredded vegetables to your child's favourite meal. If your child is a pasta fan, shred carrots and beans and add them to her pasta dish. If your child enjoys Chinese food, add vegetables to her noodles. Vegetables mixed in a sweet and sour Chinese sauce is a favourite of children.
Also, children love dips, so instead of giving your child chips and dip, give her carrots and dip! That's right, carrots are excellent for dipping - as are boiled beans.
Calcium supplements are essentially one of the surest ways to ensure your child is getting enough calcium. However the body needs vitamin D as well in order to be able to absorb the calcium. (Milk is rich in vitamin D as well which is why it a favourite source of calcium.) When you buy supplements, make sure you buy supplements that have vitamin D. The skin too prepares Vitamin D when exposed to sunlight - just make sure you have your sunscreen on!