Calcium is a mineral that is essential to health. It is important at all ages for strong bones and teeth but is needed for normal growth and development of bones in children. 99% of calcium in the body is found in the skeleton and teeth. Calcium plays a number of other roles in the body -.it activates enzymes that convert food to energy, promotes good nerve and muscle function, and helps the blood clot. Unfortunately poor intakes of calcium are not uncommon amongst the Irish population. According to the Adult Food Consumption Survey (2001), 23% of women are at risk of inadequate calcium intakes. The National Children Nutrition Survey  (IUNA 2005) reported that 37% and 28% of 5-15 year old girls and boys have inadequate intakes of calcium. Teenagers are equally at risk according to the National Teens Food Survey (2007). 42% and 23% of girls and boys aged  13-17 year olds were reported to have inadequate calcium intakes.
The recommended amount of calcium varies by age. According to the Dept of Health in Ireland, an infant should have 525 milligrams of calcium per day increasing to 800 milligrams up to the age of 10 years and 1200milligrams up to 18 years. Adults should have 800 milligrams per day.  (Food Standards Authority: Recommended Dietary Allowances for Ireland 1999 )
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We all know that dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt are the best source of calcium, but there are other foods that are valuable sources of calcium.
Try to include these foods in your child’s diet:
 
If dairy foods have to be avoided, use calcium and vitamin D enriched soya products instead.
  • Spinach
  • Calcium fortified breads
  • Calcium fortified orange juice
  • Blackstrap molasses
  • Yogurt
  • Canned pink salmon
  • Calcium fortified breakfast cereals
  • Sardines and pilchards
  • Baked beans
To ensure that your child is getting enough calcium, try these tips:
  • Start the day with cereal and milk
  • Use tinned sardines instead of tuna in a sandwich or on toast
  • Add yoghurt /soya yoghurt to fruit
  • Make milk based puddings like custard.
  • Bear in mind that low fat dairy products have the same amount of calcium as full fat versions.
  • Grate cheese into soups and mashed potato
  • Use milk in place of water when mixing an instant cereal or hot chocolate.
Make sure that your child is also getting vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium. Vitamin D is found in oily fish and some fortified breakfast cereals like Kellogg’s childrens range. Vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin  is made in the body by the action of sunlight on the skin. There are concerns that children in Ireland are not getting enough vitamin D and are at risk of deficiency. According to the National Childrens Nutrition Survey (2005) 8% children have poor vitamin D intakes. Typical teenage diets were also found to be low in vitamin D according to the National Teens Food Survey (2007)   In response to this health issue Kellogg in 2011 decided to fortify its children’s range of breakfast cereals to provide 25% daily needs per serving to help children meet their requirements for this essential vitamin.
 

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