With the surge of gluten-free and casein-free (dairy-free) diets, many parents might have difficulty ensuring their children are still getting adequate nutrition. Many of us know milk products are perhaps the easiest and most well known way to get calcium, which is important for growing bones and teeth. However, there are alternate sources of calcium that will likely fit into your child’s modified diet.
Why Do We Need Calcium?
Calcium helps growing bodies build strong bones, regulates the heart’s rhythm, and helps send chemical messages through nerves. The body gets calcium in two ways; through foods you ingest or by taking it from the bones. Vitamin D is also necessary for the body to absorb calcium and strengthen bones. Muscle, nerve, and immune system function also relies on Vitamin D. The body produces Vitamin D naturally when exposed to sunlight. Foods such as fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, and tuna) are high in Vitamin D, and products like milk and other beverages are usually fortified with Vitamin D because they do not have much of it naturally.
Lack of calcium and Vitamin D can cause rickets, or a condition of soft bones, and it can increase the risk of osteoporosis. One easy way to ensure your child gets Vitamin D is to let them get fresh air and sunlight on a daily basis. You can also make sure they are getting calcium and Vitamin D through their diet.
What Foods Contain Calcium?
Milk is not the only source of calcium. Check out these other calcium-rich foods:
- Dried fruit
- Broccoli and other leafy greens
- Chinese cabbage and spinach
- Sesame seed paste (tahini)
- Sardines and salmon
- Soy and tofu
Try milk alternatives such as soy, almond, coconut, and rice milk. Many of these milks are fortified with calcium and Vitamin D, and some even contain more of these vitamins than dairy milk.
Leafy, green vegetables, milk substitutes, and sunshine are a few of the diet choices you and your child need daily. They are all part of a well-balanced diet, and it is important to start these good habits early.
Photo by Shuttershock/Stephanie Frey