Strong bones and muscles in your toddler can lay the perfect foundation for a happy and healthy adulthood. And this is the reason why his diet needs to include the right amount of calcium on a daily basis. This nutrient not only boosts the growth and development of strong bones and teeth, but also impacts muscular activities and ensures good heart health. Plus, calcium-rich foods for babies and young children are necessary for keeping a condition called rickets at bay. Rickets is characterised by bow-shaped legs, soft bones, and weakened muscles. Hence, the recommended dietary allowance of calcium for young children is 600 mg per day, which is approximately two and a half glasses of milk. Here’s a list of foods, including milk, which are good sources of calcium: Sesame seeds can be used for garnishing, added to soups, or used in chapathi/paratha/thepla dough. Sabza seeds and garden cress seeds, on the other hand, can be added to milk, milkshakes, and juices. So, as you can see, you have umpteen sources of calcium to choose from, and not just milk. It’s time to get your creative juices flowing and include all the above in your child’s diet in tasty and healthy ways.

1. Milk and milk products

Dairy products contain high levels of calcium which is easily absorbed by the body. Milk also contains other important nutrients such as potassium, proteins, vitamins A, D, and B12 to name a few. While potassium helps to maintain blood pressure, Vitamin D regulates the levels of calcium and potassium in the body. Regular consumption of milk and milk products is not only associated with healthy bones but is also found to reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease. Milk and milk products can be incorporated in a child’s diet in the form of regular plain milk or flavoured milk like chocolate, strawberry, or fresh fruit milkshakes. Flavoured yoghurt or yoghurt with toppings like fruit, veggie sticks, or honey, are also good options. Cheese or paneer sandwiches are a great way to add to the calcium intake as well.

2. Leafy green vegetables

Green leafy vegetables such as spinach, amaranth, mustard greens, beet greens, okra, and beans are among the foods that are high in calcium. They also contain iron, vitamin A, vitamin C, and folate. They are also loaded with fibre. Besides, leafy green vegetables are perfect for maintaining overall health. Children are recommended to consume at least ¾ cup of these vegetables every day. Leafy green vegetables can be given in the form of a soup, added to sandwiches and rolls, or they can be incorporated in omelettes, theplas, stuffed parathas, coloured idlis, dal/vegetable curries, or khichdi. Leafy green veggies can also be added to smoothies!

3. Ragi

Among all cereals, ragi is considered to have the highest amount of calcium. Apart from calcium, ragi is also a good source of iron and amino acids. The gluten-content of ragi is nil, and it is low in fats and is non-allergic, along with being easily digestible. Ragi can be incorporated into your child’s diet in the form of porridge, or it can be substituted for maida in cakes, pancakes or dosas. Ragi can be used to make idlis and rolls too. You can even check out how to make a ragi-based pizza base.

4. Soybean

Soybean-based foods like soy milk, tofu, and soy chunks are also considered as calcium foods. They have good protein content too. Soy milk has the same calcium content as cow’s milk. Hence, it is a good choice for lactose-intolerant individuals, if they are not allergic to soy. Soy can be provided to children in the form of soymilk, soy yoghurt, soy chunks in rice, stir-fried soy chunks or tofu, tofu rolls, or soybean-based curries.

5. Fish

Fishes like rawas, rohu, hilsa and ahi are good calcium food sources. Apart from being rich in proteins and omega-6 fatty acids, these fishes have high calcium content in their bones, which is easily digested by the body. Sometimes, the bones are used in making calcium supplements too. Fishbone soup, sautéed fish, steamed fish or fish sandwiches can be given to children.

6. Chickpea

Chickpeas are an important source of calcium. They are also rich in vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin C, dietary fibre, polyunsaturated fatty acids, magnesium, potassium, iron, and folate. Chickpeas are nutrient-dense and are a healthy snacking alternative. The hummus dip, made of chickpea, and popular in Arabic cuisine, is also a good alternative to butter in sandwiches. It can be served with finger foods like carrots and cucumber too. Chickpea curry is also a tasty way to incorporate this legume into your kid’s diet.

7. Nuts

Nuts such as almonds, peanuts, and walnuts are good sources of calcium. Almond contains as much as 228 mg of calcium per 100g as per IFCT, 2017. Nuts also contain healthy fats, vitamin E, magnesium, and dietary fibre. In moderation, they make for a good snack. Nuts can be had as they are, or sprinkled over other foods. They can be added to baked products, salads or milkshakes. Almond milk and almond butter can also be given to children.

8. Seeds

Some seeds are great sources of calcium, magnesium, and iron, which are essential minerals required by the body. Sesame seeds, garden cress seeds (halim) and basil seeds (sabza) are good sources of calcium.

9. Beans and lentils

Beans such as rajma, green gram, and black beans provide decent amounts of calcium along with proteins, fibre, vitamins, as well as minerals. They can be eaten in roasted, sprouted or steamed forms. They can also be added to soups or used in dips. Consuming them in the form of daals and curries is also very common in India. You can even make bean salsa and serve with ragi/maize chips!

10. Fruits

a and dried figs are good sources of calcium. Fortified orange juice is also considered to be another good option. Figs can be eaten as they are or added to milk or yoghurt. Papaya can be eaten as is or added to desserts like custard and pudding.

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