Eat Well Strategies The Best 12 Milk-Free Sources of Calcium Here's how to meet your calcium needs when you can't have dairy By Jill Castle, MS, RD | Reviewed by Sanja Jelic, MD Updated October 28, 2018 Pin Flip Email Print Daniela White Images / Getty Images More in Healthy Eating Eat Well Strategies Recipes Calorie Counts and Nutrition Facts Basics Sports Nutrition Weight Management Special Diets Supplements Kids' Nutrition Food Policy View All Most of us know that dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese contain some of the highest levels of calcium needed for growing bodies and to keep bones strong. But those who have milk allergy can't eat those calcium-rich foods, or else they risk suffering from an allergic reaction. So what can they do? Their best bet is to load up on calcium-rich foods that do not include dairy. Options range from calcium-fortified orange juice to tofu and certain greens, such as kale. Calcium Builds Strong Bones Children need calcium to help with their bone development. Bones develop at a rapid pace during childhood and adolescence—in fact, this time frame is known as the peak bone growth phase of life. Essentially, like a bank, calcium from the food we eat is deposited into bone, helping them grow and strengthen. During a youth's second and third decades, this process proceeds at its greatest pace. After young adulthood is reached, bone accumulation stops, and we start needing to maintain our bone mass. Bone density is preserved when enough calcium (and vitamin D) is consumed daily. When bone growth is completed, the bone bank withdrawal system kicks in. If low amounts of calcium are consumed, the bone bank offers up calcium for the normal functioning of other tissues, especially the heart and muscles. Therefore, it is important to build bones when you can, during middle childhood and adolescence, and maintain the integrity of bone in adulthood, partly through adequate consumption of calcium-containing foods. Here is the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) for calcium among all age groups, according to the Institute of Medicine (IOM): 1-3 years: 700 milligrams (mg) calcium per day4-8 years: 1,000 mg calcium per day9-13 years: 1,300 mg calcium per day14-18 years: 1,300 mg calcium per day19-50 years: 1,000 mg calcium per day51-70 year old males: 1,000 mg calcium per day51-70 year old females: 1,200 mg calcium per day70 years old and older: 1,200 mg calcium per day Calcium and Dairy Allergies When you have a food allergy to milk, the consistent and adequate intake of calcium can be compromised, and this can be a real concern during those peak bone-building years. In fact, girls from ages 9-18 years are at particular risk for poor bone health, as intake data consistently shows this age group is missing out on enough calcium in the diet. Girls with food allergy to milk are at an even higher risk. Fortunately, four out of five children will outgrow a milk allergy by the age of 5, and most of the rest will see their milk allergies resolve by adolescence. But that still leaves several important years or more when kids and teens with a milk allergy need lots of calcium, but can't get it from dairy products. Adults who can't have dairy products also need to find adequate substitutes. Non-Dairy Calcium Sources Milk substitutes can be a source of calcium, but not all milk substitutes are created equally. Some, like soy milk, will have similar calcium amounts per cup as cow’s milk (about 300 mg per cup), while others may vary in their calcium load. Plus, calcium is added to alternative milks (as opposed to occurring naturally, the way it does in cow's milk), and it may settle to the bottom of the milk container. Be sure to shake your alternative milk prior to drinking, and read the ingredient label to get the most calcium per cup you can find in your dairy-free alternative. Other non-dairy foods contain calcium, and many believe it's easy to match calcium requirements on these foods alone. This is possible, since there are certainly many foods to choose from, but you’ll be eating quite a bit of some foods. And, remember, if you are dealing with a child with a milk allergy, you may be hard-pressed to get him to eat some of these non-dairy calcium-rich foods. Here are a list of calcium-containing non-dairy foods and the amount you’ll need to eat to match the calcium content of an 8-ounce glass of cow's milk (remember that you'd need more than three glasses of cow's milk per day to get your recommended daily allotment of calcium). How Much Do I Eat to Match the Calcium in Cow’s Milk? Food Amount to Equal 300 mg calcium Calcium-fortified orange juice 1 cup Sardines, canned in oil 3 ounces Tofu, firm, made with calcium sulfate ½ cup Salmon, canned 3 ounces Tofu, soft, made with calcium sulfate 1 cup Fresh turnip greens 1 ½ cups Fresh kale 1 ½ cups Bok Choy 4 cups White bread 4 slices Broccoli 7 ½ cups Okra 4 cups Hummus 2 ½ cups Pinto beans, canned 3 cups Sesame seeds 4 tablespoons Blackstrap molasses 2 tablespoons While this table lists some of the best sources in the various food groups, don't feel as though you need to limit yourself just to the calcium sources listed here. For example, pinto beans are a great source of calcium, but so are white beans, which have 126mg per cup of boiled beans. Kidney beans contain a little less calcium (62mg per cup of boiled beans), but don't let that stop you from enjoying them if you like them... or better yet, mix it up with this four bean salad recipe. Similarly, bok choy, turnip greens, and kale all get you plenty of calcium, but so do collard greens (268mg per cup of boiled greens) and spinach (244mg per cup of cooked spinach. So mix it up with whatever greens you like. A Word from Verywell It can be challenging for children and adults who can't consume dairy products to get enough calcium. Unless you eat lots of tofu daily or serve canned salmon for dinner each evening, you're likely to struggle to meet your daily requirements. If you're worried that you or your milk-allergic child may not be getting adequate calcium from food, check with a nutrition professional who can assist with a meal plan that can cover your unique needs. You may need to talk to your allergist or doctor about taking a calcium supplement. Multivitamins and mineral supplements generally do not contain significant amounts of calcium, so a stand-alone calcium supplement or a calcium + vitamin D chew may be needed. Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! Get nutrition tips and advice to make healthy eating easier. Email Address Sign Up There was an error. Please try again. Thank you, , for signing up. What are your concerns? Other Inaccurate Hard to Understand Submit Article Sources National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Calcium - Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. March 2, 2017. Continue Reading List 15 Calcium Sources That Don't Require a Cow Article What Is Monounsaturated Fat, and Why Is It Good for You? List Plants Are an Another Option for Eating Omega-3 If You Don't Like Fish Article Hidden Sources of Sodium and How to Reduce Your Overall Intake List 6 Surprising Supermarket Foods to Avoid When You're Gluten-Free List Calcium Plus Vitamin D Could Possibly Reduce Fractures List Learn Where to Find and How to Make the Perfect Gluten-Free Challah Article The 20 Best Food Sources of Antioxidants Article What Is Calcium Propionate and Is It Safe to Eat? 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