Calcium is mostly used during teen and young-adult years to build a healthy bone structure. Teens' need for an ample calcium intake continues since their bones are still growing in length and in bulk. The largest gains of skeletal mass are made in early adolescence, between about 10-14 years in girls and 12-16 years in boys. The achievement of peak bone mass during childhood and adolescence is crucial to reduce the risk of osteoporosis in later years. By eating several servings of dairy products, such as milk, yoghurt and cheese, the recommended calcium intake can be achieved.
- Milk should be an integral part of children’s diet; If not taken on breakfast, intake should be ensured later on during the day.
- If the child is lactose intolerant, lactose free milk, yogurt and cheese may be suitable replacements.
- If the child doesn’t like plain milk: milk-based puddings, low-fat chocolate or strawberry flavored milks are ways to include calcium in the diet. Other calcium rich foods include: yogurt, calcium fortified soy beverages, cheese, labneh, almonds, broccoli etc...
- To reduce consumption of saturated fats, you can start offering low-fat or nonfat milk to your child once he reaches 2 years old. He’ll get all the calcium and almost any other nutrients but with fewer calories and less saturated fat.
As well as a good dietary supply of calcium, other vitamins or minerals, like vitamin D and phosphorous, are needed for strengthening bones. Physical activity is also essential, particularly weight-bearing exercises, which provide the stimulus for building and retaining strong bones. Activities such as cycling, gymnastics, skating, ball games, dancing and supervised weight training for at least 30-60 minutes a day, three to five times a week can help build bone mass and density.
Making the right dietary and lifestyle choices early in life will help young people develop health-promoting behaviors that they can follow throughout life.