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Calcium and Vitamin D Q&A

  1. Why is calcium important for girls?
  2. How much calcium do girls need?
  3. Can my daughter get too much calcium or vitamin D?
  4. Which foods have calcium and vitamin D?
  5. What role does vitamin D play?
  6. Can girls take supplements to get calcium?
  7. What if my daughter is lactose intolerant or doesn't like milk or other dairy products?
Mother and daughter making lunch

1. Why is calcium important for girls? top

Calcium is essential for building stronger, denser bones and teeth early in life and for slowing the rate of bone loss later in life. Bone loss can lead to osteoporosis, a disease in which bones become fragile and are more likely to break.

Calcium helps form bones and keeps them strong and hard. Vitamin D helps your body use calcium.

2. How much calcium do girls need? top

Girls ages 9-18 need 1,300 milligrams of calcium each day. This may sound like a lot, but there are so many foods with calcium — and your daughter is likely already eating some of them! Check out the chart on sources of calcium — if your daughter likes cereal, for example, she may be getting a head start on her calcium needs from just a bowl for breakfast!

See how much calcium and vitamin D the rest of your family needs.

3. Can my daughter get too much calcium or vitamin D? top

It is recommended that children get no more than 2,500 milligrams of calcium per day. Whether it is safe for children to get more than the recommended calcium limit has not been studied, but the reality is that most girls don’t get close to 1,300 milligrams of calcium every day. In fact, fewer than 1 in 10 girls get the calcium she needs each day.

Also, your daughter may not be getting the amount of vitamin D she needs to help build strong bones. The federal recommended amount of vitamin D for girls — 600 international units (IU) — is a minimum. Talk to your doctor to determine if your daughter is getting enough.

4. Which foods have calcium and vitamin D? top

You may know that milk and milk products like cheese and yogurt have calcium. But many other foods have calcium — vegetables like broccoli, kale, and collards; almonds; and tofu made with calcium sulfate (check the ingredient list). Also, foods such as orange juice, cereal, bread, and cereal bars are available with added calcium and vitamin D. Look for foods that say they have calcium and be sure to read the label. Take a look at the calcium content in some everyday foods. Choose fat-free or low-fat versions of foods, when available.

Vitamin D is found naturally in tuna fish, liver, and fish liver oils, but more and more kid-friendly products are fortified with vitamin D, like milk and some yogurt, cereal, and tofu. Sunlight is also a source of vitamin D.

5. What role does vitamin D play? top

Vitamin D helps the body use calcium. Calcium can't do its job without vitamin D. It is found naturally in tuna fish, liver, and fish liver oils, but more and more products are fortified with vitamin D, like milk and some yogurt, cereal, and tofu. Sunlight is also a source of vitamin D.

6. Can girls take supplements to get calcium? top

The best way for minerals, like calcium, to enter the body is through food. Food also provides other minerals and vitamins that are important for bone health, as well as for overall health.

7. What if my daughter is lactose intolerant or doesn't like milk or other milk products? top

If your daughter has trouble eating dairy, talk to her doctor about how to make sure she gets all the calcium she needs.
Some people are unable to digest lactose found in milk and milk products. Your daughter can still meet the daily recommended level of calcium by choosing:

  • Lactose-free or lactose-reduced milk
  • Soy products with added calcium
  • Vegetables such as bok choy, kale, collards, and broccoli
  • Foods with added calcium (fortified) such as juice, cereal, and bread

For more information on lactose intolerance, visit National Institutes of Health, Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases, and National Resource Center 

If your daughter doesn't like milk, add in a tasty flavor! Introduce her to flavored low-fat milk, like strawberry or chocolate. Soy and rice drinks with added calcium are also available in a variety of flavors.

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