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Is your child's lunch packed with enough on-the-go calcium?

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Whether it's yogurt, cheese or milk, young people between ages 8 and 18 need four to five servings of calcium a day. This ensures that they'll build strong bones now and into adulthood. According to Virtua Health pediatrician Samir Doshi, MD:

"Our bones contain almost 99 percent calcium. And, growing bodies need more to increase bone density and decrease the risk of fractures and osteoporosis later in life."

Many kids trade milk for soft drinks and juices, and most don't get enough of the daily recommended amount of calcium, which varies by age group.

"The recommended servings for kids and teens are high because their bone mass as adults will be determined by the amount of calcium they consume while they're young," says Dr. Doshi. He offers this advice for deciphering food labels: "To find out how many milligrams of calcium are in a serving, just add zero to the end of the number listed for the daily value. For example, a serving of orange juice that says it has 30 percent of the daily value of calcium has 300 mg."

Foods rich in calcium include milk and other dairy products as well as certain green vegetables like broccoli or spinach. For lactose-intolerant children, calcium-fortified foods like orange juice or cereal are also healthy choices. "Incorporating calcium into your child's meal can be easy. Add low-fat cheese to sandwiches, or give them favorites like macaroni and cheese, pizza and tacos. Snacks like cheese sticks or yogurt are also quick on-the-go calcium sources," says Dr. Doshi. The doctor's reminder for adults: "Be sure you're getting enough, too."