Early Childhood Nutrition and Bone Development

In order to promote bone development throughout early childhood, in addition to dairy, you must provide other foods rich in calcium, as well as other nutrients that will help strengthen a child's skeletal system.
Early Childhood Nutrition and Bone Development
Maricela Jiménez López

Reviewed and approved by the doctor Maricela Jiménez López.

Last update: 26 May, 2022

Food is essential for bone development throughout childhood. For this reason, you should plan the food you select to include in your children’s diet. It’s a human right to grow up healthy and strong, and as the responsible adult, it’s essential that you design and maintain a healthy and balanced diet that’s rich in carbohydrates and minerals for your little ones.

The human skeleton is composed of 270 bones at birth, and 206 bones – without counting the teeth – after reaching adulthood, as some bones fuse together.

During childhood and adolescence, bones grow and become stronger. Thus, it’s necessary to maintain an adequate diet high in nutrients in order to attain optimal development.

Nutrients that Promote Bone Development

Calcium is essential for the proper development of young bones all throughout birth until the age of 18, so it’s vital to include this mineral in your child’s diet. This micronutrient aids in the formation of strong bones and teeth and the proper coagulation of blood. In addition, it enhances the functions of the nervous system and activates the enzymes that turn food into energy.

The amount of calcium a child must consume should be equivalent to two or four glasses of milk per day. It’s less for smaller children, however, but as they grow up, the amount should increase. However, it’s not necessary to consume calcium exclusively through milk.

There are other foods rich in calcium, and you must include them in your child’s diet. The amount of minerals contained in them varies depending on their size and composition. You don’t necessarily have to consume the recommended dietary allowance (RDA). As long as the average, monthly, amount of calcium is adequate, the development of the child’s bones will be optimal.

In this article, we’ll take a look at ways to make sure your child is getting enough calcium.

Doctor and child looking a bone development.

1. Milk and its Derivatives

Milk and its derivatives are excellent options to get enough calcium in our bodies. In addition, they contain other essential elements for the proper development of a young skeleton. These include phosphorus and magnesium.

A breastfeeding child doesn’t need to drink other dairy or its derivatives. Furthermore, yogurt and kefir provide many proteins, but they shouldn’t be added to a child’s diet until they’re at least 6 months old. The most suitable ones for your child are natural, without additives or sweeteners.

Read the list of ingredients before you buy them, as most “yogurt” and “kefir” in the market are fake. The list should say no more than cultured milk, and live and active cultures (or a variation of milk and Lactobacillus).

2. Vegetables

Some vegetables, such as spinach, are an excellent source of calcium. These are a good option for those who don’t like dairy products or are lactose intolerant.

One cup of spinach contains 25% of the recommended daily amount of calcium. In addition, it also provides fiber, iron and vitamin A.

Another vegetable that contributes to proper bone development is broccoli. Its high content of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and vitamin K aid in the prevention of bone disease and therefore maintain bones so they’re healthy and strong. This cruciferous vegetable also favors the formation of collagen and keeps all bodily tissues healthy.

All of this is particularly important in children as they’re in the process of development.

3. Eggs

Boy eating scrambled eggs.

Eggs are among the top superfoods and can’t be missing from your child’s diet.

An egg weighs around 60 grams and provides at least 6 grams of protein. It’s also rich in minerals (calcium and phosphorus). The highest percentage of micronutrients is concentrated in the yolk.

Adding eggs to your child’s diet contributes to the development of their muscles and the mineralization of their bones. At this stage, children are in the process of growth and require a balanced diet.

4. Fish

There are different kinds of fish, but all provide many essential nutrients for the bone development of a child.

  • Sardines are rich in vitamin and calcium. They can be added to pasta and salads if you wish to vary the menu of your child.
  • Salmon is a very good source of omega 3 and provides the recommended dietary allowance of vitamin D.
  • Canned tuna also contains about 39% of the recommended dietary allowance of vitamin D for your child.

5. Nuts

Nuts are perfect substitutes for dairy products. They contain vitamin B, iron, phosphorus, potassium and selenium. Thus, they’re great for bone development as they have a high amount of calcium.

In addition, their high content of oleic and linoleic acids helps improve the circulation.


It’s important that you pay attention to your child’s diet. What they consume during their early years is what will set the basis for their bone system and will determine their future health.

You’re responsible for your child’s well-being, so you should do everything you can to help them grow strong and healthy. A balanced diet is a fundamental base for a child to grow without health problems.

Girls cutting vegetables.

Teach them healthy eating habits that promote bone development at an early age by providing snacks in the form of vegetables, nuts, and fish. You’re the mature adult and you set the example. For this reason, if you want your child to eat broccoli, then you have to also eat it yourself.

Remember, your children are what you eat together.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Asociación Española de Pediatría. ¿Cuánta leche es recomendable para los niños? Artículo publicado el  11-8-2014, revisado por última vez el 11-1-2018.

  • Mayo Clinic. Salud ósea: consejos para mantener los huesos sanos. June 20, 2019.

  • NIH. National Institutes of Health. Office of dietary Supplements. Calcio. Hoja informativa para consumidores. Última revisión: December 17, 2019.

  • OMS. (2016). Alimentación del Lactante y del Niño pequeño. Número 342, 1–6.

  • UNED. Facultad de Ciencias. Nutrición y Dietética. Guía de Alimentación y Salud. Alimentación en las etapas de la vida: Infancia. La alimentación en la infancia.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.