By

Amanda is Healthy Food Guide's nutrition editor with a degree in nutrition and a post-grad diploma in dietetics. She is a member of the British Dietetic Association; The Nutrition Society and The Guild of Food...

It takes more than the occasional glass of milk to keep your calcium levels up. Here’s how to hit the target the tasty way

 
Most of us are aware that calcium is crucial for building and maintaining strong bones. For children and teens, it’s essential for avoiding rickets and for adults, it’s a case of hanging on to the bone density we have. Perhaps less well known is that many girls between 11 and 18 years aren’t managing to hit their daily 800mg target. This is a serious issue, since after the age of 21 bone density levels are pretty much determined, so if girls haven’t had enough calcium up until then, it may be harder for them to fight bone diseases in later life. These easy food swaps can help your whole family boost their calcium intake.

Milk FAQs

ο Skimmed or whole? The only significant difference is in the fat and calorie contents. The calcium is in the watery part of the milk, not the fatty part, so you won’t miss out if you go ‘skinny’.
ο No dairy? You need to ensure your milk alternatives are unsweetened and calcium fortified (almond milk isn’t fortified as it naturally contains similar amounts of calcium to cow’s milk).

Non-dairy sources to add to your meals
ο Have low or no added sugar cereals for breakfast with almond milk or unsweetened fortified dairy alternatives.
ο Snack on unsalted almonds.
ο Add green veg such as broccoli and kale to your evening meal.

Less reliable sources
ο Be aware that while spinach, dried fruits, beans and seeds give us calcium, they also contain oxalates and/or phytates, which reduce how much of the calcium we absorb.

Breakfast

If you usually have

A chocolate chip muffin (83mg calcium)

Swap for

Bircher muesli (241mg calcium): soak 30g oats overnight in 100ml skimmed milk with 10mg chopped unsalted almonds and a good pinch cinnamon. To serve, mix in a grated apple and top with 45g low-fat natural yogurt

Lunch

If you usually have

A chicken and sweetcorn white pasta salad (200g cooked penne, 50g cooked chicken, 30g mayonnaise, 40g sweetcorn) (79mg calcium)

Swap for

Italian baked beans (292mg calcium)

If you usually have

A tuna rice salad (49mg calcium)

Swap for

Lemon prawns (275mg calcium)

If you usually have

A chicken salad with crispbread (39mg calcium)

Swap for

Green goodness salad (267mg calcium)

Dinner

If you usually have

A vegetable, turkey and rice bowl (52mg calcium)

Swap for

Mediterranean-style veggie pizza (410mg calcium)

If you usually have

Baked cod with new potatoes, carrots and sweetcorn (72 mg calcium)

Swap for

Fish and potato pie (252mg calcium)