Say Cheese! The Importance of Calcium for Growing Kids

Written by Emily Whitmore, Seacoast Eat Local Intern


This week is Dairy and Kids’ day at the Market! Dairy plays a fundamental role in children’s diets because it contains beneficial nutrients for bone health. Calcium is a mineral found in dairy products that is stored in the bones and teeth for structural and functional purposes. During childhood we experience rapid bone growth; therefore it is a critical time to make certain that our bones are getting sufficient amounts of calcium to ensure healthy and maximum growth. Below shows the recommended dietary allowances of calcium for all ages. To get an idea of what some of this might look like, 1 ½ slices of cheese or 1 cup of low fat milk, yogurt or calcium fortified juice all contain about 300 mg of calcium each.


Recommended Dietary Allowances for Calcium:

0-6 months = 200 mg/day

7-12 months = 260 mg/day

1-3 years = 700 mg/day

4-8 years = 1,000 mg/day

9-18 years = 1,300 mg/day

19-70 years = 1,000 mg/day

71+ years = 1,200 mg/day


A pediatric dentist from Dentistry @ its Finest explains that our bodies cannot produce calcium and will take calcium from our bones if we don’t get enough. This can lead to low bone mass or develop into osteoporosis, or porous/fragile bones. This is why it is critical to include calcium-rich foods into our diets. Below are some calcium-rich sources and where they can be found at the market:



  • Brandmoore Farm: raw cow’s milk
  • Brookford Farm: raw cow’s milk
  • Jesta Farm: raw goat’s milk



  • Brookford Farm: Camembert, Brie, feta, cottage cheese, quark and raw cheddar made with dairy from grass-fed livestock
  • Hickory Nut Farm: goat milk cheese
  • Wolf Meadow Farm: Italian artisan cheeses such as mozzarella, ricotta, caciocavallo, caciotta, scamorza and primo sale



  • Brandmoore Farm: whole milk yogurt
  • Hickory Nut Farm: yo-goat-gurt


***Remember, dairy isn’t the only source of calcium. Non-dairy sources of calcium such as kale and collard greens are available at the market as well!


Calcium works closely with another mineral called Phosphorus. About 85% of Phosphorus in our body is found in our bone and teeth. It plays a role in bone mineralization and maximizes bone strength. Phosphorus is found in many food sources such as dairy products, meat, fish, nuts, beans and whole grains.


Lastly, it is important to get plenty of Vitamin D. Vitamin D also plays a role in bone health because it improves calcium absorption and promotes optimal bone formation. Sources of Vitamin D include the sun, supplements and food sources such as fatty fish (salmon, tuna) and fortified products (milk, orange juice, cereals). The Daily Value of Vitamin D for children/adults above the age of 4 is 400 IU/day.


An excellent way to sneak calcium into the diet of stubborn children is through one of their favorite recipes – macaroni and cheese! Skip the processed stuff from the box and make your own! Or if you’re looking for a lighter option, whip up a refreshing, calcium-rich smoothie for your children to enjoy! See recipes below.


Stovetop Mac and Cheese from

1 ¼ cups uncooked elbow macaroni (about 6 ounces)
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 ¼ cups (5 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese
½ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 slice of bread
1 tablespoon butter, melted


Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain.

Combine milk and flour in a medium saucepan, stirring with a whisk. Cook over medium heat 2 minutes or until thick, stirring constantly with a whisk. Add cheese, salt, and pepper, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Add pasta; toss to coat. Let stand 4 minutes.

Place bread in a food processor, and pulse 10 times or until the crumbs measure 1 1/4 cups.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add breadcrumbs, and cook 5 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Stir in melted butter; cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle breadcrumb mixture over pasta mixture.


Yogurt-Fruit Smoothie from

2 cups fat-free milk
1 (8-ounce) container of plain or vanilla yogurt
½ cup Vitamin-D fortified orange juice
2 cups frozen strawberries
1 banana, coarsely chopped

Process all ingredients in a blender until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides. Serve immediately.


Picture Credits:



Nutrition Through the Life Cycle


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