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Calcium and Vitamin D Builds Strong Bones

Why does your child need calcium?

  • The main mineral in bones is calcium. Calcium adds strength to bones to support the body. Providing your child enough calcium is important to form a strong skeleton.
  • The best food sources of calcium are dairy products. There are also some non-dairy foods that are good sources of calcium. Calcium supplements should only be given as your doctor recommends.
  • Soda decreases the absorption of calcium in the intestines. Limit the amount of soda your child drinks daily.

Calcium Requirements

Age mg/day
Less than 6 months 210
6-12 months 270
1 year up to 4 years 500
4 years up to 9 years 800
9 years up to 18 years 1300

Why is Vitamin D important?

  • Your child also needs vitamin D to help his/her body absorb the calcium. Vitamin D moves calcium from the intestine to the bloodstream and into the bones.
  • Vitamin D is found in a variety of foods including fish and egg yolks. Read the label to see if the milk you use is fortified with vitamin D.
  • Sunshine exposure is also a significant way of increasing vitamin D in the body. The ultraviolet rays from the sunlight cause the skin to produce vitamin D. If your child is in the sunlight (without sunscreen) three times a week for about 10 to 15 minutes each time, he/she will get enough UV rays to produce vitamin D. Adequate sunshine can be difficult to obtain during the winter months so a food source may be needed.
  • Vitamin D Requirements: Birth to 18 years is 400 IU per day.
  • Breastfed infants should be supplemented with 400 IU of vitamin D within the first days of life.
  • All formula fed infants, as well as older children, who are consuming less than 32 ounces of vitamin fortified formula or milk, should receive vitamin D supplement of 400 IU per day.

What foods are high in Calcium?

Food Item Amount Calcium Content
Whole Grain Total 3/4 cup 800 mg
Sardines 3 ounces 371 mg
Yogurt (plain) 8 ounces 274 - 415 mg
Milk 8 ounces 291 - 316 mg
Soy Milk 1 cup 240 mg
Tofu 3 ounces 225 mg
Basic 4 Cereal 1 cup 200 mg
Processed cheese 1 ounces 159 - 219 mg
Salmon w/ bones 3 ounces 167 mg
Total Corn Flakes 1 cup 150 mg
Sour Cream 4 ounces 134 mg
Shrimp 3 ounces 98 mg
Broccoli (cooked) 1 cup 94 - 177 mg
Kale 1 cup 94 - 179 mg
Cottage cheese 1/2 cup 77 mg
Flintstones Complete Multiple vitamin and mineral supplement 1 chewable tablet 160mg

What foods are high in Vitamin D?

Food Item Amount Vitamin D Content
Cod liver oil 1 Tablespoon 1,360 IU
Salmon 3 1/2 ounces 360 IU
Mackerel 3 1/2 ounces 345 IU
Tuna fish 3 ounces 200 IU
Sardines 1 3/4 ounces 250 IU
Milk, vitamin D fortified 1 cup 98 IU
Egg 1 egg yolk 20 IU
Liver, beef 3 1/2 ounces 15 IU
Cheese, Swiss 1 ounce 12 IU
Flintstones Complete Multiple vitamin and mineral supplement 1 chewable tablet 400 IU

Reading Labels

The food label shows calcium as a percentage of the daily adult recommended intake rather than in milligrams (mg). The % for calcium is based on 1000 mg, which is the recommended daily intake for adults. To figure out how many milligrams of calcium is in a serving, add a “0” to the Daily Value (DV), for example, 30% DV = 300 mg Calcium. (This trick only works with calcium).

This label shows that 1 cup of milk provides 300 mg of calcium.


Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.

Reviewed: 05/2009