How to Boost Your Child’s Bone Health

Physical activity, calcium and vitamin D are essential for building strong bones, says Dr. Samuel Rosenfeld, orthopaedic surgeon with the CHOC Children’s Orthopaedic Institute. Developing good bone health during childhood helps prevent fractures and osteoporosis later in life.

bone health for kids
Dr. Samuel Rosenfeld, an orthopaedic surgeon at CHOC Children’s, offers tips on how to boost bone health for kids.

Bone is living tissue in the skeleton that constantly changes. Old bone gets replaced with new. The greatest amount of bone tissue grows during childhood and adolescence as the skeleton expands in size and density. It is during this period of active growth when calcium is essential. In addition to requiring a great deal of calcium, the young body absorbs calcium more effectively. For this reason, children need to “bank” extra calcium for bone health.

Some of the most common sources of calcium are from dairy products, such as milk, yogurt and cheese. Note, however, that calcium in dairy products are bound by fat and not absorbed. For that reason, children should get their dietary calcium from fat-free dairy products taken at least one hour away from meals. Other sources include calcium-fortified soy milk and juices, canned salmon (with bones) and sardines, and dark green, leafy vegetables, such as broccoli and kale.

For calcium to be effective in bone growth and development, it is also important that children get enough vitamin D. This can be done through careful sun exposure and eating vitamin D-rich foods such as fortified milk and milk products, cod liver oil, red meat, eggs, mushrooms and some fatty fish.

Calcium and vitamin-D supplements are also important to consider, to ensure children, especially those with certain chronic conditions, are getting enough bone-boosting nutrients. Parents should consult their child’s physician before giving supplements. In this video, Dr. Rosenfeld explains that building healthy bones actually starts while the child is still in the womb, and continues through childhood. Below are Dr. Rosenfeld’s general recommendations:

Age 7 and younger

Calcium intake: 250 mg twice daily

Vitamin D3 intake: 250 IUs twice daily

Ages 8-13

Calcium intake: 500 mg twice daily

Vitamin D3 intake: 500 IUs twice daily

Age 14 and older

Calcium intake: 600 mg twice daily

Vitamin D3 intake: 2000 IUs twice daily

In addition to a calcium and vitamin D-rich diet, children should participate in physical activity, advises Dr. Rosenfeld.

“Ideally, exercise should be part of a child’s daily routine. Parents should help their children find activities and sports they enjoy, so they’ll continue to participate in them,” says Dr. Rosenfeld.

Good bone health is not difficult to achieve and maintain, adds Dr. Rosenfeld.

“It doesn’t take fad pills or fancy supplements,” he explains.
“Establishing a routine of taking calcium and vitamin D, along with a little exercise, is the ‘prescription’ for healthy bones.”

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Year-Round Hydration Tips for the Whole Family

Summer may be around the corner, but hydration is an important part of your family’s health year-round. Keep in mind these easy hydration tips to ensure your family gets the fluid intake they need.

What is dehydration?

Dehydration is a condition that occurs when someone loses more fluids than he or she takes in. Infants and children are especially vulnerable because of their relatively small body weights and high turnover of water and electrolytes. They’re also the group most likely to experience diarrhea, a common cause of dehydration. Vomiting, fever, excessive heat/sweating, and increased urination can also lead to dehydration.

Symptoms of dehydration include:

  • Dry, sticky mouth
  • Sleepiness or tiredness- children are likely to be less active than usual
  • Thirst
  • Decreased urine output
  • No wet diapers for three hours for infants
  • Few or no tears when crying
  • Dry skin
  • Headache
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness

What does proper hydration look like?

Staying healthy means staying hydrated, since our bodies depend on water to survive. Every cell, tissue and organ in your body needs water in order to work correctly. For example, your body uses water to maintain its temperature, remove waste and lubricate joints. Water is needed for good overall health.

Some of the top beverages I recommended to my patients for hydration include: water, low-fat or fat-free milk, and 100 percent fruit juice.

Keep in mind these tips for choosing healthy beverages:

  • Avoid drinking your calories
  • Avoid drinks that are high in sugar, such as soda, fruit drinks, punch, sweet tea, etc.
  • Choose beverages that have low or no added sugar
  • Remember that water is the source for hydration
  • Read nutrition labels and choose a beverage with less than 6 grams of sugar per serving
  • Be sure to double-check the serving size and number of servings in a bottle.

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Healthy Meal Prep Tips for Busy Parents

By Elise Harlow, registered dietitian at CHOC Children’s

When life gets busy, making homemade meals can fall to the bottom of your to-do list. Drive-through or take-out dinners may sound more appealing and time-friendly! While there is nothing wrong with the occasional fast-food meal, by cooking meals at home you can reduce the amount of added fat and sodium, and have control over the types of ingredients going into your family’s food.

To increase the amount of homemade meals you have on hand during busy times, meal planning and meal prepping can be your best friend. This can also be a great way to involve your kids in the kitchen and increase their interest in healthy foods.

Meal planning: this means taking one day out of the week to sit a down with a planner and plan out your meals for the upcoming week. After your meals are planned out, make a grocery list for all the ingredients you will need for the week.

Helpful tip: use leftovers from dinner for lunch the next day. For example, a roasted chicken for dinner can become a chicken salad sandwich for lunch the next day

How to involve your children: Let your children help you in planning meals by letting them choose what is for dinner one night a week. Maybe one day they can choose a meal that they know they like, and one day they get to pick a new food that they would like to try. You can even bring your children along with you to the grocery store to help pick up the ingredients needed for the week. Children tend to be more likely to try new foods when they have some sort of say in what they are eating.

Meal prepping: this means that once a week you pre-cook whatever meals from your meal plan that allow for this. For example,  roasting a chicken on Sunday and using the chicken in dishes for the rest of the week, or making lasagna on Sunday for dinner during the week, or portioning out yogurt and fruit in single-serving containers for easy grab-and-go breakfasts each day of the week.

How to involve your children: assign your children age-appropriate tasks that they can do on their own. Again, this will increase their interest in the food and could make them more likely to try new foods. Some ideas include scrubbing vegetables, counting ingredients, measuring, or mixing ingredients together.

A crock pot or slow-cooker can be your best friend during busy times. The beauty of a crock pot is that you can throw the ingredients in the crock pot in the morning on your way out the door to work and arrive home to a warm, homemade meal for you and your family. Looking for ideas? Below is a recipe for steel cut oats, that could even be cooked overnight, which means waking up to warm cooked breakfast!

Slow Cooker Steel Cut Oatmeal

Recipe adapted from CookSmarts.com
Ingredients
2 cups steel cut oats
6 cups water

2 cups milk of any type
2 tablespoons butter
2 to 3 peeled apples
¼ cup honey
2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
Optional add ins: flax seed, chia seed, almonds, pecans, shredded coconut, hemp seeds, pepitas, etc.

Directions

  1. Spray the slow cooker with cooking oil or brush with cooking oil to prevent sticking.
  2. Put all ingredients into the slow cooker. Cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours.
  3. Top with optional add-ins of your choice.

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Tis the Season for Healthy Holiday Eating

By Lindsay Rypkema, registered dietitian at CHOC Children’s

The holidays are a time filled with family, friends and food. It is important for parents to model good eating habits as well as provide healthful meals and snacks in a season often filled with overindulgence. Eating healthy doesn’t mean you have to forgo all the holiday goodies your family loves, but small modifications can make a big impact. Below are some tips for healthy holiday eating.

  • Snack before you go: Never attend a holiday party hungry! To avoid overeating, consume a light snack at home such as vegetables and hummus or Greek yogurt and fruit. Protein and fiber will keep you full longer.
  • Prepare balanced meals: Choose one item from every food group. Limit the dessert options and always have fresh fruit and vegetables available.
  • Limit sugary drinks: Instead of cider, juice and soda, try infusing water with seasonal fresh fruit such as pomegranate, cranberries or blood orange. Wash fruit, slice and add to water pitcher. You can also use cookie cutters to make holiday shapes.
  • Limit sugar in baking: Baking is a fun holiday tradition but can result in excess calorie and sugar intake. Decrease sugar by 50 percent and add other spices such as vanilla, cinnamon or nutmeg for added flavor. Try replacing the recommended oil with unsweetened applesauce or mashed banana in a 1:1 ratio to decrease calories. This works well in cakes, muffins and breads.
  • Try making a visual and healthy treat: Healthy snacks and desserts don’t have to be boring. For example, you can make a candy cane out of banana and strawberries. Pinterest has some great ideas to make a Santa out of strawberries or a Grinch out of grapes.
  • Get a jump start on your family’s resolutions: Don’t wait until the New Year to increase physical activity. Take a walk or play flag football after your holiday meal. Exercise is an important part of healthy living.
  • Consider simple swaps: Side dishes such as mashed potatoes and stuffing are often a family favorite but can be very high in calories and tempting to overeat. Try offering quinoa in place of stuffing for a healthy, high protein option. Consider using plain Greek yogurt in place of sour cream for added protein. You can also make mashed potatoes out of cauliflower. Try this easy recipe this season:

Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes

2 head cauliflower, cut into florets

2 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

2  tablespoons reduced – fat cream cheese

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

*Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Steam or boil cauliflower until tender. Mix olive oil, Parmesan, cream cheese, & garlic powder in bowl. Use food processor to blend cauliflower on high. Slowly add your oil/cheese mixture until completely blended. Salt and pepper to taste.

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Healthy Eating Tips for the School Year

It’s time to head back to school, and with that comes a fresh opportunity to establish new habits with children and teens. As your family falls into a routine around the school day, be sure to incorporate healthy eating into the mix to ensure everyone has a strong year.

Tips for School-Age Children (Ages 6-12)

School-age children need healthy foods and nutritious snacks to fuel their busy bodies. They have a consistent but slow rate of growth, requiring them to eat four to five times a day (including snacks). Eating healthy after-school snacks is important, as these snacks may contribute up to one-third of the total calorie intake for the day. Remember that school-age children may also be eating more foods outside of the home.

Many food habits, likes and dislikes are established during this time. This makes it a perfect time to experiment with new foods, as school-age children are often willing to eat a wider variety of foods than their younger siblings.

Follow these seven tips to ensure good nutrition habits for school-age children:

  1. Always serve breakfast, even if it has to be “on the run.” Some ideas for a quick, healthy breakfast include fruit, milk, bagel, cheese toast, cereal, peanut butter sandwich and fruit smoothies.
  2. Take advantage of big appetites after school by serving healthy snacks, such as fruit, vegetables and dip, yogurt, turkey or chicken sandwich, cheese and crackers, or milk and cereal.
  3. Make healthy foods easily accessible.
  4. Allow children to help with meal planning and preparation.
  5. Serve meals at the table, instead of in front of the television, to avoid distractions.
  6. Fill half of the plate with colorful fruits and vegetables.
  7. Provide calorie-free beverages (water) throughout the day, to avoid filling up on non-nutritive calories.

healthy eating tips

 Tips for Adolescents and Teens (Age 13 and Up)

During adolescence, children become more independent and make many food decisions on their own. Many adolescents experience a growth spurt and an increase in appetite, and they need healthy foods to meet their growth needs. Adolescents tend to eat more meals away from home than younger children. They are also heavily influenced by their peers.

Discuss these nine healthy eating tips with your adolescent to ensure he or she is following a healthy eating plan:

  1. Have several nutritious snack foods readily available. Oftentimes, teenagers will eat whatever is convenient.
  2. If there are foods that you do not want your teens to eat, avoid bringing them into the home.
  3. Drink water. Try to avoid drinks that are high in sugar. Fruit juice can have a lot of calories, so limit your adolescent’s intake. Whole fruit is always a better choice.
  4. When cooking for your adolescent, try to bake or broil instead of fry.
  5. Make sure your adolescent watches (and decreases, if necessary) his or her sugar intake.
  6. Eat more chicken and fish. Limit red meat intake, and choose lean cuts when possible.
  7. Arrange for teens to find out about nutrition for themselves by providing teen-oriented magazines or books with food articles and by encouraging them and supporting their interest in health, cooking or nutrition.
  8. Take their suggestions, when possible, regarding foods to prepare at home.
  9. Experiment with foods outside your own culture.

Get more tips for establishing healthy eating habits with kids.

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