“Is my child too short? How can I help him grow taller? Can a child grow tall even when the parents are short?”
These are some common worries that plague parents.
Though your child’s maximum height will be determined by genetics more than anything else, the good news is that you can help him grow taller through proper nutrition.
Many nutrients work together to promote growth and development in a child. One of the key nutrients that is often associated with height and growing taller is calcium.
Why Do Kids Need Calcium?
Calcium is a nutrient that builds strong bones. It keeps the heart healthy and the nerves and muscles working. It is also the most abundant mineral in the body.
About 99% of the body's calcium is stored in the teeth and bones.
If children get enough calcium in their childhood, not only does this help them reach their optimum height, but it also allows them to start their adult lives with the strongest bones possible. Adequate calcium in childhood also protects kids from bone degeneration later on in life.
How Much Calcium Do Kids Need?
Children need different amounts of calcium at different stages of life, and it’s best if they can get most of their calcium from food. Their daily calcium requirement is as recommended:
- 1 to 3 years old: 700 mg of calcium a day
- 4 to 8 years old: 1,000 mg of calcium a day
- 9 to 18 years old: 1,300 mg of calcium a day
Aside from needing calcium, your child will need Vitamin D as well. It is this vitamin that helps the body absorb calcium. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children get 400 international units (IU) of vitamin D daily.
11 Ways to Add Calcium to Child's Diet
Dairy (Milk, Yoghurt, Cheese)
Dairy products such as milk, yoghurt, and cheese are some of the best sources of calcium.
One cup of cow's milk has about 300 mg of calcium, about the same as one cup of yogurt, and 1.5 ounces (42.5 g) of natural cheese.
Cheese is also a good source of Vitamin D.
If your child is fussy about dairy, here are some tips to sneak them in their diet:
- Use milk in place of water when making pancakes, cereal, hot chocolate, soup, etc.
- If your child hates plain milk, try adding a drop of strawberry or chocolate syrup to regular milk. Avoid store-bought flavoured milk drinks as these can be high in sugar.
- Make smoothies with fresh fruit and milk or yoghurt.
- Serve yoghurt as a dip for sliced fruit. Or even better, make yummy parfaits with layers of plain yogurt, fruit, and whole-grain cereal.
- Sprinkle shredded cheese onto vegetables, omelets, tacos, and pasta.
- Add cheese to vegetables, sauces, mashed potatoes or meatballs.
However, some children are lactose intolerant, meaning they can’t eat dairy, so it’s important to look at other sources of calcium as well.
Soy Milk, Tofu and other Soy Products
If your child is lactose intolerant, soy milk is a great option. Soy milk without added calcium contains only about 10 mg per cup, but calcium-fortified soymilk and soy products have as much calcium as cow's milk and sometimes more.
Tofu or bean curd is a great source of calcium, too.
Try these tips on introducing soy products to your child:
- Pour fortified soy milk over cereal or make your own soy milkshake or smoothie.
- Add tofu to stir-fries. Stir-fried tofu with broccoli, perhaps? Both are excellent sources of calcium!
- Try those delicious roasted soy nuts - which are actually whole soybeans that have been soaked in water and then baked to a golden brown. You can even add soybeans (cooked or canned) or soy nuts to your salad.
- Enjoy steamed edamame (green soybeans) as a healthy snack or add them to your stir-fry.
- Have you tried Tempeh? Tempeh is made from whole, cooked soybeans that are formed into a chewy soybean cake.
It is often used as a meat substitute and takes on the flavour of the other ingredients it is being cooked with. Tempeh is normally sliced, marinated and fried until it's surface is golden brown. You can even have a 'veggie version' of chicken nuggets using Tempeh!
Not only is the humble orange a great source of Vitamin C, but it’s also a rich source of calcium! One fresh orange contains around 50 mg of calcium, while a cup of fortified orange juice may contain up to 500 mg of calcium.
Almonds are munchable power snacks for little ones. Not only are they great at boosting memory and brain power, but they are also a surprisingly good source of calcium. Around 110 mg of calcium can be obtained from one-third cup of almonds.
To get your kids to try almonds, these ideas may do the trick:
- Use almond butter instead of peanut butter in sandwiches.
- Sprinkle almonds into salads, add them to cereal or simply give your children a handful for a crunchy and fuss-free nibble between meals.
Beans, Lentils and Green Peas
Did you know that beans, lentils and green peas are a great source of calcium as well?
One cup of boiled small white beans provides about 130 mg of calcium, while a cup of canned chickpeas contains about 80 mg.
Green peas contain about 45 mg of calcium per cup. Green peas are not only an excellent source of calcium, they are also rich in Vitamin K, which is helpful in preserving bone mineral density and bone strength.
Can’t get your child to try legumes? Try these tips:
- Mash up or blend those beans into dips. Turn those chickpeas into gloriously delicious hummus and serve with cut-up veggies.
- The ever-versatile green peas can be thrown into curries, rice or pasta, or even added to hummus, mashed potatoes or soup.
- Make beans interesting with cheesy bean quesadillas, or add them to salads with chickpeas.
Broccoli and Leafy Green Veggies like Kale
Broccoli is power-packed with loads of calcium. So are dark green, leafy vegetables like kale, collard greens, and Chinese cabbage.
Add some green to your child’s diet by trying these tips:
- Offer broccoli trees with a yoghurt dip. (That’s two calcium sources for you).
- Combine the goodness of broccoli and cheese in broccoli cheese bites.
- Also, if you haven’t tried kale chips yet, you need to try them right now.
Fish like tuna, sardines and salmon are excellent sources of calcium due to their bones. A half cup of canned salmon can contain 402 mg of calcium.
Add fish to wraps, bites, and pasta or spread them on some crackers for a quick afternoon snack. Try adding them to salad with some leafy greens.
Tuna sandwiches, anyone?
Eggs and ...Egg Shells!
In a study of Ecuadorian infants aged six to nine months, researchers found that children who ate an egg everyday were at 47% less risk of stunting than those who did not.
It was discovered that eggs significantly increased length-for-age and weight-for-age scores in the group of kids who ate them!
Hard-boiled, sunny-side-up, fried, soft-boiled, or scrambled are sure to be a hit with your kids. Or you can just add eggs to your cakes and bakes. The little ones are bound to love eggs in one way or the other!
Are eggshells safe to eat? And could they actually be healthy for your kid? Recent studies suggest that egg shells are a great source of calcium.
One study found that just half of one egg shell could provide the amount of calcium needed by adult human beings for one day!
Before you start cracking those eggs, though, do remember that egg shells need to be cleaned first. Eggshells are covered in bacteria and could carry Salmonella. To eliminate the bacteria, they should be boiled first, and then oven-dried in a 140 degree oven.
Eggshell powder prepared at home can be added to other foods, like bread, pizza or spaghetti. We recommend getting your paediatrician’s go-signal first before serving up eggshells, though.
Fortified Food like Cereal
Time-starved parents, worry not. Most ready-to-eat breakfast cereals are fortified with as much as 1,000 mg of calcium in each one and a third cup serving. Adding a cup of milk will ensure that your child’s calcium needs for the day are met!
The ideal way of consuming calcium is in the form of food. However, if your child is not meeting his daily nutritional requirements from food, then he may be prescribed supplements* by your doctor.
Caltrate® Kids Gummies are great-tasting yoghurt-flavoured treats, and an enjoyable, convenient way to meet your child's daily calcium needs.
They are a good source of calcium for children age four or above, and a delicious way to kick-start a healthy calcium routine. Just five pieces of Caltrate® Kids Gummies are equivalent to the calcium content in 200ml of milk.**
Do ensure that the gummies are chewed thoroughly before swallowing. Adult supervision is recommended for little children.
If you would like a sample of Caltrate® Kids Gummies to check if your child likes it, please do fill up the form below, and we'll send it across!
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We hope these tips have been useful for you. If you have any concerns about your child’s calcium intake, it is best to consult your paediatrician.
*Do note that vitamin supplements should not replace a balanced diet.
**Source: Eating For Healthy Bones, from Nutrition & Dietetics Great Western Hospital - April 2009
Disclaimer: Article contributed by TheAsianParents. For more information on Caltrate® Kids Gummies please visit the website.