There's no doubt that most kids get more than enough to eat (climbing rates of childhood obesity are proof of that). The problem is, a lot of the stuff they're eating every day—like overprocessed and fast food—is calorie dense but nutritionally skimpy. According to the latest research, young children are now falling short on five important nutrients. Find out which ones they need most, plus easy ways you can fit them in.
About one-third of kids ages 4 to 8 aren't getting enough calcium, according to the latest government statistics. Too much juice—and too little milk—may be partly to blame. Calcium is vital for developing bone mass, nearly all of which is built during childhood and adolescence. Being deficient can interfere with growth now and increase the risk of osteoporosis later in life—especially for girls. It's crucial to get your child into the habit of eating calcium-rich foods now since older kids are notoriously lax (nine out of 10 teen girls don't get enough). Many high-calcium foods are also rich in vitamin D, which not only strengthens bones but may help prevent type 1 diabetes and other diseases.
If your baby has a hard time transitioning from breast milk or formula to cow's milk at age 1, keep trying as he gets older. "Parents often give up too quickly when their children reject it," says Parents advisor Jennifer Shu, M.D., author of Food Fights: Winning the Nutritional Challenges of Parenthood Armed with Insight, Humor, and a Bottle of Ketchup. Adding a small squirt of flavoring can help, but be sure to serve plenty of yogurt (even richer in calcium than milk!) and other calcium-fortified products in the meantime.
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