If you’ve been told that you or your child are allergic or sensitive to dairy and are trying to avoid it as a result, don’t panic! I often hear from parents who are worried about their ability to get their kids the calcium they need without milk, but the truth is we don’t need “three servings of milk a day” to do this. If you are creative and diligent, you can easily provide your children or other family members with the calcium they need by choosing the right dairy alternative for your family, and including good sources of calcium in your family’s daily diet.
If you are following a dairy elimination diet, there are many dairy alternatives you can try, for example:
- Soy milk (always buy organic, as non-organic is almost always made from genetically-modified or “GMO” soy beans)
- Rice milk (it’s not always fortified with calcium, so check your labels!); and/or
- Almond milk.
In my experience, most children come to like almond milk. Just don’t try to pass it off as cow’s milk (they are too smart for that!) and introduce it slowly and in small amounts. It’s naturally sweet flavour seems to appeal to them. You can use almond milk as a substitute for dairy in almost all baking and cooking. If you visit my recipe blog you will see that I never use cow’s milk in recipes and they generally call for almond milk in its place (www.simple-balance.ca).
You will be able to find soy cheese and yoghurt alternatives as well. In addition, the dairy-sensitive member of your family may find they are able to tolerate goats’ milk and cheese better than similar cow’s milk-derived products, as goat milk’s nutritional profile is closer to that of human milk.
There are lots of great sources of calcium in foods other than dairy products. Most of the sources listed above are available fortified and will contain comparable calcium to cow’s milk (as does fortified orange juice), but there are also many other non-dairy sources, such as:
Firm tofu (1/2 cup): 258 mg
Collard greens (1 cup cooked): 220 mg
Kale (1 cup cooked): 206 mg
Beet greens (1 cup cooked): 198 mg
Spinach (1 cup cooked): 176 mg
Almonds (1/2 cup): 166 mg
Hummus made with tahini (1/2 cup): 137 mg
Broccoli (1 cup cooked): 136 mg
Quinoa (1 cup): 120 mg
Haddock (1 fillet): 111 mg
Oatmeal (cooked, I cup): 115 mg
Chickpeas (1 cup cooked): 106 mg
Black beans (1 cup): 102 mg
White beans (1/2 cup): 100 mg
Blackstrap molasses (1 tbsp): 150 mg
Bok choy (steamed, 1 cup): 158 mg
If you are concerned you or your child are not meeting your recommended daily intake, you can consider using a good-quality calcium supplement. Ask your health practitioner or pediatrician for a recommendation if you need some guidance!