Kids today are drinking more soda than ever, which means more
trips to the emergency room with broken bones. A good solution?
Stay away from the sugar and drink more milk
If 6-year-old Ryan Flores could choose what he’d be eating for lunch this week, it would be candy, candy and candy.
“He’s a kid, you know, they like junk food – the cakes and candies and stuff,” said Kathy Flores, Ryan’s mother and a Gilroy resident. “But I only allow him one small treat a day, and no soda or fast food.”
Although Flores tries to make sure Ryan’s lunchbox is filled with a balanced meal each day, some parents let too much soda and junk food slip into their children’s diets. The result is taking a toll on kids’ bodies, especially their bones.
A new study released by the American Academy of Pediatrics shows that more kids today are breaking bones than they did 20 years ago. According to the study, children involved in sports are at even greater risk: Each year, nearly 1 million kids younger than 14 are seeking medical attention for broken bones related to sports injuries.
Part of what’s to blame for the increase is that through the past several years, sugary foods – primarily soda – have become more readily available to children, in bigger portions and for less money, said Lillian Castillo, a registered dietitian public health nutritionist for the Santa Clara County Public Health Department.
“There has been a huge change in the past 10 years,” she said. “The average teenage boy drinks two to three 12-ounce sodas a day. That’s 800 cans a year. Kids are drinking soda in place of milk because it’s cheaper. We’re also seeing bigger sizes, and not just at the fast-food restaurants.”
Oversized portions don’t end with fast-food joints. A regular-sized can of soda used to contain 12 ounces, but now that many soda-makers have repackaged their beverages into plastic bottles, the amount has gone up to 20 ounces.
For many kids, soda has replaced calcium-rich beverages such as milk and fortified orange juice, and in some cases, soda has even become a substitute for healthy food, Castillo said.
“Along with all this soda, kids aren’t drinking enough milk, and they’re not eating foods rich in calcium,” Castillo said.
So how much calcium should kids and teens be getting? The National Institutes of Health Consensus Conference on Osteoporosis recommend children ages 1 to 10 get 800 milligrams a day, and teenagers and young adults ages 11 to 24 get 1,200 milligrams.
One cup of milk contains 200 milligrams of calcium, and vegetables such as broccoli and spinach have about 45 milligrams per serving.
A child who consumes the right amount of calcium should still stay away from soda, Castillo said. The caffeine in soda acts as a diuretic that causes the child to lose nutrients from calcium-rich foods and drinks, which Castillo said are the best way to get nutrients – not supplements.
“I think as a society we don’t view food for what it is, and that’s a source of nutrients,” she said. “Parents need to set boundaries. There is no reason why a child should be drinking one soda a day. Parents need to accept the responsibility of setting their kids up with healthy eating habits.”
Where Should I Get my Calcium?
Good dietary sources of calcium include:
– Milk and milk products such as milk, yogurt, cheese and buttermilk. One cup of milk provides around 200 milligrams of calcium.
– Leafy green vegetables such as broccoli, collards, bok choy, Chinese cabbage and spinach. One cup of cooked spinach contains 100 milligrams of calcium. One cup of cooked broccoli contains about 45 milligrams.
– Soy and tofu, including fortified soy drinks.
– Fish such as sardines and salmon, with bones. Half a cup of canned salmon contains 402 milligrams of calcium.
– Nuts and seeds. Brazil nuts, almonds and sesame seed paste, also known as tahini are good sources of calcium. Fifteen almonds contain about 40 milligrams of calcium.
The Bodies Changing Needs
The average calcium requirement changes as a person gets older. Here are some basic guidelines for how much calcium both young and old should be getting.
Young children: Skeletal tissue is constantly growing, so young children have higher calcium needs. Babies need 300 milligrams per day if breast fed and 500 milligrams per day if bottle fed, while children up to 11 years old need 700 to 900 milligrams per day.
Preteens and teenagers: Puberty prompts a growth spurt, so this group needs more calcium – between 1,000 and 1,200 milligrams per day.
Peak bone mass years: From puberty to the mid-20s, the skeleton increases its bone mass. If the skeleton is fortified with enough calcium during these years, diseases like osteoporosis in the later years are less likely. During mid-life, women and men need around 800 milligrams per day.
Pregnant women: Although a developing baby needs a lot of calcium, which is taken from the mother’s bones, most women rapidly replace this bone loss once the baby has stopped breastfeeding. The mother should make sure she has enough calcium in her diet during pregnancy, as this may protect her bone mass while also meeting the needs of the fetus.
Women who are breastfeeding: A breastfeeding mother needs enough calcium for her needs and her baby’s needs, around 1,200 milligrams per day.
Elderly people: As people age, their skeletons lose calcium. Women lose the most calcium from their bones in the five years around the age of menopause. However, both men and women lose bone mass as they grow older and should increase the amount of calcium in their diet, taking in about 1,000 milligrams per day. Although a diet high in calcium cannot reverse age-related bone loss, it can slow the process.
Non-Caucasians: People with smaller frames or who eat many plant-based foods, especially soy, may need less calcium than Caucasian people, who have larger frames and generally consume more animal foods, caffeine, soft drinks and salt.