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 are the best calcium sources for your dairy-free child? I wish I had known when I was weaning my son (9 years ago, gulp…) that it is possible to feed your children delicious food 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 a vital nutrient for a healthy body and mind. In general, the requirements (UK) are:
Infants under 1 need 525 mg of calcium per day
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 / Girls 800mg
Here are some of the best calcium sources 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 which is a great option for lunches, dinners or even an after school/nursery snack. Check out these 5 healthy vegetable soup options.
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
You can eat these fruits just as they are, or sneak them into puddings like rhubarb crumble or dairy-free fig and honey ice cream. This dairy-free strawberry ice cream looks delicious too and would make the perfect healthy treat!
Nuts & 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
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 & 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 multiple varieties ranging from 22mg to 340mg per 100g. Here are some of them:
White beans: 240mg
Kidney beans: 143mg
Pinto beans: 113mg
Soy milk: 250mg in 250ml
Grains & Cereals
Cereal is often a go-to option for most parents during hectic mornings and this cheap and easy option is also a winner for dairy-free children. Quinoa also makes for excellent carbohydrates and calcium and can complement most meals, such as these calcium-rich quinoa pizza bites or these beautiful rainbow buddha bowls.
Fortified cereals including Ready Brek, Cheerios, and Cornflakes have between 220 and 590mg of calcium per serving.
Oats (per 100g): 100mg
I would love to hear your calcium-rich go-to foods and recipes. Feel free to share in the comments.
If you are looking for online shops where you can buy allergy-friendly foods at the moment check out online shops for food allergies.