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No Milk, No Problem: Calcium-Rich Dairy Alternatives

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April 24, 2024 General /Family

Milk and dairy products are great sources of many different nutrients, including calcium. Foods with calcium help support healthy growth of teeth and bones and play a role in our overall body weight.

Sometimes parents or kids can’t eat or drink dairy foods to get the calcium they need. This can be caused by lactose intolerance or having a milk allergy.  Lactose intolerance is not being able to digest lactose, which is a sugar found in milk and dairy foods and can cause an upset tummy because of bloating, gas, stomach cramps, and diarrhea. A small number of people may have an allergy to milk due to their immune system.

Lactose intolerance or milk allergy?

Lactose Intolerance

A sensitivity to lactose
Happens in digestive system
Gas
Bloating
Constipation

Similarities

Stomach pain
Nausea
Diarrhea
Abdominal pain

Milk Allergy

An allergy to milk
Triggered by immune system
Skin rashes Hives
Swelling of lips and throat

lactose

The good news is, there are many other great calcium-packed options other than milk and dairy foods! 

Almonds

Nuts are one of the highest non-dairy sources of calcium, and almonds offer the most – 100 grams (about 77 almonds) contains 254 mg, or about 26% of your daily calcium needs. A handful of almonds makes a great snack, and also provides protein and fiber, which help curb your appetite until your next meal. These can present a choking risk for young children.

Almonds

Beans

beans

Beans are a great source of calcium, especially navy beans, black beans, white beans, and pinto beans. With so many varieties and options, it’s easy to have beans on the regular… and with over 7 grams of fiber per serving, they’ll help keep you regular with bowel movements as well! Choose beans daily for a dose of calcium, especially if you suffer from weak and brittle bones and teeth. Add them in your soups, salads, sandwiches, pastas, or enjoy them mashed as a spread or dip.

Collard Greens

This comfort food favorite is loaded with calcium – 268mg per cooked cup! Collard greens are rich in calcium and also vitamin A. Regularly eating this veggie can help keep your bones and teeth stronger and also keeps your vision in tip-top shape.

lettuce leaf

Figs

Figs

Rich in calcium and great for kids’ bone development, a single fig contains 20mg of calcium. Give them a try for a quick, sweet, calcium-rich snack.

Kale

Used in smoothies, salads, curries, and so much more! Kale is much more than a colorful alternative to lettuce. It’s a superfood! One raw, chopped cup of this leafy-green goodness offers 100 mg of calcium.

KaleInBowl

Oranges

orange

A whole orange contains 65 mg of calcium. You’ll also get 68 mg of vitamin C, which helps your body absorb calcium. Calcium-fortified orange juice is another option for meeting calcium needs. 1 cup of orange juice counts as one serving of fruit, so enjoying juice in moderation can help up your calcium intake. Drinking 100% fruit juice in moderate amounts can be part of a healthy meal pattern, just limit juice to no more than 10 fluid ounces each day.

Tofu

One serving of tofu (about ½ cup) offers more than a third of the calcium you need for the day! It’s also rich in iron, an important mineral the body needs for growth and development. Tofu is a great source of non-animal protein and has a similar texture to meat. It can be used as an alternative to meat in countless recipes and popular dishes.

Tofu

Looking for more dairy-free options?

The table below offers additional ideas for calcium-rich foods, along with about how much calcium each provides.

Food Amount Calcium (mg)
Almonds, dry roasted 1 oz. (about 20 whole almonds) 75
Beans – canned ½ cup 50 –70
Beans, white – canned ½ cup 95
Beans, baked ½ cup 60
Eggs 2 50
Egg substitute ½ cup 180
Hummus ½ cup 60
Salmon, w/ bones – canned 3 oz. 200
Sardines, w/ bones – canned 4 oz. 350
Sesame seeds – roasted 1 oz. 280
Soybeans, green – boiled ½ cup 180
Soybeans, mature – boiled ½ cup 90
Soybean nuts, dry roasted ½ cup 230
Tahini (sesame butter) 2 Tbsp 180
Tempeh ½ cup 75
Tofu, firm, w/ calcium sulfate ½ cup 260
Cereals, calcium-fortified ½ to 1 cup 250 to 1,000
Bread, calcium-fortified 1 slice 175
Brown rice, long grain, raw 1 cup 50
Gingerbread 2 ½ oz. 50
Oatmeal, instant 1 package 125
Pita bread, enriched white 6 ½ inch 50
Tortilla, corn 6 inch 45
Tortilla, flour 10 inch 90
Figs – dried or fresh 5–6 figs 120
Grapefruit juice, calcium-fortified 1 cup 350
Kiwi – raw 1 cup 50
Orange – medium 1 65
Orange juice, calcium-fortified 1 cup 300
Arugula, raw 1 cup 125
Beet greens – cooked ½ cup 80
Bok choy – cooked 1 cup 185
Broccoli, cooked 1 cup 180
Collard greens – cooked 1 cup 268
Kale – cooked 1 cup 100
Kale – raw, chopped 1 cup 100
Okra – cooked ½ cup 50
Rhubarb – frozen, cooked ½ cup 175
Spinach – cooked 1 cup 245
Swiss chard – cooked ½ cup 50
Turnip greens, cooked 1 cup 197
Molasses, blackstrap 1 Tbsp 135

So, how much calcium do you need?

Talk with your or your child’s healthcare provider about your calcium needs. You or your child may need more calcium. The following shows how many milligrams (mg) of calcium are needed daily based on age, gender, and life stage.

Age male female pregnant Breastfeeding
0–6 months 200 mg 200 mg
7–12 months 260 mg 260 mg
1–3 years 700 mg 700 mg
4–8 years 1,000 mg 1,000 mg
9–13 years 1,300 mg 1,300 mg
14 – 18 years 1,300 mg 1,300 mg 1,300 mg 1,300 mg
19–50 years 1,000 mg 1,000 mg 1,000 mg 1,000 mg
51–70 years 1,000 mg 1,200 mg
70 years and older 1,200 mg 1,200 mg
Source: National Institutes of Health, Calcium, https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-HealthProfessional/

Looking for a few ways to add more calcium to your meals and snacks? Give one of these dairy-free recipes a try!

Banana-Oat Pancakes

Servings: 2

Ingredients:

Instructions:

Whole Grain Crackers with Almond Butter

Serving: 1

Ingredients:

Instructions:

Calcium-Rich Fruit Salad

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

Instructions:

Spinach and White Bean Quesadillas

Serving: 1

Ingredients:

Instructions:

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos

Serving: 2 tacos

Ingredients:

Instructions:

Veggie Sticks with Hummus

Serving: 1

Ingredients:

Instructions:

Hearty Black Bean Chili

Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings: 6

Ingredients:

Instructions:

Install this web app on your iPhone: tap ios-share and then Add to Home Screen.

SIDE-LYING HOLD

Side-Lying Hold

  1. For the right breast, lie on your right side with your baby facing you.
  2. Pull your baby close. Your baby’s mouth should be level with your nipple.
  3. In this position, you can cradle your baby’s back with your left arm and support yourself with your right arm and/or pillows.
  4. Keep loose clothing and bedding away from your baby.
  5. Reverse for the left breast.

This hold is useful when:

CROSS-CRADLE HOLD

Cross-Cradle Hold

  1. For the right breast, use your left arm to hold your baby’s head at your right breast and baby’s body toward your left side. A pillow across your lap can help support your left arm.
  2. Gently place your left hand behind your baby’s ears and neck, with your thumb and index finger behind each ear and your palm between baby’s shoulder blades. Turn your baby’s body toward yours so your tummies are touching.
  3. Hold your breast as if you are squeezing a sandwich. To protect your back, avoid leaning down to your baby. Instead, bring your baby to you.
  4. As your baby’s mouth opens, push gently with your left palm on baby’s head to help them latch on. Make sure you keep your fingers out of the way.
  5. Reverse for the left breast.

This hold is useful when:

CLUTCH OR “FOOTBALL” HOLD

Clutch or “Football” Hold

  1. For the right breast, hold your baby level, facing up, at your right side.
  2. Put your baby’s head near your right nipple and support their back and legs under your right arm.
  3. Hold the base of your baby’s head with your right palm. A pillow underneath your right arm can help support your baby’s weight.
  4. To protect your back, avoid leaning down to your baby. Bring baby to you instead.
  5. Reverse for the left breast.

This hold is useful when:

CRADLE HOLD

Cradle Hold

  1. For the right breast, cradle your baby with your right arm. Your baby will be on their left side across your lap, facing you at nipple level.
  2. Your baby’s head will rest on your right forearm with your baby’s back along your inner arm and palm.
  3. Turn your baby’s tummy toward your tummy. Your left hand is free to support your breast, if needed. Pillows can help support your arm and elbow.
  4. To protect your back, avoid leaning down to your baby. Instead, bring your baby to you.
  5. Reverse for the left breast.

This hold is useful when:

Laid-Back Hold

Laid-Back Hold

  1. Lean back on a pillow with your baby’s tummy touching yours and their head at breast level. Some moms find that sitting up nearly straight works well. Others prefer to lean back and lie almost flat.
  2. You can place your baby’s cheek near your breast, or you may want to use one hand to hold your breast near your baby. It’s up to you and what you think feels best.
  3. Your baby will naturally find your nipple, latch, and begin to suckle.

This hold is useful when: