Many teens avoid dairy products to save calories, according to the Dairy Council of Arizona.
But studies show calcium, found in those foods, has a strong role in helping burn fat and preventing obesity, said Tammy Baker, registered dietitian for the council.
"Cross-sectional studies have shown that kids who get more dairy are leaner than those who don’t," Baker said. Calcium, and other components of dairy, actually help the body avoid storing fat.
"Most kids aren’t getting the calcium they need," she said. "This could be a real problem later in life as nearly half of all bone is formed during the teenage years." Osteoporosis, a bone density disorder, is the most prevalent ailment related to calcium deficiency. But calcium is also important in the absorption of fat soluble vitamins, blood clotting, muscle movement and nervous tissue function.
While dairy products — milk, yogurt, cheese — are the most heavily touted sources of calcium, fortified orange juice works, too. Sardines, kale, turnip greens and dried beans are also good sources, but chances are next to nothing that kids will eat those.
Daily requirements for calcium are 500 mg for children ages 1 to 3 years old; 800 mg for ages 4 to 8; 1,300 mg for ages 9 to 18 and 1,000 for ages 19 to 50. Mom and dads older than 51 can set a good example by including 1,200 mg of calcium in their diet each day.