Calcium Rich Foods for Kids

calcium-rich foods for kids

Lately, calcium rich foods have been called into question for kids. Namely, milk has been questioned as a necessary component to a child’s diet.

There have been grumbles about whether calcium actually keeps the bones strong, suggestions that enough vitamin D can be found in non-dairy foods and from the sunlight, and reminders that milk may contribute to childhood obesity.

Let me say this loud and clear: calcium rich foods are required in a child’s diet.

Why Calcium Rich Foods Matter

Where you get calcium —which calcium rich foods are eaten and their quantities—is a matter of personal preference.

For example, a vegetarian may get all of his calcium from non-animal sources; a child with a milk allergy may get calcium from calcium-fortified non-dairy foods. And still other families may just prefer not to consume milk, for whatever reason, and get their calcium from a variety of different foods.

The question of whether kids really need calcium rich foods like milk gets answered with “it depends.” Look at your child’s medical circumstances, your family food practices, your child’s eating habits and food preferences (read: what he or she will eat), and the other realities of making nutrition happen in your home.

They all weigh differently for each family.

While I have always been a supporter of milk as part of a healthy diet, I understand that milk isn’t for everyone.

However, calcium is for every growing child. And that means calcium rich foods.

Calcium Rich Foods

Milk is simply one food that helps kids meet their calcium requirement. And surveys and studies show, it’s an easy way for kids to meet it, plus get a whole host of other important bone nutrients, such as protein and potassium.

But milk isn’t the only way to meet your child’s calcium needs.

According to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), the Daily Recommended Intake (DRI) for calcium for children aged 4-8 is 1,000 mg, while the requirement for kids and teens aged 9-18 is 1,300 milligrams per day.

Here are some calcium rich foods to help your child or teen meet his daily needs. The foods you choose to offer, and how you combine them to match the total daily requirement is your choice.

Calcium Content of Foods 

Food Serving Size Calcium Content
1% Milk 1 cup 314 mg
2% milk 1 cup 314 mg
Whole milk (3.25%) 1 cup 276 mg
Soymilk, all flavors, unsweetened 1 cup 301 mg
Chocolate soymilk 1 cup 306 mg
Almond milk, vanilla 1 cup 451 mg
Rice drink, fortified w/ calcium 1 cup 283 mg
Yogurt, plain, low fat 1 cup 311 mg
Mozzarella cheese, shredded ½ cup1 ounce 306 mg163 mg
Cheddar cheese, low fat, diced ½ cup 225 mg
American cheese, processed 1 slice 314 mg
Cottage cheese (2%) ½ cup 125 mg
Tofu (prepared with calcium sulfate) ½ cup 861 mg
Sardines, canned in oil ½ cup 285 mg
Soybeans 1 cup 515 mg
Almonds, roasted ¼ cup 115 mg
Sesame seeds 1 ounce 280 mg
Collard greens, cooked 1 cup 357 mg
Eggnog 1 cup 350 mg
Amaranth (grain), uncooked 1 cup 307 mg
Cream of Wheat, cooked 1 cup 306 mg
V8 juice, calcium enriched 1 cup 299 mg
Mung beans, raw 1 cup 273 mg
Spinach, canned 1 cup 272 mg
Ricotta, whole milk ½ cup 257 mg
Turnip greens, cooked 1 cup 249 mg
Spinach, cooked 1 cup 245 mg
Figs, dried 1 cup 241 mg
Bagel, enriched w/ calcium (plain, poppy seed, onion, sesame) 1 bagel 217 mg
Brazil nuts 1 cup 213 mg
Bread, white wheat 1 slice 192 mg
Tempeh 1 cup 184 mg
Chia seeds, dry 1 ounce 179 mg
Mustard greens, cooked 1 cup 165 mg
Beet greens, cooked 1 cup 164 mg
Kale, raw 1 cup 137 mg

**Values obtained from the USDA Nutrient Database

Which of these foods do you use to meet your child’s calcium requirements?

I’ve written a book that digs into your child’s calcium requirements even further, and provides ways to help you make sure your child is growing healthy, strong bones.

Click on the photo below to learn more:

calcium foods

Or click here to purchase a copy.

Also, for an expert interview with Dr. Taylor Wallace on bone growth in children, tune in to The Nourished Child.

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  1. I have a 2.75 year old boy who loves his milk in a bottle. Recently, I took it away, he’s becoming a young man (lol). While the act of taking it away was easy, he refuses to drink milk out of any of the myriad of cups I have at home. (He does however, drink milk I am told while at day-care ). What’s better, bringing back the bottle so he can drink his milk (not just for calcium, protein, but also the hydration it provides) , or keep trying with maybe a new sippy cup or simply increasing his calcium intake using other foods ? Thank you.

    1. Hi Tina,
      Given his age, i would try to move forward and away from the bottle permanently. You can try an open-top cup when he’s at the table or highchair, a sippy without the stopper, or even a straw. I would also try offering other foods that are a calcium source (check the list in the blog post)–i think if you approach this with several strategies, you’ll have success!