Is your child lactose-intolerant? Or do you prefer he get his calcium from sources other than cow’s milk? Here is a list of foods that are high in calcium and will help your baby’s bones grow strong! (Minus choices like sunflower seeds that would make him or her choke.) You can also find almond milk or orange juice fortified with calcium, but these foods contain calcium naturally.
For comparison, one cup of cow’s milk contains approximately 300 mg of calcium. Your 1-3 year old needs 500 mg daily, and your 4-8 year old needs 800 mg. During the years of puberty, the calcium needs nearly double to 1300 mg. daily.
Foods that Provide Calcium for Your Baby
1 cup of cooked broccoli contains 180 mg of calcium! I have difficulty getting my toddler to swallow quite that much broccoli, so I mix it into smoothies with peanut butter so he enjoys it more. (I know–peanut butter and broccoli don’t mix well on my tongue, either. But he likes it!) Find out what works for your child.
1 cup of cooked spinach contains a whopping 240 mg of calcium–almost as much as a cup of milk! Again, smoothies might be the key to pouring the calcium into your baby. Note: Oxalic acid is in spinach and chard, preventing your body from absorbing all the calcium. So don’t place all your hope in spinach!
3. Dried Figs
1 cup of dried figs contain 300 mg of calcium–the same amount as a cup of milk has. Plus, they’re deliciously sweet and chewy!
1 cup of cooked chard provides 100 mg of calcium. Surprisingly (to me), cooked okra provides just as much calcium as chard.
I’m not sure I’m on the boiled soybeans wagon yet, but a cup of them provides 200 mg of calcium! Pinto beans and other beans provide some calcium as well, but most don’t quite measure up to soybeans.
A surprising and sticky-sweet source of calcium is blackstrap molasses. Just one tablespoon of molasses has 135 mg of calcium.
While arugula is a bitter green that may be difficult for your child to get down, you can throw fresh arugula into smoothies or “milkshakes” made with almond milk. 1 cup of raw arugula contains about 125 mg. of calcium.
8. Firm Tofu
Throwing little chunks of tofu into your child’s bowl of food can have big results. A cup of firm tofu contains 861 mg. of calcium–more than a toddler needs in a single day. So you can reduce that to a few chunks a day.
Fresh salmon has a high calcium content. And so does the canned version–a five-ounce can of salmon will provide 350 mg. (The canned salmon usually contains crushed bones, which ups the calcium content a bit from the fresh version.) Sardines contain even more (1 cup of canned sardines gives you 569 mg!), but they’re usually more difficult to work into your child’s diet.
1/2 cup of dry oats has 200 mg of calcium–almost half your baby’s daily requirement. Add soy milk or almond milk while cooking the oats, and you can more than double the calcium content.
11. White Beans
1 cup of cooked white beans (think of a hearty, satisfying soup!) will provide 168 mg. of calcium!
Sauteéd kale, turnip, or mustard greens can give you anywhere from 94-197 mg. of calcium in a cup. (Some claim that cooked kale provides as much as 245 mg in a cup, but it probably depends on the batch.) Cooked greens give your body more consumable calcium than raw greens.
13. Broccoli Rabe
Broccoli rabe is neither as well-known nor as popular as the better known Plain-Jane Broccoli. 🙂 But it packs a punch in the calcium department. 1 cup of steamed broccoli rabe will give your child 301 mg–just passing up milk!
14. Chia Seeds
You can soak chia seeds in almond milk to make a sort of Jello-like substance. Your child may love them, or you may have to sneak them into other foods. But just one OUNCE of chia seeds contains 179 mg of the bone-strengthening substance you’re trying to make sure your child has. Chia seeds can be bought at your local health food store, some grocery stores, and here online.
15. Tahini (Sesame Paste)
Tahini is the wonderful ingredient that makes your hummus beautifully creamy and delicious. It also has a lot of calcium–2 heaped teaspoons contain the staggering amount of 200 mg. My little man LOVES hummus, so that mixture of chickpeas and tahini together make an easy way to build his bones. (You can buy it online here for a fair price.)
Keep Up the Good Work!
It’s more difficult to provide enough calcium for a child who is lactose-intolerant, but far from impossible! Keep looking for ways to work dark, leafy greens and beans (and nuts when your child is older–almonds are naturally rich in calcium), and your baby will have plenty of calcium to grow strong, tough bones!
ucsfhealth.org “Calcium Content of Selected Foods”
womenshealthmag.com “7 Foods With More Calcium than a Glass of Milk”
eatthis.com “20 Calcium Rich Foods That Aren’t Dairy”
prevention.com “Ten Dairy-Free Ways to Get Calcium”