As part of Healthy Bones Action Week, we spoke to Glenys Zucco, nutritionist, and mum of two on how to help our children build strong bones.
Calcium is essential for building and maintaining our bones as it combines with other minerals, such as magnesium and phosphorus, to form hard crystals that give bones their strength. Our bodies can’t make minerals, therefore they must come from our diet. Without enough calcium-rich foods, over time bones may become weak and brittle, leading to osteoporosis.
Consuming enough calcium for building and maintaining bones is important throughout all stages of life, but the school years are critical because bones are growing rapidly.
The greatest rate of bone growth takes place from birth to puberty (a 7-fold increase). This is why it is so important for children to consume enough calcium rich foods, like dairy, whilst they are growing,” said Glenys.
“Unfortunately, most Aussie kids aren’t meeting the recommended serves of milk, cheese and yoghurt every day. This shortfall might be because parents and children just aren’t sure how much dairy they should be having.”
The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommended children and teens need between 1.5 to 3.5 serve of dairy a day with a serve being a 250ml glass of milk, 200g tub of yogurt or a 40g piece of cheese.
The good news is that there are lots of easy and simple ways you can squeeze more dairy into children’s diets!
Here are five hacks to get in your little one’s daily dose of dairy.
Cheese is the perfect snack for lunchboxes
The lunch box is a great opportunity to include at least one serve of dairy in a child’s day. Cheese is a tasty, nutrient dense, and high calcium food that keeps well in lunchboxes.
Snack ideas include cheese sticks or cubes paired with crackers, fruit, and cut veggies such as cucumber, carrots, or cherry tomatoes.
Another fun and interesting way to engage the little ones is to cut cheese into shapes using cookie cutters.
Milk is an ideal post-school snack
With warm weather around the corner, milk makes for a refreshing after school or sports snack. Long life milk can be purchased in portioned tetra packs for convenience and ease.
Alternatively, a tall glass of cold milk can be paired with milo and piece of fruit to tie your child over until dinner time.
Try freezing yoghurt for a quick, cheap, and easy afternoon treat
Freezing yoghurt is the perfect treat to satisfy your child’s sweet craving. Try freezing plain or flavoured yoghurt in popsicle moulds.
Optional toppings include mixing in fruit such as strawberries, mango, or blueberries. A natural sweetener like honey can also be incorporated for a sweet kick.
Incorporating a splash of milk or sprinkle of cheese
If you have to be a bit more covert about getting your child to drink milk, there are many meals that incorporate dairy, including milk and cheese-based pasta sauces, veggie bakes, and slices.
Some of our household favourites include pasta with creamy basil and broccoli sauce, ricotta lasagne, and homemade pizza with bocconcini.
Rethink sweet treats with dairy
It’s no secret that kids love dessert. Dairy-focussed desserts can be healthy alternative and a delicious way to get an extra serve in. This could look like pairing ricotta with hotcakes in the morning or yogurt paired with fruits like banana or strawberry.
One of our favourites is chocolate yoghurt dip, which only requires two tablespoons of milk, 100 grams of dark choc, and 2/3 cups of Greek yoghurt to put together. This easy dip can be served with fruits or crackers and is a great way to get the little ones involved in the kitchen too.
Chocolate Yoghurt Dip
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 100 grams dark chocolate, finely chopped
- 2/3 cup thick Greek-style natural yoghurt
- Fresh fruit to serve (strawberries, watermelon, kiwi, pineapple, apples, etc)
- Heat milk in a small saucepan over low heat until very hot and foamy, but not boiling. Remove from heat and add chocolate. Set aside for 2-3 minutes to melt, then stir until smooth
- Pour into a medium bowl and stir in yogurt. Refrigerate for 1 hour until thickened and cool
- Peel and slice the fruit, or use a biscuit cutter to cut into shapes and thread onto skewers if desired. Serve fruit dippers with chocolate yogurt dip