Many U.S. children get far too little. That's especially true of teens, and the teenage years are crucial bone-building years.
"Just before the teen years, and all throughout adolescence, children must get enough calcium to provide the foundation for strong bones," says Jodie Shield, MEd, RD. "During this time, the body lays down nearly half of all the bone mass it will ever have."
How to get more calcium: Shield suggests offering children low-fat or flavored milks at every meal.
Count on getting 300 milligrams from 8 ounces of any type of milk (including lactose-free) or yogurt, or from 1.5 ounces of hard cheese (such as cheddar).
Orange juice with added calcium and vitamin D is a dairy-free option. Some children may need a supplement if they don't get enough from their diet.
High-fiber foods are packed with nutrients kids need. It also helps kids feel fuller and avoid constipation.
When part of a balanced diet, it helps head off type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol in adults, and may work for kids, too. Diets rich in fiber-filled foods may make heart disease later in life less likely.
How much fiber to get: How much your child needs depends on his or her age, according to the AAP.
Figure your child's daily fiber quota in grams by adding five to his age. For example, a 5-year-old should get 10 grams of daily dietary fiber.
How to get more: Serve a fruit or vegetable (or both) with meals and snacks. Opt for whole-grain breads and cereals, pasta, and other grains.
Also, serve legumes such as chickpeas, lentils, and white beans in salads, soups, and omelets. Many of these foods provide potassium and magnesium, too.
Potassium ensures normal heart and muscle function, maintains fluid balance, participates in energy production, and promotes strong bones.
A potassium-rich diet helps head off high blood pressure in adults. Getting children in the habit of eating foods high in it may also help them keep blood pressure in check as they age.
"Kids, just like adults, don't eat enough of the fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains that are richest in potassium," says Bridget Swinney, RD.