5 Reasons Why Babies and Toddlers Need Calcium

By : | 5 Comments | On : May 14, 2013 | Category : Nutrition, Vitamins & Minerals

  1. Development and maintenance of strong bones – the skeleton contains 99% of the body’s calcium stores
  2. Growth and maintenance of healthy teeth and the protection of tooth enamel, preventing tooth decay.
  3. Ensuring healthy muscle and nerve function.
  4. A healthy heart – remember the heart is a muscle!
  5. Normal hormone release and function.

Calcium is an essential component of children’s diets and according to the most recent National Nutrition Survey, 70% of school-aged children don’t meet the recommended daily intake (RDI) for calcium. Peak bone mass, or the heaviest bone mass an individual achieves, is reached by around 18-20 years old.  So ensuring your child consumes adequate amounts of calcium from a young age is not only essential for buiding and maintaining strong and healthy bones, preventing osteoporosis as an adult, but it will also encourage lifelong healthy eating behaviours in your child.

How much calcium does your baby need?

0-6 months AI*: 210 mg breastfed; 350 mg formula fed
7-12 months AI*: 270 mg
1-3 years RDI+: 500 mg
4-8 years RDI+: 700 mg

*Adequate Intake (http://www.nrv.gov.au/nutrients/calcium.htm)

This is assumed from average breast milk intake and the calcium content of breastmilk, plus the addition of an estimated calcium intake from supplementary foods for 7-12 months.  AI’s for formula fed babies are slightly higher as calcium from formula is not absorbed as well as from breastmilk.

+Recommended Daily Intake (http://www.nrv.gov.au/nutrients/calcium.htm)

Which foods contain calcium?

Dairy foods are an important source of calcium.   The lactose in milk helps maximise the calcium absorbed by the body, making dairy sources a good choice.  More information on dairy foods and the number of recommended serves is coming your way very soon.

Food Serving Size Calcium (mg)
Milk – Full Cream# 1 cup/250 ml 268
Natural Yoghurt – Full Cream ¾ cup/200 g 371
Cheddar Cheese 2 slices/40 g 305
Custard ½ cup/125 ml 150
Cottage Cheese 100 g 89
Ricotta Cheese ½ cup/120 g 276


If your child has a cow’s milk allergy here is a list of some non-dairy calcium containing foods:

Food Serving Size Calcium (mg)
Tofu, raw ½ cup 310
Calcium fortified soy milk** 1 cup/250 ml 298
Calcium fortified almond milk** 1 cup/250 ml 250
Calcium fortified rice milk** 1 cup/250 ml 183
Canned red salmon (with edible bones) 90 g can 181
Chia seeds 1 tbsp/15 g 107
Almonds ¼ cup 93
Kale, raw 1 cup 90.5
Tahini (sesame seed paste) 1 tbsp 66
Spinach, cooked ½ cup 65
Baked beans 130 g tin 54
Quinoa, uncooked 100 g 47
Kale, cooked ½ cup 44
Broccoli, cooked ½ cup 27
Boiled egg 1 23
Dried apricots ¼ cup 23
Chickpeas, drained ½ cup 23
English spinach, raw 1 cup 20
Canned tuna 90 g can 10


#Note: Cow’s and goat milks are not a suitable milk choice for children under 9-12 months of age.

**Soy, rice and almond milks are not suitable alternatives to breastmilk, formula or cow’s milk in children under 2 years of age.

Note: Up until 12 months of age breastmilk or formula should continue as the main drink.  However, for older babies cow’s milk can be used on cereal and in cooking.

A Quick Note about Vitamin D

Adequate levels of vitamin D are important for the body to maximise calcium absorption from food.  This is generally achieved by exposure to sunlight as very few foods contain vitamin D.  In Australia the major dietary source of vitamin D appears to be fortified margarine.  It is also found in eggs and oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and herring.

Tips to Increase Your Child’s Calcium intake:

  • Eat breakfast daily and include 1 serve of yoghurt or milk at breakfast.
  • Add grated cheese to vegetables or pasta meals.
  • Serve cheese as a snack.
  • Try fruit smoothies, babycinos or flavoured milk if your child doesn’t like plain milk.
  • Offer yoghurt as a snack or an alternative to ice cream.
  • Choose low lactose or lactose free milk if you child is sensitive to lactose.
  • Choose calcium-fortified rice or soy milk if your child requires a cow’s milk alternative.
  • Spread ricotta or cottage cheese on sandwiches, toast or crackers.
  • Add chia seeds to smoothies, cereals and cakes etc.
  • Include green leafy vegetables as part of your child’s daily diet.
  • Add legumes such as chickpeas or lentils to soups, salads and burger patties.

Calcium-Rich One Handed Cook Recipes

Banana Mango Smoothie

Berry Oaty Breakfast Smoothie

Pick N Mix Bircher Muesli

Blueberry Yoghurt

Frozen Yoghurt Pops with Edible Sticks

Apple & Cinnamon Yoghurt

Cheesy Quinoa Puffs

Power Meatballs

Creamy Mushroom Crepes

Pick N Mix Cheesy Triangles

Leek & Ricotta Tarts

Spinach & Ricotta Cannelloni

Ricotta & Caramelised Onion Dip

Bean & Tofu dip

Carrot, Red Lentil & Yoghurt Dip

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  1. posted by Leanne on May 14, 2013

    Great post Jess. Not getting enough calcium is such an issue.

    • posted by Jess on May 21, 2013

      Thank you Leanne, as a dietitian yourself I really appreciate your positive feedback! Jx

  2. posted by Georgia on June 30, 2013

    Hi Jess, I love the website. My 16 month old has cows milk protein intolerance so is unable to have dairy products at this stage. Just wondering if you have any extra tips for this situation. Thanks in advance 🙂

  3. posted by Georgia on July 2, 2013

    Sorry I just saw the 2nd half of the table, I scrolled down too fast thinking it was all dairy. That is awesome, thanks!

    • posted by Jess on July 2, 2013

      Hi Georgia, I was just about to reply to your initial question 🙂 I’m glad we could help! Enjoy, Jx


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