Calcium is a mineral all kids need because it helps build strong bones and teeth, and is vital for muscle and nerve function.
According to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020, kids need:
- 1 to 3-years-old: 700 milligrams of calcium per day
- 4 to 8-years-old: 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day
- 9 and 18-years-old: 1,300 milligrams of calcium per day
If your kids have a milk allergy or intolerance, they don’t like drinking milk or you’d rather they eat non-dairy foods, there are so many healthy, calcium-rich foods that aren’t milk.
Here are 10.
1. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are one of those foods I think every kid should eat, unless of course they’re allergic. Chia seeds are almost like hidden treasures—they don’t have any particular taste or smell that might turn your kid off—but they’re packed with nutrition.
The calcium alone is a good reason to consider it: one ounce of chia seeds has a whopping 177 mg of calcium. They also have plenty of protein, fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, and are a good source of zinc, copper and magnesium.
Mix chia seeds into muffins, breads, waffles, pancakes or healthy baked treats, smoothies, oatmeal and salads or make an easy and delicious chia seed pudding.
2. Black Turtle Beans
All types of beans are good sources of calcium but black turtle beans in particular, are one of the best. A 1/2 cup of black turtle beans contain 35 mg of calcium. Black beans are also an excellent source of folate, zinc, iron and magnesium and they’re high in polyphenols, a type of antioxidant that fights inflammation.
Swap beans in any meat dish, serve it as a pre-dinner appetizer or make a healthy black bean dip.
My kids love sardines and that’s a good thing because these tiny fish are calcium-rich: three ounces provides 325 mg of calcium.
Sardines are also an excellent source of protein, vitamins B12 and D and omega-3 fatty acids. Fresh or canned, eat them alone, on a slice of toast or in a stir-fry.
With 253 mg of calcium per 1/2 cup, tofu is one of the best calcium-rich foods for kids whether they’re vegetarian, vegan, or plant-based.
Make a tofu scramble for breakfast, blend it into a smoothie, use it as a replacement for meat in most dishes or add it to a vegetable stir-fry for a delicious and satisfying meal.
5. Bok Choy
With its mildly delicious flavor, bok choy, a type of cabbage, is one of the best calcium-rich foods for kids. A 1/2 cup has 93 mg, and it’s also a very good source of other nutrients like fiber, vitamins A, C, E, B6, and K, folate, iron and potassium.
Steam, sautéed or mixed into virtually any dish, your picky eater is more likely to eat bok choy than any other type of green leafy vegetable.
An ounce of almonds—about a handful—have nearly 74 mg of calcium. Almonds also provide filling fiber and protein to keep your kids satiated and omega-3 fatty acids which are known to lower inflammation, prevent heart disease and stroke, and may also ward of cancer.
The spring and early summer are prime season for rhubarb, a celery-like vegetable. A 1/2 cup of rhubarb has 86 mg of calcium, and it’s also a good source of fiber, vitamins C and K, and potassium.
Most rhubarb recipes are for pies but you can also use it in oatmeal, muffins and smoothies.
8. Sesame Seeds
With an amazing 273 milligrams of calcium in one ounce, sesame seeds are one of the best calcium-rich foods for kids. Sesame seeds are also high in iron and magnesium and a good source of protein and fiber.
Add sesame seeds to rice dishes, stir-fries, salmon or shrimp or incorporate them into your favorite bread or muffin recipe.
Like sardines, salmon (fresh, frozen or canned) is rich in calcium: a 3-ounce serving provides 181 milligrams. Salmon is also an excellent source of protein, vitamins B6 and B12, and omega-3 fatty acids.
My kids love roasted salmon or canned salmon with a bit of mayonnaise for lunch.
Fresh or dried, figs are one of the best calcium-rich foods for kids. A 1/2 cup of figs provide 35 milligrams of calcium and they’re also a good source of fiber.
Add figs to oatmeal or salads or roast them for a sweet and satisfying after-dinner dessert.