(Family Features) - Building strong bones is an important part of growing up, especially for girls 9 to 12. That's because tween and teen years are peak bone producing years. It is critical for girls at this age to eat foods with calcium and participate in weight-bearing physical activity. Establishing bone-healthy behaviors early on is an essential part of osteoporosis prevention.
However, during the winter months, especially in cold climates, eating right and being active can be a challenge. The National Bone Health Campaign, Powerful Bones. Powerful Girls.TM can help. A national effort supported by the Department of Health and Human Services' Office on Women's Health (OWH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF), Powerful Bones. Powerful Girls.TM educates girls and their parents or caregivers about the importance of bone health and offers ideas to help build and maintain strong bones.
A balanced diet is a good first step to bone health. Girls ages 9 to 18 should include about 1,300 milligrams of calcium each day. Calcium can be found in many low-fat or fat-free dairy products, broccoli, almonds, collards, calcium-fortified orange juice, soy beverages with added calcium, tofu with calcium sulfate, and many other foods. With careful shopping and making an effort to include foods with calcium at every meal, girls can get the amount of calcium needed.
In addition to eating foods with calcium, healthy bones require regular weight- bearing physical activity, which is any activity that requires the body to work against gravity, so the feet, legs, or arms are supporting or carrying the body's weight. Girls don't have to be super athletes or participate in team sports. There are numerous activities, such as dancing or jumping rope that can be done at home. Even friends and family can participate. In some areas, wintertime snow and cold make it difficult to get outside to exercise, and it may seem like a good excuse to be inactive. However, winter activities, such as snow-shoeing or hiking, are fun and invigorating.
Fun indoor activities that help build and maintain powerful bones include:
- Jump rope
- Tae kwon do
- Indoor soccer
- Indoor basketball
Some bone-healthy treats, especially for the winter months, include:
- Hot chocolate, made with low-fat milk.
- Warm bowl of macaroni and cheese.
- Chopped collards and low-fat cheese dip. Combine collards and cheese in a bowl, heat until bubbly, and eat with crackers or toasted bread.
- A steaming bowl of tomato or mushroom soup, made with low-fat milk.
- Toasty English Muffin Pizza. Top a whole wheat English muffin with veggies and low-fat cheeses, then heat it in the oven until muffin is warm and cheese is bubbly.
Parents can be great role models to motivate girls to lead a bone-healthy life. For this reason, the campaign has two Web sites, one for girls (www.cdc.gov/powerfulbones) and one for their parents (www.cdc.gov/powerfulbones/parents). Both have fun, educational information for the entire family, including activity pages, recipes, grocery lists, games, interactive downloads, and materials to order online. So, it is easy to bone up on healthy habits that can make a lifetime of difference.