Vitamin D and calcium. Is your child getting enough?
Vitamin D, also known as the 'sunshine vitamin', is important for toddler development as it helps the body to absorb calcium, a key ingredient in building strong bones (up to 90 per cent of total bone density is achieved during childhood and adolescence ).
Vitamin D is also believed to play a role in reinforcing the immune system and helping maintain healthy skin and muscle strength – all good things for a happy, healthy and active child! 
How does your child get vitamin D?
Children can get most of their vitamin D intake from playing out in the sun, however despite Australia's sunny climate, it is important to make sure that your child is maintaining their vitamin D requirements as part of their daily diet, particularly during the darker months of winter.
Vitamin D rich foods can help supplement the amount your child gets from sunshine. There are only a few foods which naturally contain significant amounts of vitamin D, including fatty fish such as salmon, herring and mackerel, and eggs - however some children might not find these particularly yummy to eat!
You can overcome this by choosing foods enriched with vitamin D. These include vitamin D fortified yoghurt, milk, cheese and margarine.
Is your child getting enough dairy and vitamin D?
Here are some ways you can help your child get enough dairy and vitamin D to keep their bones and teeth strong and healthy.
- Snack it! Think of ways to include vitamin D fortified calcium rich foods into meals and snacks. A small tub of yoghurt is a quick and easy snack - perfect for hungry kids on the go.
- Drink up! A glass of milk is an excellent serve of dairy and is a nutritious addition to any meal. If your child is a fussy eater and won't drink plain milk, consider blending it with a banana. Not only will this add a bit of extra sweetness but it will add a serve of fruit as well!
- Make it part of a meal! A breakfast of cereal, milk and/or yoghurt provides a nutritious kick-start to a day. After dinner, give them a dairy dessert such as a fromage frais; it will provide a serve of dairy and round out a great meal.
In addition to having vitamin D, dairy foods can also contain a range of additional nutrients which cannot always be found in vitamin and mineral supplements. These can include calcium, protein, phosphorus, magnesium and zinc.
How do you select the best foods for your child?
To help you select the best foods for your little one, make sure you read the back on the food packet to ensure that they are getting the recommended daily intakes (RDI) of vitamin D. The Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand say children 0-8 years should be getting 5.0μg a day of vitamin D.
Are you worried about your child's vitamin D intake?
If you're worried about your child's vitamin D intake, you can always seek your GP's advice, make sure they get enough safe sun exposure and top up their diet with foods containing vitamin D. You'll be surprised by just how easy it is to incorporate these foods into their daily diet.
Making sure your child gets enough vitamin D is important for laying the foundation for future health. By starting them on a healthy eating pattern you'll ensure their bones will be strong – so they'll be swinging and smiling from the monkey bars in no time!
1. Osteoporosis: Peak Bone Mass in Women
2. Department of Health and Ageing
3. National Health & Medical Research Council
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