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Round Out Your Child’s Plate

Help your kids thrive with these nutrition powerhouses.
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Calcium: A Must-Have Nutrient for Bone Health continued...

The benefits of making high-calcium foods, particularly dairy, part of your child's daily diet may extend beyond building strong bones. Sheah Rarback, RD, director of nutrition and associate professor at the Mailman Center for Child Development at the University of Miami, says, "Emerging research suggests that calcium in dairy foods as part of a balanced diet helps adults achieve and maintain a healthy weight. And the same may be true for children."

Preliminary evidence shows dairy does work for kids. One study linked higher calcium intake to lower body fat levels in children aged 2 to 8. Milk and dairy foods were the main sources of calcium in the children's diets in the study.

Vitamin D is important for the absorption of calcium to help form and maintain strong bones. Since breast milk does not contain significant amounts of vitamin D, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends all breastfed and partially breastfed infants receive 400 IU of vitamin D from liquid supplements each day.

Milk fortified with vitamin D is one of the few dietary sources of Vitamin D. So children over 1 should drink 32 ounces of fortified milk each day or get other sources of vitamin D. For these children, the AAP recommends 400 IU/day of vitamin D.

Protein: Essential to Growth

"Protein is part of every single body tissue," Rarback says. "That gives you an idea of how important it is to children who are, by their very nature, growing all the time."

Protein provides calories, but its amino acids are what the body really needs. Amino acids are the raw materials for building new cells and tissues and the compounds that direct bodily processes, including those involving enzymes and hormones.

Protein is found in animal and plant foods. But there is a difference. Animal foods, particularly eggs, supply the essential amino acids (EAA) that your child's body cannot make. No plant food supplies all of the amino acids, so vegans (those who eat no animal food products) must eat an array of protein-packed plant foods to get the EAA they need. Vegetarians who include dairy foods and eggs typically satisfy EAA needs as long as they eat enough.

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