Monthly Archives: March 2017

Calcium dairy free and still growing

Calcium dairy free and healthy !

Simply put most parents think that the only way to get sufficient calcium is from dairy products or milk, and if your children do not eat enough dairy they will not grow. Our mass perception equates milk to strong bones and being tall. One of the most difficult tasks of a pediatrician who is concerned with a child’s overall health is dealing with this myth perpetuated by the dairy industry and many pediatricians themselves. But it is not fact. It may be convenient.  It may insure our children and elderly ingest a easy cheap adequate source of calcium . But dairy products are in no way the healthiest nutritional choice for calcium. There are many healthier ways to get calcium. Dark green vegetables for instance are full of calcium, and a much healthier source. Your child will grow just as well and without the health compromising results of dairy ( see milk articles). Much of the world’s population do not eat diary as a primary protein and they seem to grow fine with a lot less health problems.

A diet without dairy can easily provide the daily allowance of calcium without compromising nutrition or your health. Looking at the top calcium plant foods and the sample meals below you realize with very little effort it is not difficult to get the daily allowance of calcium from only one meal. If you pay attention and make healthy plant exchanges for milk and dairy products throughout the day you will achieve your goal of improved health with more than enough calcium and your children will certainly manage to grow “big and strong”.

How much calcium do you need per day at each age                     

Between 1- 3 years of age a child needs 500 mg a day

              4- 8                                            800 mg a day

              9-18                                           1300 mg a day

              Over 19                                    1000 mg – 1200 mg a day

Some high calcium plant foods- compared to a cup of milk which has 300 mg  and hard cheese which has 200 mg, and a cup of yogurt with 450 mg of calcium

Figs   cup                          300 mg

Sesame seeds,1 oz      280 mg

Tahini 1 oz                      135 mg

Chia seeds, ounce      179 mg

almonds, ounce            80 mg

Almond milk cup          450 mg   ( fortified)

tofu calcium set, 3 oz  300 mg

Soy yogurt 1 cup           300mg

broccoli, cup                 180 mg

kale, cup raw                100 mg

spinach, cup cooked 240 mg

beans, cup                      80 mg

Fortified breads and oatmeal. 100 – 250 mg

Scroll below for comparisons of calcium based foods

2 easy meals below and the calcium content

Sample salad for maximum calcium

Arugula/spinach/kale- cup of each                       260 mg

Carrots half cup

Tahini based dressing – half ounce                        70 mg

Add olives

Sesame seeds one ounce                                         140 mg


Soy cheese ( calcium fortified) one ounce         173 mg

Tofu one ounce                                                              250 mg

Calcium content of salad about 800 mg almost an entire day’s calcium requirement for an adult


Sample vegan meal

Non meat protein example tofu 3 oz                    300 mg

(Compared to 3 oz meat protein 40 mg)                                               

Quinoa one cup                                                            100 mg

Beans half cup                                                              40 mg

Broccoli cup                                                                  180 mg

Slice Bread ( fortified)                                               100 mg

Dessert compote with half-cup dried figs,       150 mg

With dessert and a vegan meal total calcium is  870 mg . Well over the child requirement for calcium for an entire day in one meal.

As you can see if you spread out the high calcium healthy foods throughout the day you will not encounter any difficulty in meeting the recommended calcium requirements for you or your growing child.


See below for sample comparisons of high calcium dairy vs non dairy foods

Cup of milk                                          300 mg

Cup of breast milk                               79 mg

Cup of formula                                     400 mg

Cup of soy milk ( fortified)                300mg

Cup of almond milk( fortified)         350 mg

Cup of orange juice ( fortified) up to  500 mg


Ounce of cheese                                   200mg

Cup of yogurt                                        450 mg

Cup of ice cream                                   200 mg

Ounce of soy cheese                            173 mg


Cup Broccoli  ( cooked)                        180 mg

Cup of kale ( raw)                                 100 mg                          

Cup arugula (raw)                                 125 mg

Cup spinach (cooked)                           240 mg

Cup spinach ( raw)                                 30 mg

Cup of figs (dried)                                   300 mg

Cup of dates                                             57 mg

Apple                                                        10 mg

Kiwi                                                            50 mg

Orange                                                      50 mg


Cup of Beans                                              75 mg

Tofu  3 oz                                                    200 mg or more

Cup tempeh                                                150 mg

1 oz almonds                                                80 mg

1 oz sesame seeds                                     180 mg

1 oz Chia seeds                                          179 mg

1 oz Sunflower seeds                                    50 mg

1 oz tahini                                                    130 mg


Cup fortified cereal                                        250 mg or more

Cup oatmeal instant ( fortified)                 150 mg


Cup Brown rice                                               50 mg

Cup quinoa                                                     100 mg

Cup whole wheat pasta                               21 mg

Slice whole wheat bread fortified          200mg

 The list above indicates that there are many plant sources of calcium and the belief that you have to have dairy products to grow or as we age is misleading and not factual. With very little effort you and your children can find healthier sources of calcium than dairy.  

Not having to feed cows to produce milk reduces greenhouse gas. Eliminates the issue of what we do to the calves. and the enormous waste and farmland resources for cows.

Warren Krantz MD, FAAP.