Are your kids getting enough calcium?

Strawberry milkshake
Yummy yoghurt: homemade smoothies are a tasty way for kids to get extra calcium Credit: Alamy

Nutritionist Catherine Jeans suggests some tasty Aldi options rich in the essential mineral for the Hughes children

The family

The Hughes family are from Newbury, Berkshire. Gareth, 39, is a project manager and Minnie, 40, is a radiotherapy physics quality manager. They have daughters, Bella, 10, and Gabriella, seven. 

Getting enough calcium

Minnie says: “I find getting my children to drink milk really difficult. They eat cheese and yogurts, but I’m never sure if they are getting enough calcium.” 

Catherine says: “The only way to check they are getting enough is to start a food diary and calculate what’s going into their food. Generally, a child of between four and eight will need 1,000mg a day, while a nine- to 18-year-old will need 1,300mg. If they won’t drink milk on its own, try making it into smoothies with fruit and natural yoghurt – a great source of calcium. 

‘‘Although dairy milk is very high in calcium, its magnesium content is relatively low, and your body needs magnesium to absorb calcium. Eating broccoli, which is rich in magnesium, will mean you absorb calcium better. Ensuring they have a handful of green leafy veg a day, a slice of cheese, a yogurt or a smoothie will give them the calcium they need. 

‘‘Calcium is not as useful without vitamin D. We are becoming low on vitamin D, because we are not spending enough time outside, and often – quite rightly – protect our skin from damage with sun cream, which blocks out vitamin D, too. 

‘‘So we should be supplementing vitamin D in the winter, especially, as it is difficult to get it from food sources, particularly for pregnant women and those with darker skin – as they don’t absorb so much from sunlight.

“Nuts and seeds are a good source of calcium. Add sesame seeds to stir- fried dishes, in a salad dressing or mixed with honey as a coating for chicken or salmon. Other sources of calcium are fish, jacket potatoes and oranges.” 

Simple swap

Minnie says: “We love spaghetti bolognese but usually use beef mince. Is there a healthier base we could use or a way to make the dish more healthy?’’

Catherine says: “Minced beef is not necessarily an unhealthy option: it’s an unprocessed meat and full of good nutrients. Choose a lean or low-fat mince, or after sautéing the beef you can drain off some of the fat – although I’m sure the top chefs would say that you will lose the best flavour this way. 

‘‘An alternative is turkey mince: it’s a lot leaner and still very tasty – Aldi does a great one which is British-farmed [and Red Tractor-approved]. Make mince go further by adding in some chickpeas or lentils, which are rich in soluble fibre – great for your gut. That means you can often stretch it to two meals.

‘‘Whatever meat you use, challenge yourself to add at least seven vegetables. It sounds a lot – but with onions, garlic, tinned tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, courgette, mushrooms and carrots, you’re already there. It’s a really good way to use up leftover veg.’’ 

This week we're 

“If the weather’s still good, we plan on going to the outdoor pool. We’re lucky to have one in Newbury and it is just a few minutes’ walk from our house, over the canal. It is very popular as the weather gets warmer. The girls love swimming outdoors, as they feel like they are on holiday.”