Q&A: How much calcium does a toddler need?
My daughter doesn't like milk. What are some other sources of calcium for her, and how much calcium does a 2-year-old need?
The quick and easy answer to your question is that the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for calcium is 700 mg a day for toddlers between the ages of 1 and 3 years. For a useful frame of reference, an 8-ounce glass of milk contains just under 300 mg of calcium.
However, I’ve found that this answer doesn’t always fully address the real question many parents of toddlers have, and that’s how do I make sure my toddler is getting enough calcium. The answer to that question often depends on many factors—not the least of which includes taking into account how picky an eater your toddler is and whether he/she refuses to drink milk or loves it. Those who consistently get two servings of dairy each day tend to have no problem getting enough calcium. However, not all toddlers like milk or are able to drink it for a variety of reasons. In either case it becomes important to explore other calcium options. Other sources range from broccoli, cheese and yogurt to calcium-fortified orange juice, soy milk, bread, and cereal.
While we’re on the subject of calcium, it’s also very worth pointing out two other important recommendations. The first is that in general, toddlers between 1 and 2 years of age should drink whole milk (unless 2 percent milk is recommended by their doctor). After the age of 2, however, most kids should switch to low-fat (1 percent) or skim milk.
The other important consideration not to be overlooked in any dairy discussion is that even toddlers who have no problem getting enough calcium from two servings of dairy a day still run the very real risk of getting only half of the vitamin D they need. As you keep an eye on how many servings of dairy are in your toddler’s daily diet, also be aware that the American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends 400IU (International Units) of vitamin D in the form of a supplement for all children who drink less than 4 cups of milk a day.