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Calcium Food Sources

Children are at risk for not getting enough calcium. Today, surveys show that children and teens are only getting a portion of the calcium they need. Calcium is important for building strong bones and teeth.

Children 4 to 8 need 800 milligrams (mg) of calcium each day. Teens and preteens 9 to 18 need 1300 mg each day. The table below shows good sources of calcium, both dairy and nondairy, that you can offer to your kids every day.

Dairy Foods

Plain yogurt, low fat/fat free             1 cup       415 to 450 mg
Fruit yogurt, low fat/fat free             1 cup       345 mg
Milk (fat-free, low-fat, whole)            1 cup       275 to 300 mg
Frozen yogurt (fat-free, low-fat, whole)   1 cup       210 mg
Reduced-fat cheddar cheese                 1 oz.       120 mg
American cheese                            2 oz.       323 mg
Swiss cheese                               1.5 oz.     336 mg
Cheddar cheese                             1.5 oz.     307 mg
Mozzarella, part-skim                      1.5 oz.     311 mg
Ricotta Cheese, part skim                  1/2 cup     337 mg
Cottage cheese reduced fat                 1/2 cup      75 mg
Calcium-fortified cottage cheese           1/2 cup     300 mg
Cheese Pizza                               1 slice     220 mg

Nondairy Foods

Calcium-fortified orange juice             1 cup       500 mg
Corn Tortillas                             3            63 mg
Waffle 7 inch round                        1           190 mg
Pancakes 4 inch round                      2           100 mg
Beans dried (cooked)                       1 cup        80 to 130 mg
Soybeans (cooked)                          1/2 cup      90 mg
Tofu (processed with calcium sulfate)      1/2 cup     253 to 453 mg
Rice milk (calcium fortified)              1 cup       283 mg
Soy milk (calcium-fortified)               1 cup       300 mg
Salmon with small bones                    3 oz.       180 mg
Broccoli (raw)                             1 cup        90 mg
Almonds                                    1 oz.        75 mg
Calcium-fortified cereal                   1 cup       250 to 1000 mg
Chinese cabbage, raw                       1 cup        74 mg
Turnip greens boiled                       1/2 cup      99 mg
Kale, cooked                               1 cup        94 mg
Spinach, cooked                            1 cup       245 mg
Spinach, raw                               1 cup        30 mg

*Calcium content of foods listed in the above table will vary depending on fat content, processing and brand. The values shown here are estimates.

The calcium from some nondairy choices, such as vegetables, beans, and soy, is not absorbed as well as that from dairy products. Although these foods make it easier to meet daily calcium needs, it still can be hard to get enough without dairy products. It is best to get calcium from a variety of sources. Ask your healthcare provider or dietitian if your child should take a calcium supplement.

Are calcium-fortified foods healthy and safe?

While many fortified products are good supplements, foods such as candy, flavored waters, and soda pop often have little or no nutritional value, other than the calcium. They are snack foods and should be eaten in limited amounts. Choose fortified foods that are already nutritious, such as whole grain cereals, breads, 100% fruit juices, or soy products.

Read labels. More does not always mean better. Calcium is best absorbed in amounts of 500 mg or less per serving. Keep your child's calcium needs in mind when you choose fortified products. Although rare, it is possible to get too much calcium through fortified foods.

The calcium in fortified fruit juices is well absorbed. Three 8 oz cups of fruit juice is about the same as three 8 oz cups of low fat milk in calcium and calories.

Written by Terri Murphy, RD, CDE for RelayHealth.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2011-07-05
Last reviewed: 2011-07-05
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2011 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
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