Toddlers need around 700 mg of calcium each day and milk is the perfect way to smash that requirement. But what do you do if your little one refuses milk? Here are some creative approaches to encourage your little one to empty his cup and a few other calcium rich food you can complement their diet with.
All of us need calcium
There is no denying the fact that every one of us needs calcium. Calcium is very important to build strong bones and teeth, especially in the growing years between 1 to 18. The National Institute of Health recommends that children intake this much calcium each day:
- 200 mg – birth to 6 months
- 260 mg – 6 to 12 months
- 700 mg – 1 to 3 years
- 1000 mg – 4 to 8 years
- 1300 mg – 9 to 18 years
Us adults need around 1000 to 1200 mg a day. Even if we manage to top our calcium up daily, we will only replenish the natural bone breakdown, not increase its strength. The peak bone mass is achieved at puberty – the strength of your bones at puberty is the strength of your bones for life. This is why we need to slightly worry if our little ones push milk away.
Creative ways to sneak milk
Plain milk is bland, but smoothies are yum! Blended with fresh fruit and ice, your toddler will not even be able to identify the glass of milk hiding in there! Chilled fruit, almond/ peanut butter, chia seeds – it’s amazing how many healthy stuff you can mix into one little drink!
Bournvita, Horlicks, Complan, Pediasure – although these are filled with sugar, adding a little bit to help your toddler finish milk can be a compromise. Available in different flavors, you can transform a cup of milk into a cup of Horlicks and your child won’t suspect you at all. There are also a few instant ragi beverages in the market that you can try.
Who doesn’t love Rose Milk? Rooh Afza milk, Badam Milk, and Chocolate milk everyday sound dubious, but hey, they count! Milk in any form is welcome – so go ahead and make hot chocolate every day. You can also use this Dry Fruits powder in warm milk for a healthy drink. Cardamom milk, thandai, cottonseed milk and masala milk are a few other healthy options.
Carrot Milk is a delicious drink my tots love. Blend two carrots with a cup of milk, strain, and you are good to go.
Custard is an easy way to send a whole bowl of milk straight to your child’s tummy. You can decorate your custard with cut fruits, caramel and nuts to create endless yummy variants.
Ice creams and Popsicles
Can you believe you’d hear ‘Ice Creams are healthy’!? Sounds too good to be true, yes. The good news is, homemade ice creams and milksickles with moderate sugar are a great way to sneak that dairy in! Ice creams are rich in calcium and phosphorous and help maintain strong bones. (It can also prevent PMS and mood swings! We were right all along!!) Go ahead, crush some cherries and mangoes with milk or make kulfi for some healthy fun!
Eggs themselves are a great source of calcium, but do you know how to upgrade them? Add milk! Whisk two eggs with half a cup milk and make scrambled eggs as usual. You will get the fluffiest, moist scrambled eggs and get some of the milk in.
Mac and Cheese
Homemade mac and cheese is a milk burst! Use a cup of milk and lots of cheese to make a super healthy and filling meal. Bonus points if you can throw in a vegetable.
If your toddler loves oatmeal, you can cook it with milk for added nutrition. You can add bananas, honey and nuts for a yummy filling treat. Muesli is another good variant.
Vermicelli with milk and sugar is a popular breakfast among kiddos. Puttu is another breakfast that tastes great with milk, sugar and bananas. Bread toast, which is bread dipped in milk, eggs, sugar and then toasted with ghee, is a great breakfast / snack. If your toddler loves cereals, you can let her have it as a snack with a bowl of milk. Zaffrani Pulao and Char Minar Biryani are hydrabadi delicacies which have basmati rice cooked in saffron infused milk. You can hack the recipe to your toddler’s liking and try cooking all the rice in milk instead of water. Chakkara Pongal is another yummy rice which is cooked completely in milk. Chettinad veg vellai kurma also tastes amazing if you add some milk.
India is the land of milk sweets! Our milk sweets will lure any toddler, but you obviously can’t serve them every day because of the tonnes of sugar. Still, rasamalai, rasgulla, pal khova, peda, kheer, payasam, falooda, and jigarthanda are some of the yummiest ways to have milk whenever they can.
What can I give my toddler instead of milk?
Like milk, yoghurt is chock full of calcium. You can serve non sour thick yoghurt with fruits as a snack on its own. Yoghurt popsicles with fruits taste amazing too. Curd rice is a yummy meal you can include in your child’s diet daily. Salted thick curd is a great dip for fries and chips.
Cream is the big bro of milk that disguises itself well in curries. Add cream to all curries and gravies to make silky smooth delicacies.
Which kid doesn’t love cheese? Include cheese in as many kid dishes as you can to kick that calcium goal! Cheese on toast, cheese balls, and cheese rolls are good starters.
As a member of the dairy family, paneer rightfully has loads of goodness just like milk. Paneer is versatile and can adorn many dishes with ease – you can serve it plain, tossed in butter; add it to rice, noodles, sandwiches, rolls, gravies and what not.
Sardines (Mathi/Kavalu), Anchovies (Nethili/ Kozhuva) and Salmon abound in calcium. Include servings of these fishes at least twice a week to help your little one build strong bones.
Beans and Nuts
Almonds, chickpeas, rajma, and chana dal are super rich in calcium. You can offer almonds as snack, or make almond butter or flour to make smoothies. Chickpeas is an easy bait for toddlers as sundal, channa masala or pav bhaji! Click here to see some healthy chat recipes.
Blackstrap Molasses is similar to jaggery syrup. It is a byproduct derived from the sugarcane refining process. Blackstrap molasses is triple boiled and hence is a thick concentrated honey like liquid full of iron and calcium. It can be used on toast and to sweeten milk and other dishes.
A medium sized orange has 60 mg of calcium and loads of Vitamin D, the essential vitamin that aids the absorption of calcium. Custard Apples, lemon and bananas are also rich in calcium. you can add them to smoothies and as toppings and snacks to get that calcium stress free.
Dates, figs and raisins are healthy snacks rich in calcium. They make great addition to milkshakes as well.
Green leafy vegetables like peas, beans, broccoli and kale are good sources of calcium. You can toss them, stir fry them, add them to salads to make them appetizing for children.
Healthy milk alternatives for toddlers
You might be wondering if you can simply pass up cow’s milk for other healthy milk alternatives. You can get away with it and do so, if you know what you are getting into. Each milk is unique, and has its own characteristics. You will still need to supplement for other elements that are missing. Let’s compare some popular alternative milks.
- Oat Milk has half the protein as cow’s milk, double the carbohydrates and has similar calories. It is also cheap, and can be made easily at home. It is also rich in fiber.
- Soy milk has similar proteins to cow’s milk, but half the fat, carbs and calories. Although very similar and praised as a complete milk, regular use of soy milk is controversial and concern inducing because of its isoflavones. These isoflavones are said to affect estrogen hormones in the body.
- Almond milk has less than quarter of calories and less than half of fat, compared to cows’ milk. It is also lower in carbs and proteins. Commercial almond milks are mostly just 2% almond and 98% water, so choose brands that have at least 15% almonds to reap good benefits.
- Coconut milk has the lowest carbs and proteins in this list, which is almost none. It has half the fat as cow’s milk and one third the calories. Complement with other protein rich food.
- Cashew milk has less than one third calories of cow’s milk and half the fat. It has trace amounts of carbs and proteins. Growing children will need other sources of protein if given cashew milk.
- Hemp milk has similar fats as cows’ milk, but with half the protein and calories. The carbs are few. It has all the essential amino acids and is rich in Omega 3 and Omega 6.
When substituting with other milks, make sure to read the label to check for added sugars and additives (guar gum and thickeners), which can do more harm than good.
More often than not, changing the way you serve milk can fix the problem. Adding exciting straws, chilling the milk or pouring it in a brand new ‘big boy’ cup can excite your toddler to get interested again. Each kid is different and constant forcing will do no good. Rest assured that it is easy for your child to get his nutrients from other parts of diet.