Calcium: how much milk is enough & dairy free diets

Calcium

Calcium is an important part of an infant and child’s diet in order for them to grow healthy bones and teeth. Our bones grow in size and increase in density until around 19 years of age so it’s critically important that all through childhood we are feeding our bones to be as strong as possible. But how much milk is enough and what should you do if your child can’t or won’t eat dairy?

It is important to note that although it’s important that children get enough calcium, many are drinking more milk than is necessary which can lead to rapid weight gain and in many children will stop them eating as much solid food as they should. There are links between excessive milk intake and iron deficiency anaemia so finding the balance is also important!

What are our calcium requirements during childhood?

As you can see from the tables below the requirements vary throughout childhood and although you don’t need to be measuring exactly it’s helpful to have an idea of what you’re aiming for. At 11 years old requirements increase dramatically, especially for boys so it’s important we keep an eye on calcium intakes to meet the needs of growing adolescents.

Boys:

Age (years)Requirement (mg)
Up to 1525
1-3350
4-6450
7-10550
11-181000

Girls:

Age (years)Requirement (mg)
Up to 1525
1-3350
4-6450
7-10550
11-18800

In the UK our main sources of calcium are dairy products and the below table gives an indication of calcium levels in the dairy foods we most commonly consume.

As a quick example a 1-3 year old child can meet their daily requirements with:

1.       300mls milk

2.       200ml of milk + 15g of cheese (1/2 a matchbox).

3.       100ml of milk + 15g of cheese + a yoghurt

Milk as a drink is not suitable until 1 year of age; until this point your child should be drinking breastmilk or formula and from 6 months water. It is fine to be used in food such as cereal from 6 months and should be full fat until 2 years of age, when if your child is growing adequately and eating a good balanced diet you can switch to semi skimmed.

TypeVolume (mg/ml)Calcium (mg)
Milk (all)100120
Yoghurt125 (standard pot)200
Cheese15 (1/2 matchbox)110
Fromage frais*50 (small pot)60
Custard125125

*please note that some fromage frais is fortified with calcium so calcium levels will be higher in these products.

What if your child doesn’t eat dairy?

It’s entirely possible meet your child’s calcium needs without giving them dairy but it does take more thinking and planning (and ideally you should speak to a registered dietitian). What they can have does depend whether you’re avoiding dairy due to an allergy or whether it is personal preference.

If your child has cows milk protein allergy (CMPA), soya products may not be suitable as a percentage of children with CMPA are also allergic to soy.

If you are omitting dairy for personal reasons then soy is fine to be giving to your child once they are over six months.

Below are some of the calcium containing non dairy foods that you can offer to your child (this list is by no means exhaustive so please do get in contact if you need additional information!)

The plant based milks and yoghurts will not contain any fortification if they are organic so please do check the packaging before you buy. This blog is only focussing on calcium, so please do be aware that many milk alternatives are much lower in protein, fat overall energy and other vitamins and minerals to a dairy milk.

FoodVolume (mg/ml)Calcium (mg)
Fortified
plant based milks* (soya/almond/coconut etc)
100120
Fortified soya yoghurt125150
Fortified hot oat cereal (such as ready brek or supermarket own)15200
Other fortified cereal30130-150
Broccoli 85 (2 spears)35
Tinned sardines with bones 60 (1/2 can)260
Tahini1070

*Children under 4.5 should not be given rice milk due to high arsenic content.  **information taken from BDA calcium factsheet

Vitamin D:

Vitamin D is essential for the absorption of calcium so it’s important to make sure that your child is not low in this vitamin. It is recommended that everyone in the UK takes a vitamin D supplement as our lack of exposure to the sun’s rays means lots of people are deficient. For babies under 1 year (who are NOT having 500mls or more of formula) a supplement containing 8.5mcg  and everyone over 1 year of age 10mcg is required.

I hope you’ve found the information about calcium useful! If you are concerned about your child’s calcium intake; either you’re worried that they’re drinking too much milk, or you don’t think they’re getting enough calcium then please do get in contact to see how I could help you 😊.

The 4 reasons you need to go on a TeenyWeanies weaning course and not just wing it.

I’m a winging it type of parent for a lot of things, really I am, but I’m also someone that looooves to learn and there are times when I believe that arming myself with information is the best option. Giving birth, breastfeeding, attempting to understand and gently discipline my threenager and of course, weaning. As a dietitian I naively believed that weaning would be easy because I know about nutrition. Oh how wrong I was… as I approached the weaning stage with my daughter I was frantically messaging a friend and paediatric dietitian ‘HEEEEELLLLP I don’t understand’. Fast forward… hours and hours and hours over weeks and now years learning all there is to know about feeding children. It’s taken a LOT of courses, books and scientific journals to get my head around the whole process and to really understand the science (and that learning is always ongoing), so if it’s hard for me, a person trained to understand nutritional science then I know how hard it is for you.

So here are the reasons that I genuinely think everyone embarking on the weaning journey should get the opportunity to speak with me…

1.       Many people feel pressured to wean in a particular way - whether that’s pressure to spoon feed by a grandparent that can’t get their hear around baby led weaning (BLW) or pressure to BLW by other mums they meet. My weaning course is 100% unbiased, evidence based information so you will leave feeling completely confident in whatever choice you make, because there IS NO right or wrong way. If you are happy, your baby will be happy and your weaning journey will be far more successful than if you’re fighting to do something to please others. Once you understand both types of weaning and their pros and cons you can not only make an informed choice, you can completely ignore any pressure from others and even tell them why you’re doing what you’re doing (if you feel so inclined!!).

2.       Baby led weaning is becoming increasingly popular, and for good reason, there’s lots of positives to it (which you’ll learn all about!). However, it is about so much more than simply allowing your children to self feed. It’s also about understanding their ability to regulate their own intake, knowing what a diet should look like, how to get particular foods into them and much more! There’s also a growing amount of evidence showing up some worrying trends – particularly that many parents are not arming themselves with the information needed to SAFELY wean their children using finger foods. A worrying number of babies are being given foods that pose a choking risk so if you do want to do baby led weaning it’s important that you do so with the knowledge of which foods to safely give.

3.       It’s not JUST about baby led weaning vs spoon feeding/traditional weaning (though this of course is a consideration and is discussed on the course). We are not born knowing how to eat and knowing about food, it’s something that needs to be learnt. Which means we have to teach our children. We know from the research that the type of diet children have and the eating habits that they develop at a young age tend to be continued into adulthood. If you can learn what a healthy diet should look like and understand the foundations of eating well then it’s not only the weaning process you’ll be acing but you’ll be improving the health of your child for the rest of their life because a great diet is so important for long term health.

4.       Approximately 40% of children will go through a fussy eating phase – some for several years. Anyone that has a child with fussy eating tendencies will tell you that it can become all consuming, turn mealtimes into battles and generally make your time around the dinner table unpleasant. When you understand that the weaning process can have an effect on fussy eating in the future you know it's an investment to spend a few hours of your time to make your life easier going forward!! Of course I can’t guarantee that your child is going to eat every food that is put in front of them… but by following a few basic principles you will be greatly increasing your child’s chances of eating a wide range of foods with the rest of the family.

So of course, you can wing it and if you do that’s fine and I wish you all the luck in your weaning journey. But you could also learn all about the very best way to feed your children, how to encourage them to eat the biggest variety of healthy foods which will set them up for the healthiest future possible and how to decrease the chances of fussy eating which I think you will agree you really can’t put a price on.

 

 

A quick, easy and delicious breakfast for all the family and great for weaning!

A quick, easy and delicious breakfast for all the family and great for weaning!

Overnight oats have always been a winner in this household with adults and kids alike enjoying both the ease of making and the delicious taste in the mornings (the lazy part of me likes the fact that if I'm rushing around like a lunatic getting out of the house to work/nursery they can be wolfed down too - though obviously we should always be aiming to eat mindfully!). They're also really handy for an after nursery snack when we get in. 

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