We don’t need cows to survive but their milk sure does provide us with a convenient source of calcium. The amount of milk our children need varies with age. I outline needs in the video but know this, as your child ages from a preschooler to a school-age child to a teenager, their calcium needs increase. Of course, if your child doesn’t like milk or is allergic to milk products, you have plenty of ways to get them the calcium they need from other foods rich in calcium to fortified juices to calcium supplements and calcium-fortified bars.

Getting The Calcium Our Children Need:

  • Lowfat milk is an easy and affordable source of calcium, but it certainly isn’t the only one. Other calcium rich foods include soybeans (edamame), tofu, broccoli, spinach, and almonds. Click on that link for a comparison of how much calcium each food contains compared to a cup of lowfat milk.
  • Calcium needs increase by age. Here’s a chart that breaks it down by the milligrams of calcium kids need each day. If you’re not into counting milligrams of calcium, think of calcium needs by the glasses of milk need daily: about 2 cups for 2 to 3 year olds, 2 1/2 cups for 4 to 8 year olds, and 3 cups for rapid-growing 9 to 18 year olds.
  • You don’t need whole milk for proper nutrition after age 2. “Whole” only refers to the amount of dairy fats, not the amount of vitamins or protein. US Studies find that almost 1/3 of families still serve their older children whole milk. I recommend switching to lowfat milk once your child turns 2.
  • Fewer than 1 in 10 girls gets the calcium they need between the age of 9 and 13 years. Fewer than 1 in 4 boys in the same age gets what they need. I’m perplexed by the sex difference, but suspect it has to do with calorie restriction (read: dieting), cultural norms, and the vast array of alternative beverages marketed to teens. When I searched for an explanation, I found data on fur seals. If you know the answer, please leave a comment!
  • If you are concerned your child is lactose-intolerant (very rare prior to age 5 years) consider getting milk products that are lactose-free or getting pills from the doctor that help children digest the lactose (milk sugar).
  • If your child isn’t a milk-hound, consider finding ways to keep calcium-rich snacks within reach. For easy snacks consider a handful of almonds or a piece of low-fat string cheese. Leave them out and in arm’s reach after school.
  • And remember, the only two things your toddler to teen needs to drink on planet earth are milk & water. Everything else is an extra.