Dairy-free ways to get kids the calcium they need can seem like a challenge—but it doesn’t have to be. Let’s back up: We all know calcium is good for the bones and teeth, especially for growing boys and girls. But if you’ve got a lactose intolerant kid or a kid who just doesn’t like milk or other dairy products, it’s not always easy to ensure kids get enough calcium every day.
Depending on their age, many kids need up to 1,300 milligrams of calcium daily. Calcium doesn’t come just from dairy products though, and while limited, there are other foods that are calcium rich. A parents’ challenge is dependent on whether kids like (or can tolerate) dairy products and of course what level of the Pickiness in Eating Index (yes, I made that up, but you know what I mean) their kids fall on.
With these things in mind, let’s take a look at dairy-free ways moms (and dads) can sneak food into kids’ diets that will help you meet their daily calcium needs.
Let’s start with the easy (and often unexpected) one: Oranges. Oranges are not only a great source of Vitamin C they’re loaded with calcium as well. If you’ve got to, let them drink orange juice, but if you can convince your progeny that grabbing an orange for breakfast is better than swilling orange juice that often includes a lot of added sugars, count that as a win. In my house, that’s often easier said than done, but I try.
Instant Oatmeal isn’t quite as good as its more labor intensive cousin, rolled oats, but most brands of Instant Oatmeal are fortified with calcium and they’re also a great source of fiber. As always, sugar is never a kid’s friend, so when you can, look for the kind with the smallest amount of added sugar.
Breakfast cereals are hard to beat for busy families and if you’re going this route and want nutrients that include calcium, consider opting for Cheerios. They are a quick and easy breakfast solution and not a bad snack option to stow in a handbag or in the car to ward off an attack of the hangries en route to soccer practice. Even better—they’re adaptable. Want to really win at this parenting business—whip up these No Bake Peanut Butter Cheerio Bars from Julie’s Eats and Treats (yes, she’s a genius). Cheerios are versatile, and there’s a lot to love about that. Whether made into a treat, paired with milk (or almond milk), or eaten dry, depending on the situation and kids’ individual preferences, they are pretty perfect. They are also somewhat easy to pick up from the car floorboards, which in my book is an added bonus.
Seeds of any kind can be fun to eat, and most of them have the bonus of also being good for you. Sesame seeds, in particular, are known for having a lot of calcium. And even better is the fact that you can add them to just about anything your family eats, since they’re tiny and go well with most entrees. I use sesame seeds when I make Asian-inspired dishes, and we also use them when we bake. You can easily sneak them into cookies, breads, or even on a random pizza crust. If they like helping out in the kitchen, I’ve found that when you can talk them into being in charge of adding the sesame seeds, it’s a win-win.
Sweet potatoes are often a favorite among children because they’re, well, sweet. But you know how that goes. I’ve got two kids who love them and two who loathe them—so there’s no telling really how that’s going to work out. You can serve sweet potatoes plain, or if you want to up the chance that they’ll dive in, add butter, cinnamon, or even marshmallows in order to bribe the little darlings. Here’s an easy recipe to try if you want to go the marshmallow bribery route: Marshmallow-Topped Sweet Potatoes. I’m also a fan of fries as a way of getting them to eat sweet potatoes and as long as I promise ketchup, they don’t seem to mind so much.
If you’re like me and always trying to get more seafood into your family’s diet, you know that is often no small challenge. Did you know that canned salmon and sardines are both good sources of calcium? That’s because of the soft bones that are included in the cans that you should be mashing up and using, alongside the fish. It sounds gross, but it’s not. I know, you’re groaning at the very thought of getting your kids to eat either one of these things, but it is possible. Sometimes. One of the few things my mom managed to cook when I was growing up was a salmon casserole that I still make to this day. I’m not gonna lie, it’s not my kids’ favorite dinner time option, but when I cook it, they manage to eat it with a modicum of complaining. My mom’s recipe is kind of boring, but here’s a recipe from one of my favorite foodie blogger sites, Erica’s Recipes (who doesn’t love blogger who mentions a love of triathlons and pizza in the same sentence?): Salmon Casserole with Pasta and Cheese. This is kind of a kid-pleaser, with shell pasta noodles, some frozen peas that don’t get all mushy, and some crackers to crunch things up. Oh, and the salmon? That’s hidden in there. I’m not sure what to tell you about sardines and how to get those into your kids’ diet, because even I can’t make that happen. I think sardines are gross. But if you’ve got secrets about sardines to share, let’s have ‘em!
My favorite season of all is fresh fig season—they are my absolute most favorite fruit. Naturally sweet, amazing when wrapped in prosciutto and tossed in a salad, or stuffed with some goat cheese and baked a little, or even on some crostini. My kids are foodies, so they love figs as much as I do. But if you’re not so lucky, you can get figs into their diet by sneaking them into yogurt, cookies, muffins, or desserts. Here are 15 Deliciously Quick Fig Recipes that might get you thinking about figs and I’m especially a fan of these Homemade Oatmeal Fig Bars from Alida’s Kitchen. There is not one thing not to like about these. No matter how you present the figs, you’ll be glad to know that three of them contain about 50 mg of calcium.
Salad is a staple for many families at mealtime and if you can get some kale mixed in with those mixed greens, so much the better. Kale has more than 100 mg of calcium in one cup. Mustard greens are also a good alternative, as is Bok choy. Mustard greens sound scary but they are delicious sautéed on the stovetop in a little olive oil. Toss in some sesame seeds once they’re done and you’ve got a double dose of calcium right there.
How Much Calcium Do Kids Need?
The most important thing to keep in mind is that growing bones need calcium. Knowing that kids need between 1,000 and 1,300 mgs of calcium a day is your starting point, and thinking about what they’re eating (or drinking) that can deliver that calcium is important. If you’re got a family full of voracious milk drinkers and cheese eaters, you’re probably in good shape. If you don’t, or if you’ve got a lactose intolerant child, knowing where to get the RDA of calcium is important.
Calcium Supplements Can Help
If you want to ensure your kids are getting the amount of calcium in their diets to keep bones, teeth, and muscles healthy, you can always opt for calcium supplements as part of a daily routine, just as many adults do. That’s where Cal-EZ comes in—kids often don’t like or aren’t able to swallow big pills and calcium pills are generally muy grande. Cal-EZ’s powdered calcium supplement is 100% tasteless and non-gritty and it can be dissolved in water, orange juice, or even sprinkled on yogurt or in some scrambled eggs. Want to check it out? Get 50% off your first order today.
This post is written as part of a series of sponsored posts for Cal-EZ.