Calcium for Kids: Best Foods and Recipes

Calcium for Kids: Best Foods and Recipes


Learn all about the best sources of calcium for kids, with recipe ideas and sample meals. And know that whether your kids eat dairy or need nondairy calcium sources, this will set your mind at ease about the nutrient!

calcium-for-kids-foods-in-bowlsCalcium for Kids

I know there are specific nutrients that us parents worry about and calcium may be one of them. The good news is that once you learn which foods have calcium, it’s pretty easy to keep an eye on whether you’re offering enough throughout the week. So know that this post is not meant to stress you out or make you keep a running tally of servings or numbers, but rather is to inform you and arm you with basic info so you can feel more confident that the kids are getting what they need!

How much calcium do my kids need?

Calcium needs increase as kids grow. Here’s a look at the amounts they need from babyhood through elementary years. (Via the NIH.) I’m not listing babies under 7 months here because they’d be getting enough in breastmilk or formula without you needing to worry about it. It’s only as they start to transition to solids that we need to be a little more aware of offering it.

  • 7-12 months: 260 mg
  • 1-3 years: 700 mg
  • 4-8 years: 1,000 mg

TIP: Generally speaking, these amounts equal out to 2-3 servings of dairy (or nondairy equivalents) a day, most days. Which is much easier to wrap your head around because who has time to be doing math when you’re trying to make lunch?! (Not me!)

milk-in-cup-and-sippy-cupBest Calcium-Rich Foods

Here are some of the foods with the most calcium from the NIH. Since kids eat a range of portion sizes, you’ll need to adjust for how much the kids actually eat or the amount you usually serve, but this is a good place to get an idea of which foods have more calcium than others.

  1. Yogurt, plain (8 oz) 415 mg
  2. Oj, calcium-fortified (1 cup) 349 mg
  3. Mozzarella (1.5 oz) 333 mg
  4. Sardines, canned in oil with bones (3 oz) 325 mg
  5. Cheddar cheese (1.5 oz) 307 mg
  6. Milk (1 cup) 299 mg
  7. Soymilk, calcium fortified (1 cup) 299 mg
  8. Tofu, firm (1/2 cup) 253 mg
  9. Salmon, canned with bones (3 oz) 181 mg
  10. Cottage cheese (1/2 cup) 76 mg
  11. Breakfast cereal, fortified (1/2 cup) 130 mg (such as Cheerios)
  12. Bread, fortified (1 slice) 73 mg
  13. Corn torilla (6-inch) 46 mg
  14. Flour tortilla (6-inch) 32 mg)
  15. Broccoli (1/2 cup) 21 mg
  16. Kale (1/2 cup) 12 mg

TIP: As you can see, dairy foods and fortified foods are typically highest in calcium (which can be easy to remember!).

nondairy-calcium-for-kids-foodsBest Non-Dairy Calcium Sources

If your child is vegan or has a dairy intolerance, here are some nondairy sources of calcium that you can include in their diet to ensure they are getting enough. Always check the label as individual brands may vary.

  1. Soymilk, calcium fortified (1 cup) 299 mg
  2. Nondairy milk (check the label to be sure it’s fortified—some are, some aren’t)
  3. Tofu, firm (1/2 cup) 253
  4. Salmon, canned with bones (3 oz) 181 mg
  5. Oj, calcium-fortified (1/2 cup) 175 mg
  6. Soy yogurt (3/4 cup) 160 mg
  7. Breakfast cereal, fortified (1/2 cup) 130 mg (such as Cheerios)
  8. Sardines, canned in oil with bones (1 oz) 108 mg
  9. Bread, fortified (1 slice) 73 mg
  10. Corn torilla (6-inch) 46 mg
  11. Flour tortilla (6-inch) 32 mg)
  12. Broccoli (1/2 cup) 21 mg
  13. Kale (1/2 cup) 12 mg

TIP: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that we keep juice to 4 ounces or less each day, so keep that in mind with the orange juice.

Best Milk for Toddlers

If you’re wondering which dairy or nondairy type of milk to offer your kids, you can find the full information in this Best Milk for Toddlers post.  Also, keep in mind that experts at the Mayo Clinic also advise against letting the kids have more than 24 ounces of milk in a day (or three 8 ounce servings) as any more than that could negatively impact iron absorption. That much milk could also make them less hungry for other foods.

Does my toddler need a calcium supplement?

Supplements are a very personal decision and decisions about them should be based on your unique child and made in consultation with your pediatrician. Reach out to them for advice or plan to discuss it at your next check up.

example-of-calcium-servings-for-kidsSample Servings of Calcium for Kids

To help reassure you that many, if not most, kids are getting adequate calcium each day or to simply share some examples of what enough looks like, here are some examples of foods eaten in one day that would roughly meet the recommended daily amount of calcium for kids.

  1. 1 cup milk, 1 cup fortified breakfast cereal, 1 oz shredded cheese, 1 slice fortified bread
  2. 2.5 cups milk
  3. 2 cups milk, 1/2 cup fortified OJ
  4. 1 cup yogurt, 1 cup milk
  5. 1/2 cup yogurt, 1 cup nondairy milk, 1/2 cup fortified OJ, 2 quesadillas
  6. kale smoothie with nondairy milk, grilled cheese sandwich

TIP: I know I already said this, but simply aiming for 2-3 servings of dairy (whether or not that includes milk) most days is the easiest way to get their calcium needs—or fortified nondairy equivalents.

strawberry-milk-in-jars-with-strawsBest Calcium-Rich Recipes for Kids

Here are some of my favorite calcium-rich, kid-friendly recipes if you are wondering what you can give your child for calcium. There are a lot to choose from, so I hope this gives you a few more ideas to have in the mix!

If you have any additional questions on calcium and kids, please comment below. I’d also love to hear if you try any of the recipes I mentioned!


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