We have all been there, you’re in the supermarket and you’ve hit the cheese aisle, but before getting the chance to swerve your trolley into safer territory you’re met with a shriek from your child who’s eye has been caught by a rather attractive looking cheese string. It seems like dairy is everywhere, taunting your family with bright purple packaging and convenient snack qualities. What do we do?
I wish I had known when I was weaning my son (7 years go, gulp…) that it is possible to feed your children delicious grub that is not only dairy-free and packed with calcium but is actually much healthier than your average supermarket cheese.
From muscle development and blood pressure to skin, bone and tooth health, calcium is vital nutrient for a healthy body and mind. In general, children 1-3 years need 350 mg of calcium per day, children 4-6 years need 450 mg of calcium per day, children 7 to 10 years need 550 mg of calcium per day. Boys aged 11-18 need 1000mg and girls 800mg. (https://www.bda.uk.com/foodfacts/Calcium.pdf).
Here are some of the best sources of calcium for your dairy free child.
There are heaps of green veggies that are packed with calcium and don’t require elaborate ways of cooking for them to be tasty. Per 100g, these include:
Collard greens: 232mg
Spring onions: 72mg
Bok Choy: 105mg
Other veggies high in calcium also include:
Sweet potato: 38mg
Blackstrap Molasses (1 tbsp): 40mg
But you may be thinking: how the heck do I get my kids to eat these veggies and actually like them?
I have found the best way is to incorporate them into meals your kids enjoy, like pizza or pasta. Try buying bases and making homemade pizzas as a family, using the usual tomato paste, but add small chopped up pieces of broccoli along with peppers, meat if you eat it and dairy-free cheese. You could also rustle up a tasty soup for winter months, such as this sweet potato soup with kale.
Since fruit is naturally sweet and juicy, most kids don’t have a problem eating it, especially when added to puddings or other treats. Here are the best calcium rich fruits, per 100g:
Oranges and tangerines: 43mg
You can also buy fortified orange juices, including Tropicana with added calcium, perfect for breakfasts and packed with a whopping 183mg of calcium per 150ml.
Dried figs: 241mg
Nuts And Seeds
These bad boys can be eaten raw or in butters or puddings – yum! You also use tahini in a delicious hummus and serve with carrot sticks and celery sticks for an added calcium kick. Why not turn your hand to jam making with this simple berry chia jam by Lizzie Loves Healthy.
Sesame seeds (1 tbsp): 88mg Tahini: 426mg
Chia seeds (1 tbsp): 80mg
Not all kids are keen on fish but if you have a wee one that’s a fan, salmon and tuna are excellent sources of calcium and ideal for dinner times or quick lunchtime sandwiches. Try packing a tuna sandwich with spring onions or water cress for extra calcium, or serving salmon with calcium rich leafy greens. check out this great site for some brainy ideas to get the kids to eat more fish.
Salmon: depending on the type, ranges from 15mg to 283mg
Tuna (canned): 34mg
Beans And Pulses
Beans are a delicious, versatile food suited for both summer salads and winter stews or even just a classic beans on toast. Some great include this vegan kid-friendly chilli and this super calcium rich creamy tofu parsley pesto. There are muiple varieties ranging from 22mg to 340mg per 100g. Here are some of them:
White beans: 240mg
Kidney beans: 143mg
Pinto beans: 113mg
Soybeans: 100mg Tofu: 340mg Soy milk: 250mg in 250ml
Grains and Cereals
Cereal is a go-to option for most parents during hectic mornings, so it’s nice to know that this cheap easy much is also a winner for dairy-free children. Quinoa also makes for excellent carbohydrates and calcium and can compliment most meals, such as these calcium rich quinoa pizza bites or these beautiful rainbow buddha bowls.
Fortified cereals including Cheerios, Cornflakes and Fiber One have between 220 and 590mg of calcium per serving.
Oats (per 100g): 100mg
Would love to hear your ideas on calcium…