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Calcium For Vegans: How Vegan Kids Get The Nutrients They Need!
In this article you will learn about calcium needs for children, a brief overview to why we need it in our diet, along with vegan sources for calcium that kids will actually eat!
This article is a continuation of Dietary Guidelines For Kids: How Vegan Kids Get The Nutrients They Need! If you find yourself wanting to continue reading this guide for Raising Vegan Kids but don’t have the time now, you can sign up to receive the PDF version in your inbox HERE, or at the bottom of any page in this guide!
Calcium, calcium, calcium…
Where do our doctors and teachers, moms and commercials (ads) tell us to get
dairy I mean calcium from?
Yep, you got it, dairy.
We get taught this from such a young age that by the time we’re adults, the two words (dairy and calcium) become synonymous with each other.
But, is dairy really the best source of calcium?
Nope! Not at all!
Feeling good now?
Trying to raise vegan kids is hard enough when others are trying to shame you thinking that your kids don’t get enough protein. But, they may also question your parenting abilities by trying to shame you into thinking your kids won’t get the amount of calcium they need!
When will it stop?
When will people learn that it is 100% possible to raise healthy kids on a vegan diet?
But, in the meantime, let’s dig into why our kids need calcium and what it actually does.
Then I’ll provide you with more information on how to get enough calcium into your little plant based child’s diet. And honestly, it’s not that hard!
*Please note that I am not a doctor or registered dietitian and am not liable for what you do with the information I provide. The following is for informational purposes only. If you or you child has a medical condition or you have concerns about raising vegan kids, please consult your pediatrician or a registered dietitian familiar with a vegan diet.
Why Our Kids Need Calcium; What does calcium do for us?
I’m sure you know at least one role that calcium plays in our child’s diet!
Calcium helps form strong bones and teeth!
But, calcium does more than that!
It also plays a part in;
- Helping form blood clots (when they are needed to stop bleeding)
- Muscle relaxation
- And more!
Everyone needs to make sure they get enough calcium in their diet, vegan and non-vegan, but especially growing kids!
What Happens If Kids Get Too Much Calcium or Not Enough?
Most vegans won’t need to worry about consuming too much calcium, our goal is make sure our kids get enough of it and it takes a little bit of planning or thought to do so.
However, too much calcium intake can lead to hypercalcemia; which would actually weaken bones, cause kidney stones, and more.
On the other hand, ensuring your child gets enough plant based calcium while they are young (or even up to the age of 28) will help reduce the chance of them getting osteoporosis later on in life!
This is why there are recommended amounts of vitamins and minerals based on a child’s age; the optimal amount changes through life. You wouldn’t want to give an infant the same amount of calcium as a teenager!
How much calcium do kids need?
Well, like all minerals, how much a child needs is going to depend on their age.
|Mineral||0-6 months||7-12 months||1-3 years||4-8 years||9-13 male||9-13 female||14-18 male||14-18 female|
The biggest jump is from under a year to over a year. Maybe that’s why many doctors try to push parents into getting kids to drink a lot of cows milk after they’re a year old.
However, as you probably already know, dairy is not good for anyone’s health. And, as you’ll see, there are plenty of sources of calcium in plant based food; your child doesn’t need to rely on any milk for their calcium. Though non-dairy milk is also a great source of calcium!
Good Sources of Calcium for Kids
If you’ve read the other articles on nutrients for vegan kids, then you may start to get sick of me saying this, but, a varied diet is key to helping your kids get the nutrients they need.
Before I dive into all of the sources, do note that just because a food will give us a little or a lot of mg of calcium, our body doesn’t absorb them all evenly.
For example, our body absorbs calcium from leafy greens low in oxalates (broccoli, kale, etc.) better than it absorbs it from milk, whether it’s cows milk or non-dairy.
Examples of good sources of calcium also include (but is not limited to);
- Fortified juice (like orange juice)
- Broccoli (½ cup = 33 mg)
- Kale (1 cup = 100-145 mg)
- Bok choy (½ cup = 84 mg)
- Watercress (1 cup = 43 mg)
- Collard greens (1 cup = 55 mg)
- Tofu, calcium set- check label (½ cup = 268-909 mg)
- Fortified soy milk (½ cup = 158-163 mg)
- Sesame seeds (¼ cup = 356 mg)
- White Beans (½ cup = 85 mg)
- Almonds (¼ cup = 96 mg)
- Chia Seeds (¼ cup = 269 mg)
- Medium Orange (52 mg)
- Dried Figs (¼ cup = 61 mg)
- Blackstrap molasses (2 tbsp = 80-200 mg)
Of course this list is not exhaustive, there are tons of other foods that contain calcium in varying amounts, and different ways of preparing food can also affect how much calcium is absorbed.
But, none of this information is useful if you can’t get your kids to eat them. There will be some kids who can’t get enough kale and tofu, but others will be set in their ways (or strong willed) and not want anything to do with those.
So, let’s get into some recipes, or ways to get calcium rich foods into our kids!
Kid Friendly Recipes with those ingredients
Now you know some foods that contain calcium and approximately how much, now how do you get your kids to actually eat them?
One of the easiest ways I’ve found is by giving my kids a smoothie everyday as a snack, or their drink with breakfast.
To get a smoothie high in calcium, it’s as simple as throwing together the ingredients below and blending til smooth;
- 1-2 cups orange juice (or fortified non-dairy milk)
- 1 cup kale
- 1-2 bananas
- 2 tablespoons almond butter (or ¼ cup chia seeds)
- 1-2 cups frozen fruit (like oranges)
Depending on if one child drinks the whole smoothie themselves or it’s split among 2 or 3 kids, will determine how much iron the smoothie provides.
If one child were to drink that entire smoothie, you’d be looking at over 500 mg of calcium, just from a smoothie!
If your child doesn’t like some of the ingredients in the smoothie above, no problem!
That’s the wonderful thing about smoothies, they are customizable; just be sure to add in some seeds and other foods high in iron if possible!
For better calcium absorption, have your child enjoy it outside in the sun! (Or remind them to go outside at some point during the day!)
Homemade Vegan Spaghettios
Homemade spaghettios aren’t too difficult to make, they do take a little bit on the stove to get to the right consistency, but can provide a bit of calcium.
One of the ingredients that I add in at the end is 1 to 1 ½ cups cooked spinach (1 cooked cup provides 129 mg of calcium). Or, go ahead and swap out the spinach for kale for better absorption!
To help thicken the tomato sauce for these, soy milk is used, and you saw how much calcium that provides!
I’ll be providing a full recipe in the next few days and link it back here once it’s published!
The point of this recipe is that you can add leafy greens to almost any dish that your child already enjoys to help improve their calcium intake!
Alright, so this isn’t a recipe, but it’s high in calcium and something quite easy to get kids to drink.
Keep in mind though, that calcium can inhibit iron absorption, so if your child is needing to ensure they get extra iron in their diet for any reason, make sure you don’t give them soy milk with any of the iron rich foods you give them.
But, a few different and fun ways to incorporate soy milk in your childs diet could be;
- Chia pudding
- Flavor it with berries (my girls love making pink or blue soy milk with berries!)
- Chocolate ‘lattes’ (hot chocolate with soy milk)
- Turmeric lattes
- And more!
Tofu is high in calcium by itself, but if you can get some kale or other leafy greens into it, that’s even better!
You can also add other high nutrient ingredients into tofu scramble to make it not taste so plain, and make it yellow, such as turmeric and nutritional yeast!
Nutritional yeast is one of the only plant-based food sources of vitamin B12, because it’s fortified. If you want to know why B12 is important for a vegan diet, go here to read more.
Plus, tofu scramble is so easy to make a child can make it!
It doesn’t get much easier than a sandwich for lunch. And whether we like it or not, that tends to be what our kids want to eat anyways, most of the time! (Or is that just my girls?)
Instead of a pb&j, try replacing the peanut butter with almond butter and the jam for molasses if you’re trying to up your child’s calcium levels.
It may sound weird, but it will give your child about 200-300 mg of calcium, add a cup of soy milk and that one meal could provide your child with around 450 mg calcium. That’s almost half of the calcium a 4-8 year old needs for the day!
And if all else fails, try these molasses cookies!
*Notes about Calcium: Be sure to consume foods high in calcium at least an hour before or after having foods high in salt, or foods/drinks with caffeine, as those can diminish absorption. Calcium is also absorbed better when yours, or your child’s body, has sufficient vitamin D; which could be as easy as taking a walk in the sun, or taking a supplement.
If you have any other specific questions regarding calcium and your child specifically, I’d recommend you speak with their pediatrician or a dietitian who can look over their medical/food history.
Didn’t start from the beginning? Start Here!
Need some inspiration for being or raising vegan? Check out the vegan quotes in Vegan Quotes: For Health, the Planet, & the Animals!
²Becoming Vegan: The Complete Reference to Plant-Based Nutrition (Comprehensive Edition), by Branda Davis, RD & Vesanto Melina, MS, RD