How to boost your child’s calcium intake on a dairy free diet
We know calcium is essential for growing babies, toddlers and children to help build healthy strong bones and teeth. With our main calcium source in the diet coming from dairy products it can be very challenging meeting requirements on a diary free diet. In fact several studies have shown that the majority of children on dairy free diets are consuming inadequate amounts of calcium with negative effects on bone mineral density (1, 2, 3). So how much calcium does your child need and what foods should you be including in their diet?
Recommended daily intake of calcium for kids
|Age||Recommended Daily Intake|
My favourite non-dairy calcium rich foods
1. Soy milk or other cereal milk with added calcium
My favourite non-dairy substitute for growing toddlers and children is unsweetened calcium fortified soy milk. Soy milk nutritionally is the most similar to cow’s milk providing a good source of protein, fat and energy. When choosing a soy milk look for a brand with at least 120mg calcium per 100mL. Other plant based milks are also a good calcium alternative for children who also have a soy allergy or intolerance however more careful planning will be required to ensure they do not miss out on important nutrients such as protein. For children under two years of age ensure you choose a full fat variety.
2. Firm Tofu
Firm tofu which has been made with a calcium firming agent such as a calcium sulphate or calcium chloride is one of best plant based calcium sources. A 100g serving of tofu will provide 320mg of calcium. A great way to include tofu in the diet is added into a stir-fry.
3. Canned salmon and sardines
Both canned salmon and sardines provided you eat the bones are great calcium rich options. A small can of salmon contains approximately 150-200mg and sardines 200-270mg, depending on brand. Try adding sardines onto toast, salmon as a sandwich filling or making up salmon patties for a tasty lunch or dinner.
4. Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds such as almonds, walnuts, chia seeds, poppy seeds and tahini (ground sesame seeds) contain small amounts of calcium. A 30g serve of almonds and walnuts provide 80mg and 30mg respectively, whilst 1 tablespoon of poppy seeds, chia seeds and tahini provide 160mg, 90mg and 65mg respectively. For children under 3 avoid giving whole nuts as they are a choking risk. Instead you could make a smooth nut butter or use ground almonds (e.g. almond meal) in baking. Seeds are also great added into baked goods, smoothies or breakfast cereals. Chia puddings are also a fantastic option for breakfast or a filling snack.
5. Leafy greens
Leafy greens contain small amounts of calcium. Kale and rocket are two of the richest sources with 1 cup raw containing 170mg and 125mg calcium respectively. Another good option is bok choy with 1 small bok choy providing 70mg. Unfortunately broccoli which is often promoted as a calcium source is quite low with 1 cup raw providing only 30mg.
If you would like more support in managing any dietary restrictions in your baby, toddler or child please get in touch to book a nutrition consultation.
- Mailhot G, Perrone V, Alos N et al. Cow’s Milk Allergy and Bone Mineral Density in Prepubertal Children. Paediatrics 2017; 137 (5), 1-8.
- Rowicka G, Strucińska M, Riahi A, et al. Diet and Nutritional Status of Children with Cow’s Milk Protein Allergy, Treated with a Milk-Free Diet. International Journal of Allergy Medications 2017; 3 (1), 1-8.
- Ambroszkiewicz A, Rowicka G, Chelchowska M, et al. Biochemical markers of bone metabolism in children with cow’s milk allergy. Archives of Medical Science 2014; 10 (6), 1135–1141