Everyone knows dairy products—things like milk, cheese, and yogurt—are great sources of calcium. But not everyone likes dairy—and some people simply can’t or don’t want to eat dairy at all. So how do you get calcium into your diet if you’re lactose intolerant or just don’t like or want to eat dairy? Good question! There are actually lots of calcium-rich foods and drinks you probably didn’t know about, and most of them don’t contain dairy. If you’re in search of a few dairy-free sources of calcium to enjoy, here are some great options for you.
First, find out if you need more calcium in your diet: Think You’re Getting Enough Calcium? Think Again you may be surprised at what you find.
Dairy-Free Sources of Calcium
1. Canned Salmon
While fresh salmon is good for you, it’s canned salmon that packs the biggest punch when it comes to calcium. That’s because the canned variety tends to have soft bones mashed into it, and that’s where most of the calcium is. If you’ve not tried canned salmon yet, don’t be grossed out. The bones are little, soft, and barely noticeable, and once you mash it all up, it’s a great source of calcium. My kids don’t love fish, but they like the salmon patties I make using canned salmon, so I make that on a somewhat regular basis and call it a major win. My 12 year-olds don’t drink milk, eat yogurt, or eat a lot of cheese, so I know I need to pay attention to getting the calcium they need at this age.
Another type of seafood that’s chockfull of calcium is sardines. These also happen to have vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids. Sardines are perfect for snacking on, or you can add them to a salad or pasta dish for one of the best dairy-free sources of calcium. Don’t worry, I’m not going to suggest that everyone likes sardines. I tried some sardines on a recent trip to Barcelona just to make sure I was giving them the benefit of the doubt and I can tell you 100 percent that sardines are not for me. But if they are your thing, know that they are loaded with calcium and other good things.
If you want a sweet midday snack that’s full of calcium, grab an orange. It contains both calcium and vitamin C, so it’s a pretty good bet for when you need a healthy pick-me-up any time of day. I buy the small oranges, I think they’re called Cuties, and my kids eat them pretty much like candy. Better that than Dorito’s, right?
4. Sesame Seeds
Sesame seeds often fly beneath the radar because they’re so tiny, but they’re actually great dairy-free sources of calcium. Sprinkle them on a salad or add them to your favorite dishes and you’ll get the power of sesame seeds with little to no effort. Don’t think you only can add sesame seeds to Asian dishes – they go with just about everything, so experiment as you’re cooking dinner and add them at will. If your kids are like mine, they won’t even notice. They’re perfect for when you want some crunch with every bite while you work on boosting your bone health.
Speaking of bone health, you can also improve bone health through a good workout. Here are some of our favorites: 10 Bone-Strengthening Exercises You Should Definitely Be Doing
Tofu is popular as a meat alternative popular among vegetarians and vegans. But nutritionists also know it as one of the top dairy-free sources of calcium. As a plus, it features lots of protein, as well. Tofu is generally either your thing, or it’s not your thing (I’m in the latter camp), but if you’re looking for a great source of calcium try adding Tofu to your diet.
If you want a sweet snack or even a healthy dessert, go for figs every time! They have plenty of calcium, fiber, and antioxidants. You can snack on dried or fresh figs, or add them to your favorite dish, such as oatmeal or salad.
7. White Beans
Most types of beans have some calcium in them, but white beans happen to top the list. These surprising dairy-free sources of calcium also have lots of iron and fiber. You can cook and eat them as a dinner side, or add them to a plate of pasta for lunch. As an aside, I’m currently reading How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease by Michael Grenger, MD and he’s a huge advocate for eating beans three times a day. It’s a great book, and if you’re into eating your way to good health and a long life, I highly recommend it.
8. Black-Eyed Peas
Black-eyed peas are another type of bean you should try if you’re looking for dairy free sources of calcium. Black-eyed peas have calcium, folate, potassium, and other nutrients you need. They’re great when you season them and put them in a slow cooker with ham and some vegetables.
9. Bok Choy
If you’re in search of a vegetable that’s high in calcium, Bok choy won’t let you down. If you haven’t had it before, it’s Chinese cabbage, and it goes great in stir-fry, soup, or as a seasoned vegetable side with dinner. When you eat this veggie, you’ll get calcium, fiber, and vitamins A and C. I’m a fan of baby Bok choy, and it’s another veggie highly recommended in Dr. Grenger’s book and easy to find in the produce section of your grocery store.
Another high-calcium veggie is kale. This leafy green is everywhere these days, and for good reason. It’s delicious. I know, I know. You’re either on the kale bandwagon or squarely off of it, and I get it. For me, I’m all in on kale and love it. It’s great in a salad, cooked into chips, or as an ingredient in a morning smoothie. Kale delivers plenty of calcium and antioxidants.
Oatmeal is a delicious comfort food that healthy foodies are all over. I’ve been experimenting with overnight oats, prepping the night before and opening my fridge in the morning to a delicious and quick and easy breakfast. Customize your oatmeal with fruit, almond butter, peanut butter, pepitas, granola, and a host of other things. I’m a huge fan of Davida and The Healthy Maven’s blog and if you want to explore overnight oats, start with this recipe for Healthy Overnight Oat Jars [That You ProbablyHaven’t Tried Before] and, like me, you’ll be hooked in no time! Oatmeal is not only a great way to start the day, it’s an easy dairy free source of calcium.
Another breakfast favorite that’s high in calcium is Cheerios, which makes it a winner with the kids. Although Cheerios are not only calcium rich, they’re also good for helping lower your cholesterol levels. Eat them with the almond milk, soy milk, coconut milk or snack on them dry throughout the day.
13. Orange Juice
While fruit juice is generally sugary, some types also have the nutrients you want. Orange juice is one example of a beverage you’ll want to drink occasionally to boost your calcium—plus vitamin C. Have it with your high-calcium breakfast of oatmeal or Cheerios, or add it to a smoothie. I look for the brands lowest in sugar and try to limit my kids’ consumption of orange juice because, well, sugar. But it is a great dairy-free calcium source and one worth integrating into your day when possible.
You can make that smoothie even better with these ideas: 5 Ingredients to Boost Your Smoothie
Did you know seaweed is not only edible, but pretty darned good for you? It has plenty of fiber, iodine, and yes—calcium! Lots of people add it to miso soup, but you can also hide it in a salad or in an eggroll.
Perhaps one of the simplest ways to get more calcium is to eat a handful of almonds, though you can sprinkle almond slivers on leafy greens for a great salad, as well. These dairy-free calcium-rich treats also feature iron, potassium, and vitamin E.
Other Dairy-Free Sources of Calcium
If none of these surprising dairy-free sources of calcium sounds good to you, don’t worry, you can still get all the calcium and Vitamin D you need on a daily basis with FitFormula’s Calcium + D. Our flavorless, tasteless powder can be added to your favorite drink, applesauce, your morning scrambled eggs, or just about anything. I tell my kids that by taking calcium daily they’ll be better athletes with stronger bones and that’s pretty much all the convincing they need. Try it, you’ll love it! Order yours today!