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Can your kids eat their way to healthy bones?

Most of us know that calcium is the main building block of our bones. You may be surprised to learn that a baby is born with only 25 grams of calcium! Much of the calcium needed to build healthy bones must come from a person’s diet. Here’s an even more alarming piece of information: 90% of your lifetime bone density is built before the age of eighteen. That makes a well-rounded diet in childhood crucial for healthy bones and bodies, both early and later in life.

The National Institute of Health recommends thinking about a child’s bone health as a bank account that needs constant “deposits” of bone throughout childhood. Most people reach their peak bone mass in their late twenties, and start making more frequent “withdrawals” at that point. The best way to prevent bone disease as an adult is by making sure a child or teen’s diet is full of nutritious foods while they are building their “bone bank.”


The good news is that it’s easy to find calcium-rich foods that boys and girls will enjoy. Some great examples are: an ounce and a half of shredded cheddar cheese, an eight-ounce glass of non-fat milk, or an eight-ounce cup of plain, non-fat yogurt. These foods all contain over 300 mg of calcium, which accounts for nearly a quarter of the daily requirement of 1,300 mg of calcium for a child between 9 and 18 years of age. Other kinds of dairy such as mozzarella, cottage cheese, and frozen yogurts, as well as fish, calcium-fortified orange juice and leafy greens are great sources of this vital mineral.

This is not to say that diet is the only thing behind healthy bones. Exercise plays a vital role in healthy bone development. While any kind of exercise is important for a kid, weight-bearing activities are the best for his or her bones. Sport such as soccer, tennis, basketball, and hockey provide fun opportunities to build health bones. If sports aren’t your kids “thing,” simply walking, running, hiking or dancing are great bone-building activities! You get bonus points if your chosen sport or activity is played outside. Our body’s use sunlight to activate Vitamin D, a key component in calcium absorption and, therefore, the building of healthy bones. One important point, children should avoid weight lifting or activities that include lifting heavy weights until their late teens.


In short, kids can eat, and play, their way to healthy bones and set themselves up to be a bone-healthy adult.  Speak with your CTPO physician, nurse practitioner or PA for an extensive list of foods and exercise ideas that can support the development of strong bones and build a “bone bank” that will last a lifetime!


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