Calcium is an essential part of a growing child’s diet. It’s not only needed for muscle and bone development and strength, but also for the proper functioning of the heart, muscles, and nervous system. In addition, it plays a role in maintaining normal blood pressure, regulating blood clotting, and preventing cancers of the digestive tract.
For babies and toddlers, the recommended daily allowance for calcium is:
- 0-6 months: 200 mg
- 7-12 months: 260 mg
- 1-3 years: 700 mg
- 4-8 years: 1,000 mg
- 9-13 years: 1,300 mg
While milk, yogurt, and cheese are obvious choices for calcium-rich foods, there are plenty of non-dairy foods rich in calcium. These are perfect for children with lactose intolerance, those who simply don’t enjoy dairy products, or for families that avoid dairy for ethical or religious reasons. Non-dairy sources of calcium include:
- Orange juice—Look for brands that offer extra calcium and vitamin D.
- Leafy-green vegetables—Collard greens, mustard, kale, Swiss chard, broccoli and bok choy are just a few options. In fact, one cup of cooked spinach has 245 mg. of calcium.
- Canned salmon (with bones) and sardines—A 3 oz. serving has 180 mg.
- Tofu—Just 1 ounce of tofu (which usually comes in 12.5-oz. packages) has 105 mg.
- Calcium-fortified soy milk—Depending on which brand you buy, soy milk usually has between 200-500 mg. of calcium per cup.
- Calcium-fortified cereals—One cup of calcium-fortified cereal can range between 100-1000 mgs.
- Oatmeal—1 packet of plain or flavored instant oatmeal has between 99-110 mgs.
- White beans and soybeans—One-half cup of canned white beans has 95 mg. while the same amount of soybeans has 130 mg.
- Fruits, such as oranges and figs—Both have about 100 mg.
- Enriched white pita bread, as well as corn and flour tortillas—One slice has about 150 mg.
- Calcium not only affects a child’s bone and muscle development, but also aids in proper functioning of the heart, muscles and nervous system.
- The RDA varies with age, ranging from 200 mg. per day to 1,300 mg. per day.
- While dairy products are the obvious choice for a calcium boost, there are plenty of non-dairy options.
- These foods work well for kids with a lactose intolerance or who don’t enjoy dairy.