Nutrition & Diet

Why do you need to make bone strengthening foods a part of your kid’s diet?

Written by Rasika Thakur Parab
Published: January 30, 2023
Consulting Medical Nutritionist with an experience of more than 14 years.

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Let’s face it. You may be doing all the serious and even strenuous work, but your kid is physically more active than you. They play and run at home, school, playground, and even with friends. It’s not easy, you know, being so full of energy all the time. So, they must have a good, nutritious, and balanced diet to stay on their feet all the time. But stamina is just one part of it. They also need strong bones to sustain so much activity without injuries or aches and pains and for a physically healthy adulthood. 

Why childhood is a crucial stage for growth

Childhood is the foundation of our adult life on every front, which is why one needs to ensure this stage is strong and healthy. This is the age when holistic development takes place for overall growth, including that of bones. Minerals are incorporated into bones during childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood, and one reaches peak bone mass by age 30. If the body fails to form enough bone mass during this period, or if bone loss occurs later in life, one is more likely to develop fragile bones that break easily. The other factor to be considered is strengthening the skeletal system, which plays an important part. If this is neglected, as adults, your child can develop osteoporosis, which is especially prevalent in women. 

It’s also essential to pay close attention to bone health during childhood as there are more chances of your kid hurting themself when out playing. And if their bones are too weak to take that fall or any other kind of mishap, it can lead to severe injuries such as fractures or broken bones. If your young one’s body is fortified with solid bone density, they won’t be easily susceptible to these.

All about bone density

Let’s understand what bone density is. Bone Mineral Density (BMD) is the amount of calcium and other minerals present in one unit volume of bone. If one has a low bone density, there is an increased risk of fractures. In women, it can also indicate an early onset of osteoporosis. These adversities can be avoided if care is taken to strengthen children’s bones at an early stage.

Nutrients essential for bone strengthening

A surefire way to naturally build healthy bones is through nutritious food. 

  • Calcium is the primary mineral bones contain and the most important to ensure strength
  • Vitamin C stimulates the production of bone-forming cells, and its antioxidant properties protect bone cells from damage. 
  • Approximately 50% of bone is made of protein; if this is lacking in the body, calcium absorption will also decrease. 
  • Vitamin D ensures calcium absorption and plays many other roles in giving one stronger bone and preventing lower bone density.
  • Vitamin K2 modifies osteocalcin (a protein essential for bone formation), which binds minerals in bones to help prevent calcium loss.
  • Fat promotes calcium absorption and BMD.

Foods that strengthen bones

A balanced diet is your best bet to provide your children with the nutrients mentioned above. Here are some foods that help in increasing bone density and strengthening bones. 

Dairy products 

Milk and milk products are the primary sources of calcium and must figure in your meal plan for kids no matter what. Include whole milk with Bournvita, low-fat yogurt, cheese and cottage cheese in your kid’s meals. One cup of cottage cheese, whole milk and yogurt each have 125 mg, 276 mg and 311 mg of calcium, respectively.

Soy

Soy is an excellent calcium source that occasionally offers variety to a child’s diet and promotes bone development in children. Up to 515 mg of calcium can be found in one cup of soybeans.

Sesame seeds

Whether black or white, sesame seeds are a rich source of calcium, with 300 mg in two heaped tablespoons. You can give it to your child as Til laddu or chikki or sprinkle it on dishes. 

Ragi 

Finger millet or nachni is a gluten-free ingredient that’s called a super grain for the goodness it’s packed with. 100 gm of ragi flour contains 344 mg calcium. 

Things to keep in mind while including calcium in meals

Just like some ingredients maximize calcium absorption, some things reduce it too. It would be best if you also remembered a few other things about this mineral. 

  • Read the labels on food and beverages to check the calcium content. 
  • Bone strengthening foods and drinks that have had calcium supplemented (fortified) may sink to the bottom, so shake the bottle well before your child consumes its content.
  • If you follow a vegan diet or your kid is lactose intolerant, you can achieve their daily calcium requirements with other ingredients or calcium supplements.
  • Calcium is extremely sensitive to absorption, which reduces if the food is a source of phytate, oxalate or fiber.  

Providing fussy eaters with a healthy dose of calcium 

Calcium is relatively simple to obtain from dairy foods compared to other foods. Unfortunately, it’s considerably trickier if you’re attempting to feed calcium to a picky eater (which essentially means almost every child). In such cases, having a meal plan for kids ensures they get the right amount of nutrition to strengthen their bones.

Some absorbable calcium sources include:

Walnuts, pecans, Brazil nuts, pistachios, and almonds (and almond butter)

Beans: navy, black, edamame, adzuki, chickpeas, and kidney beans

Increase sources of vitamin C, such as orange, lime juice, or tofu, which your kid may not resist. If you turn cooking a dish rich in calcium into a fun activity, they will love to eat what they have cooked. 

While you follow these, the most important thing to remember is that every child’s nutrient requirement varies. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution. It is always best to consult a professional dietician or nutritionist for the right advice regarding meal plan for kids. The right foods consumed at the right time will give them a better and healthier life even when they grow up.

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The views expressed are that of the expert alone.

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