What if my child won’t or can’t drink milk?

It’s proven that teeth need a good steady source for calcium, which milk has loads of…

You might know that a lack of dietary calcium and vitamin D (which help calcium absorption) can cause teeth to soften over time, making them more susceptible to tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease. So, if your child won’t drink milk, or has a food allergy, you may be worried that your child isn’t getting enough calcium to grow healthy teeth and maintain gums. It might not be a surprise to hear that, according to the Academy of General Dentistry, only one in five children in the U.S. meets the minimum standards for calcium in their daily diets. So what if my child won’t drink milk, or can’t drink milk? What can you do?

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First of all, children require differing amount of calcium in their diet, according to the Institute of Medicine, which reports nutrition information like this to the federal government.

  • From birth to 3 yrs – 500 mg (milligrams)
  • 4 to 8 yrs – 800 mg
  • 9-19 yrs – 1,300 mg

That’s right! It takes more and more calcium (and vitamin D) to keep kids’ teeth healthy as they grow and grow. An average small glass of milk (8 oz) can contain about 300 mg of calcium. So you can see, most growing bodies need anywhere from 1.5 to 5 glasses of milk daily to maintain their teeth and diet. One can also find good amounts of calcium in an 8 oz yogurt (400 mg). If you or your kids won’t or can’t consume these food products, don’t worry; there are other alternatives available.

Healthy Calcium Rich Alternatives

One popular source of calcium can be calcium-fortified drinks and some vegetables. Try calcium-fortified orange juice or soy milk. If those don’t work for you, many breads and cereals are also calcium-fortified (meaning calcium is actually added in for dietary reasons). If you can’t work with that because of the gluten, try some healthy vegetables such as tofu, spinach, beans and broccoli.

If it’s an “I don’t wanna” problem with milk, you can also try to flavor the child’s milk with strawberry, chocolate or other milk products, like cheeses on pizzas and salads and bread. Only 1.5 oz of a hard cheese like the ever-popular cheddar can be equal to 8 oz of milk because the calcium becomes highly concentrated as cheese is made from milk.

Whatever you do, make sure you’re not one of the 1 in 5 families that isn’t making sure their child is getting enough calcium or any other important nutrition in their diets. Then tell them don’t forget to floss and brush after every meal and at least twice a day.

Contact the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for all nutritional information and guidelines.