Osteoporosis. Admit it; for you, a young mom, osteoporosis conjures up mental pictures of bent-over old ladies, shuffling along with a cane or walker, right?
It’s true, most Americans see osteoporosis as an “old people’s disease,” like Alzheimer’s or hearing loss. It’s not something you have to worry about till you’re, like… old.
While you’re unlikely to be diagnosed with osteoporosis at a young age, the seeds of this insidious disease are often planted in childhood. So, while most Americans with osteoporosis are older than age 65, they may very well have started down the path to bone loss over 50 years earlier – as children.
Remember when your mom used to tell you to drain that glass of milk at breakfast, because it “makes you grow big and strong”? Girls develop most of their bone mass between the ages of 9 and 18. Increasing bone mass translates into growing taller and stronger – so becoming “big and strong” was exactly what milk was helping you do. Even if your mom didn’t know why, her advice was right on.
Milk is an incredibly rich source of calcium. But these days, with breakfast tending more towards grab-and-go options like toaster pastries or bagels and a juice box, the morning glass of milk is a thing of the past.
Ditto lunch; even if your daughter brings a healthy brown-bag lunch, she’s probably purchasing a drink, and choosing juice or water over milk.
Dinner? Rush, rush, rush… With the schedule most families “enjoy” these days, dinner can be anything from fast food in the car, to takeout in front of the TV. Seldom does the whole family enjoy a leisurely dinner together, served at the table. With milk.
Is it any wonder more and more young women are discovering their bones are as thin as a 70-year-old’s? Especially when coupled with dieting and – counter-intuitively – too much exercise, an early lack of calcium can plunge women as young as 16 into osteoporosis.
So what’s a mother to do?
Help your daughter develop a calcium-rich diet NOW.
Remember this fact: to build healthy bones, bones that have the best chance of remaining strong throughout her life, your daughter needs 1300mg of calcium every day.
OK, your 9-year-old’s almost certain to turn her nose up at some of the usual calcium-rich suspects: broccoli, kale, sardines. And you have trouble getting her to drink milk.
But luckily, all kinds of dairy products are a great source of calcium. Puddings and flavored yogurts are a delicious, creamy snack; and how about fruit smoothies, made with milk, fruit, and a touch of ice cream? And speaking of ice cream, don’t forget frozen yogurt.
Cheese is packed with calcium; individual string cheese sticks (part-skim mozzarella) are a great source of low-fat protein and calcium. And, you know those plastic-wrapped slices of pasteurized process American cheese? Just two 1-ounce slices check in at 323mg of calcium; almost exactly ¼ of your daughter’s daily requirement.
Try cooking and baking with cheese, too. It’s shouldn’t be too much of a challenge; after all, cheese pizza, grilled cheese sandwiches, and macaroni and cheese are usually high on the list of any 11-year-old’s favorite dinners.
Beyond dairy, many brands of orange juice and breakfast cereal are fortified with calcium. And we’re not talking just boring adult cereals, either. If Shredded Wheat and Total get the big “EWWWW!” from your daughter, offer her Golden Grahams instead. Many popular kids’ cereals are surprisingly calcium-rich.
Speaking of cereal, don’t forget cereal bars and granola bars, a great snack to keep in the car. Choose a higher-calcium bar; they’re out there, you just have to spend a few minutes scoping out nutritional side panels at the supermarket.
Finally, nuts, and some fruits are fairly calcium rich; and certainly healthy for your daughter in many other ways. A handful of salted almonds (1/4) cup offers 80mg of calcium; an orange, 60mg. Both are easy to keep on hand for those after-school snack attacks.
Looking for more ideas? Check out our 10 Easy Ways to Add Calcium to Your Diet.
There’s more to healthy bones than calcium, certainly. Vitamin D and exercise play key roles, too. For lots of great information on getting your daughter the amount and types of exercise she needs; and ensuring she gets both a healthy helping of vitamin D and calcium each day, check out the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services parents’ Web site, Best Bones Forever! And its counterpart for young girls, BBF! for kids.
Someday – maybe 50 years from now – your daughter will thank you.
Published On: February 22, 2010