It's never too early to invest in bone health
In childhood, osteoblasts work faster, enabling the skeleton to increase in size, density and strength. During this period of rapid bone growth, it takes the skeleton just two years to completely renew itself. In adults this process takes seven to ten years. Childhood and adolescence is the most important time to build strong bones. During these years, the skeleton undergoes a rapid rate of growth and if kids don't get the nutrients needed -especially calcium and vitamin D- they put their current and future bone health at risk.
The prevention of osteoporosis begins with optimal bone growth and development in youth. We achieve our Peak Bone Mass -the point at which our bones are at their highest density- by our early twenties. Nearly 40% of our Peak Bone Mass is acquired during puberty. Achieving a high Peak Bone Mass during these younger years can help maintain better bone health throughout life, and an adequate calcium and vitamin D intake is therefore essential for children and teenagers.
It all starts with a healthy diet
Dairy foods are an important source of bone-building nutrients such as calcium, vitamin D, and protein. In fact, research shows that including yogurt, milk, cheese and other dairy foods in a child's diet has a positive influence on bone health. The amount of calcium and vitamin D that your child needs depends on age. Unfortunately, many kids aren't getting their recommended amounts of calcium and vitamin D, particularly as they get older. Compared to a generation ago, fractures among boys have increased by one-third, and among girls, by one-half. Additionally, in many young girls' diets, other beverages -which don't contain calcium -have replaced milk
Easy ways to boost kids calcium intake everyday
The latest National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey found that many children are not meeting their calcium requirement, particularly teenage girls. This is disappointing when we know that it is a critical time, where they are building their peak bone mass, giving them the best chance of having healthy bones throughout life. The survey also found that milk and dairy consumption decreased as children get older, often being replaced by nutrient-poor soft drinks.
Try these ways to help get your kids to get more calcium in their day:
Include physical exercise
Encourage a glass of reduced fat milk (or calcium fortified soy milk) instead of soft drink, cordial or juice. If you cannot get them to drink plain milk, try enticing them with a smoothie or simply just flavouring it. Although milk flavourings can add sugar (up to 2 teaspoons) it is significantly less than that found in soft drinks (containing at least 8 teaspoons/375mL) and unlike milk drinks, provide little other nutrients. Some flavouring options also provide additional goodies that can even further boost calcium intake and therefore improve the nutritional value of the milk itself
Add milk back in other ways such as making porridge on milk rather than water, adding skim milk powder to creamy soups and using reduced fat evaporated milk to creamy pasta sauces
Add low fat cheese where-ever you can such as on sandwiches, melted on toast or mini pizzas, or even mixed into scrambled eggs
Offer snacks of almonds mixed with dried fruit, yoghurt or even a natural yoghurt based dip with vegetable sticks
Try and include salmon each week, either grilled or baked for dinner or having tinned salmon on sandwiches. Salmon is also fantastic as it is rich in Vitamin D, essential to assist calcium absorption.
Include more dark greens regularly such as spinach and broccoli as part of the daily intake of five vegetables
All kids and teens need at least an hour of physical activity every day. The more work bones do, the stronger they get. Jumping rope, running, walking, playing soccer and basketball, dancing and gymnastics are all examples of activities-called the all important weight-bearing exercises-that benefit bones.