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HomepageInformation CentreGeneral Well Being for Children › Childrens Bone Health

Childrens Bone Health



The health of our childrens’ bones is hugely important. Bones provide the framework for a child’s growing body. The bone mass attained in childhood and adolescence is an important determinant of lifelong skeletal health, so providing the building blocks for a strong framework will help keep them healthy as they grow older. Providing all of the correct nutrients is crucial to ensure that this framework is strong and resilient to the daily assaults that kids will inflict on it.

Bone is a living tissues that is in a constant state of growth, breakdown and repair. Bone cells called osteoclasts removed bits of damaged bone while osteoblasts repair and build bone. During childhood and teenage years the body spends most of its time building bones. The only way to provide the building blocks necessary for this is through diet, so it’s vitally important that we understand what these building blocks are and how best to include them on a daily basis.

Bone is made up of two groups of nutrients: organic and inorganic. The organic phase consists of a mesh of biological matter like fibres and these are then impregnated and stiffened with inorganic compounds like calcium and magnesium which harden and strengthen the bone. Just as importantly, bone building also depends on smaller nutrients like vitamin K, vitamin D, vitamin C and B6 as well as zinc, copper and manganese. These are vital as co-factors to support effective building of bone.


Key Factors for Healthy Bones in Children

1.  Calcium - This is one of the main building blocks for bone health. Calcium is one of two key salts that harden bone tissue. Children from 4-8years need 1000mg of calcium daily while 9-13 year olds need 1300mg daily. Good sources of calcium are:


Food Source

Portion (ozs)

mg Calcium

Tinned Sardines with bones












Cottage Cheese

1 cup



0.5 cup


Green leafy veg

1 cup


Kale or Almonds




If your child is lactose intolerant, use foods like calcium fortified milk alternatives, almonds, green vegetables, sesame seeds, tinned fish with bones still in (these are really soft and can be easily mashed into the flesh).


2.  Magnesium - This mineral is often overlooked in bone health but is just as important as calcium. It’s used as a building block and also to help with the utilisation of calcium. Good sources of magnesium are beans, almonds, tofu, lentils, potato, oatmeal and whole-wheat bread.


3.  Polyunsaturated Fats (omega 3,6 & 9) - These fats promote bone building in the body. The best sources are from oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines and fresh tuna. Foods such as flaxseed, pumpkin seed and walnuts are also high in omega 3 but it is a precursor of the omega 3 found in oily fish which is the form that the body uses directly.

4.  Vitamins D, K & C - These all help to promote building of bones, especially vitamin K. Vitamin K is found in green leafy vegetables like broccoli, kale, brussel sprouts. This is a fat soluble vitamin, so it’s a good idea to stir fry the vegetables or eat some meat or fish with it to improve absorption. Vitamin C is found in berries, citrus fruits, kiwis, red peppers and greens like broccoli and brussel sprouts. Your child should be having two of these foods daily to ensure they are getting enough vitamin C. A 100g serving of red pepper has 190mg of vitamin C while 100g of strawberries yields 59mg of vitamin C. Oily fish like sardines, mackerel and salmon, dairy and eggs are good sources of vitamin D.

Zinc is another nutrient that is important for skin health and also for the breakdown and absorption of the omega 3 fats. Foods that are high in zinc are pumpkin seeds, brazil nuts, oats, peas and all seeds, nuts, legumes and whole-grains.


5.  Some foods actually weaken the bones. -  While a lot of attention is given to foods that help to build bones, what is equally important to know is that certain foods will strip bones of their mineral content. The key culprits here are fizzy drinks and high salt foods. Fizzy drinks are high in phosphorus which leaches calcium from bones and also replace the opportunity to drink calcium rich drinks like milk etc. Foods that are high in sodium will also affect bone health, so limit intake of these foods.

6.  Exercise. - Alongside diet, exercise is really important to build bone health. Weight bearing exercise is particularly beneficial. Good forms of exercise for this are walking, running, soccer, basketball, hiking, dancing, skipping and in-line skating.


Must Do’s for Healthy Bones

1) Include at least 3 poritons of calcium rich foods daily - milk, yoghurt, cheese, tofu, greens, almonds, sesame seeds, non-dairy milks that are calcium fortified.

2) Include at least 3 portions of magnesium rich foods daily – beans, nuts, seeds, wholegrains.

3) Include omega 3 rich foods daily or an omega 3 supplement

4) Have two of the vitamin C rich foods in their diet every day – berries, broccoli, red peppers, kiwis, citrus fruits. Soups, smoothies, juices and fruit salads are good way to include these.

5) Include 2 of the vitamin K rich foods- green leafy vegetables are the best sources. Crudites, vegetable soups (broccoli soup is especially good), stir fries or blended into curry/pasta sauces are good ways to do this if your child dislikes green veg.

6) Add zinc rich foods daily. Pumpkin seeds with dried fruit or chopped brazil nuts in oatmeal are good ways to ensure this.


Recipes for Healthy Bones in Children.

1. Broccoli Soup

2. Summer Berry Smoothie

3. Banana and Kiwi Smoothie

4. Mixed Fruit and Cheese Salad

5. Salmon and Mango Salsa

6. Tomato Sauce with lentils

7. Pasta with Salmon in Tomato Sauce

8. Pasta with Sardines in Tomato Sauce


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""Just wanted to say thank you for the summer camp last week - Kellie had a brillant time - she's bursting with lots of new information and can't wait to make all the recipes again. She's been telling all her relations and friends about healthy eating and how to make her favourite dishes." "

Michelle R., Waterford


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