Checklist for Strong Bones

Children and Teens: Building Strong Bones for Life

During childhood and the teen years, bone is being built faster than at any other time in life. Bones reach peak bone mass (their maximum strength or density) by age 25. Children and teens with dense, strong bones are less likely to have stress fractures. Stress fractures are tiny cracks in bones that can interfere with daily activities and sideline athletes. When you reach a higher peak bone mass, it will also decrease the risk of getting osteoporosis later in life (a disease that causes bones to get thin, weak, and more likely to break).

You can use the following checklist to find out if your child/teen is following the actions to build strong bones for life. Does your child/teen…

Eat a variety of foods that provide the recommended amount of calories, protein, and other nutrients?

Ideally, one half of a child/teen’s plate should be filled with colorful fruits and vegetables. The other half should be a combination of whole grains and lean proteins such as chicken, fish, eggs, beans, and legumes.

Choose bone healthy beverages?

It is important to drink beverages rich in calcium at each meal, such as low-fat milk and non-dairy beverages with calcium added such as orange juice and almond, coconut, or soy beverages. Limit the intake of low calcium beverages such as sodas, sports drinks, and coffee beverages.

Eat foods to help get the recommended amount of calcium each day?

One easy way to help your child get the recommended calcium is by including a calcium-rich food at each meal or snack. Foods rich in calcium include low-fat dairy foods, dark green leafy vegetables, canned fish eaten with bones, and calcium-fortified foods (foods with calcium added).

Get the recommended amount of vitamin D each day?

There are only a few foods that contain vitamin D; these include fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, and tuna and foods with vitamin D added such as milk and some nondairy beverages, yogurt, and cheese. Speak with your child’s healthcare provider about the best way for your child to get the recommended amount of vitamin D.

Get regular physical activity?

Regular physical activity, at least 60 minutes a day, is recommended for children and teens to build strong bones. Weight-bearing exercises are best for your bones, this means you are on your feet, compared to swimming or bicycling. The greatest bone building effects of exercise occur in children before puberty. After puberty, exercise continues help increase peak bone mass.

Take safety measures to protect bones and prevent injury?

All children and teens should wear seatbelts in any moving vehicle and use appropriate protective equipment when biking, skating, and participating in sports.

Avoid smoking and underage drinking?

Smoking during youth, when bones are still growing can prevent a person from reaching their peak bone mass.

Need help for an eating disorder?

When eating disorders happen during youth, bones may not grow to be as dense and strong as they should. The earlier eating disorders occur and the longer they last, the greater the risk of bone loss and osteoporosis. Early recognition, diagnosis, and treatment of an eating disorder are crucial to protect your child’s bone health and overall health. If you are concerned, it is important to speak with child/teen’s healthcare provider. For more information, contact The National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 800-931-2237.

Get regular checkups?

It is important to discuss your child’s growth, health habits, and bone health at each visit.