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Good Eats for School-Age Kids

How you feed your kid now can inspire healthy eating habits for a lifetime.
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Build Strong Bones continued...

By age 9, calcium needs increase to 1,300 milligrams a day. MyPlate recommends 3 cups of fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk for everyone 9 and older to help satisfy the need for calcium and vitamin D, which works with calcium to promote fracture-resistant bones in adolescence and beyond. Females form about 90% of the bone mass they will ever have by age 18, and males achieve that by age 20.

Drinking milk is the easiest way to build bone because it provides both calcium and vitamin D, says Christina Economos, PhD, associate professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University.

Eight ounces of yogurt or 1 1/2 ounces of hard cheese each contain as much calcium as a glass of milk. (However, most yogurt and hard cheeses lack vitamin D.) Orange juice and soy beverages fortified with calcium and vitamin D are other worthy bone-building beverages.

Children who do not get enough dairy or alternatives may need supplemental calcium and vitamin D. See your pediatrician or a registered dietitian if you're concerned.

Kids in the Kitchen

How do you get kids to buy into good nutrition? Getting children involved in food choice and preparation is one of the best strategies for helping them eat right, says Economos, herself a mother of two.

Giving kids a say in what they eat encourages the autonomy they crave.

Allow your child some veto power in the supermarket, but make sure they choose among healthy foods. For example, let your child choose between bananas and kiwis, or oatmeal and other whole-grain cereals. At home, encourage your children to prepare healthy brown-bag lunches and easy snacks.

Gather as often as possible for family meals, particularly when your child has been involved in making them. Research shows dining together without distractions -- including the TV -- translates into a better diet and lower chance of overeating, says Economos. Plus, it gives you and your child a chance to talk.

Bet on Breakfast

Mornings can be chaotic, leaving breakfast -- and better nutrition -- in the lurch. Nicklas' research bears that out. Kids who eat breakfast take in more of the nutrients they need, she says. Breakfast skippers typically do not make up for the missed opportunity the morning meal provides.

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