Ways to Increase Your Calcium Intake With Dairy

Calcium is essential for strong bones and teeth, and it's also necessary for your nerves to function and your muscles to contract and relax properly. You get that calcium from the foods you eat. 

While there are many non-dairy foods that are rich in calcium, dairy is such an excellent source of calcium that it qualifies as a food group. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, you need about three servings of dairy every day.

The downside of dairy is that it can be high in saturated fat. And although experts argue about whether or not saturated fats are bad for you, they're not something you need, so choose non-fat and low-fat milk and dairy products to keep fat and calories at bay.

Ready for some calcium-rich and delicious tips? Here are 13 ways to use dairy products to get plenty of calcium every day.

Choose several low-fat servings of these dairy foods each day to easily meet your calcium needs, and get some extra protein too.


Drink Milk More Often

Cow's milk

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Drinking a tall glass of cold milk is probably the most basic way to consume dairy. One 8-ounce serving of milk has almost 300 milligrams of calcium, which is close to one-third of what you need every day (most adults need about 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day).

If it is possible and within your budget, choose organic cow's milk. Some studies have suggested that this type of milk has higher concentrations of omega-3 and conjugated linoleic acid.


Add Cheese to Your Veggies

Cheddar cheese

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman 

Adding a little cheese to green vegetables accomplishes two things. First, you're upping your intake of calcium, and second, you're adding a lot of flavor (so it's perfect for picky eaters).

Adding cheese to veggies is easy, just sprinkle shredded cheese over the top of hot cooked vegetables. Take care of serving sizes, one serving of shredded cheddar cheese is only about 1/3 a cup and adds about 200 milligrams calcium and 170 calories to your meal. Another option is to make a cheese sauce that's made with cheese and milk for about 225 milligrams calcium per 1/3 cup serving.


Make a Smoothie

Use milk or yogurt in your smoothies to get more calcium.
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Drinking a smoothie made with milk or calcium will contribute to your daily calcium intake, plus you'll benefit from all the vitamins, minerals and fiber that come with all those healthy fruits and veggies.

A basic fruit smoothie includes fruit, yogurt, ice, and milk, juice, or a milk-alternative (such as a nut milk). There are many creative and delicious smoothie recipes. Be careful with smoothie recipes that call for extra added sugar or syrup because there's really no need for the extra empty calories.


Eat Cottage Cheese

Cottage cheese

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Cottage cheese is a fresh soft cheese made with curds mixed with milk. One cup of low-fat cottage cheese has around 140 milligrams of calcium and about 160 calories. Serve cottage cheese as a side dish or on toast or a bagel (instead of full-fat cream cheese). Cottage cheese also pairs nicely with most fruits and berries.


Yogurt with Granola and Berries for Breakfast

Yogurt, granola and fruit is a great source of calcium.
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Low-fat or non-fat Greek yogurt is loaded with calcium and protein so when you combine it with crunchy granola and juicy pomegranate arils you have the perfect healthy breakfast. I like Greek yogurt best because it has a smooth, creamy texture. Raspberries, blueberries, or sliced strawberries will work just as well and they're all are all excellent sources of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.


Make Herbed Feta Appetizers

Herbed feta cheese cubes are good for calcium intake.
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Here's a simple and healthy appetizer idea. Place 1-inch cubes of herbed feta cheese on skewers and add olives, cucumbers, and mint leaves. Each one has about 84 milligrams of calcium and about 50 calories. Or serve feta cheese chunks in a bowl with olives and slices of pita bread.


Have a Smoothie Bowl for Breakfast

Smoothie with fruits and chia seeds in bowl
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A smoothie bowl is similar to a smoothie you drink except that it's thicker, so you use a bowl and a spoon instead of a glass and straw. Take any basic smoothie recipe and add more ice or something substantial like dry rolled oats or a big spoonful of peanut butter. You can use more yogurt (and more calcium) to thicken your smoothie bowl, too.

Smoothie bowls are often made with fresh berries that are not only for good nutrition but also for the gorgeous colors. Make your smoothie bowl a work or art by topping it with nuts, seeds, granola and dried or fresh fruit.


Add Parmesan Cheese to a Salad

Parmesan cheese on a salad is a great calcium source.
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Parmesan cheese is a hard, dry cheese that's lower in fat and calories than most other types of cheese. One ounce of Parmesan cheese has about 300 milligrams calcium and just over 100 calories. (Use the real thing — the powdered, grated stuff in the green can isn't anywhere as tasty.)

Add Parmesan slices to a green salad. It's a perfect topping for a Ceasar salad or a simple, but delicious, arugula salad.


Have a Caffe Latte

A caffe latte is a great source of calcium.
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A caffe latte is a coffee drink made with espresso and steamed milk, and they're available at coffee shops that seem to populate almost every city block. Coffee alone might have health benefits, and when you add the milk, you're also getting a healthy dose of calcium.

Keep your caffe latte lean and healthy by ordering nonfat milk and skip the flavored syrups that just add empty calories.


Serve Cheese and Fruit Kabobs

Fruit and cheese kabobs have calcium.
Thomas Firak Photography / Getty Images

Grab your favorite fresh fruits and cheese and skewers and make these cheese and fruit kabobs. Choose something like cheddar or Swiss cheese or some type of cheese that won't crumble or fall off the skewers. Combine a variety of cheese and fruits or stick with something simple like apples and cheddar cheese.


Make a Yogurt Parfait

Berries and yogurt parfaits are high in calcium.
Brian Macdonald / Getty Images

A parfait made with yogurt, fresh berries, and chopped nuts or granola looks and tastes decadent, but it's really very good for you. The yogurt is loaded with calcium, and the berries have all those vitamins and minerals.

For something different, how about a tropical yogurt parfait made with pineapple chunks and toasted coconut? Or maybe yogurt layered with peaches and chopped pecans and almond.


Make a Caprese Salad

Caprese conga
Allison Achauer / Getty Images

A Caprese salad is a simple and delicious salad made with tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and basil, usually topped with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Mozzarella cheese is lower in calories compared to other types of cheese because it's lower in fat. One ounce has more than 200 milligrams of calcium and less than 75 calories.


Make a Cheese and Veggie Sandwich

Cheese on a sandwich adds calcium.
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There's nothing unusual about adding cheese to a burger or turkey sandwich, but loading a sandwich with veggies and cheese is a great option, too. Choose whole grain bread, crunchy cucumbers, cool tomato slices, baby spinach leaves and a slice or two of your favorite cheese for a healthy and delicious lunch.

A Word From Verywell

Calcium is so important that you need to eat calcium-rich foods every day. Dairy products are high in this crucial mineral and although dairy products are often high in saturated fat, as long as you choose wisely, milk and other dairy products can be part of a healthy diet.

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  1. Benbrook CM, Davis DR, Heins BJ, et al. Enhancing the fatty acid profile of milk through forage-based rations, with nutrition modeling of diet outcomesFood Sci Nutr. 2018;6(3):681-700. doi:10.1002/fsn3.610

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