Cow’s milk and soya are still off the menu for Baby A, and she’s been a bit poorly lately, so hasn’t been too keen on drinking much of her dairy-free formula. I’ve been concerned about her getting enough calcium. Before turning to supplements I’ve been trying to increase our dietary calcium. Us coeliacs should have more calcium than the general population too, so it’s a good idea for us to try and up the calcium content of our family meals!
This is of course not a substitute for advice from your dietician or health visitor, but here are some of our favourite ways to add non-dairy calcium-rich ingredients to our meals. Perfect for dairy-free babies and coeliac grownups alike. If you have any other suggestions, do let me know!
Like any middle class mummy, I thought I was doing the best for my baba by picking up lovely organic artisan wholegrain loaves of bread, cutesy packages of cereal, and milk squished from the finest nuts with no additives. Well that may be, but unfortunately ‘organic’ means these products are also not fortified with any vitamins. We’ve switched Baby A to sliced white, and to a high street brand cereal. We also use Alpro (unsweetened) almond milk in cooking which has the same calcium content as cow’s milk (although isn’t suitable as the main drink for a toddler).
For us, avoiding added sugars and additives is less important than ensuring her future bone health at the moment.
High street gluten free bread and cereal is not usually fortified either, for calcium enriched versions you need prescription brands. Baby A eats the gluteny versions – cue much shuddering and a lot of hand washing when she shares her soggy sandwich with an adorable ‘aaagyoo’ (thankyou).
Baby A loves fish, but until recently I’d never tried tinned sardines or tinned salmon! Buying the bone-in kind gives us extra calcium, I like to whizz it up into a pátê for sandwiches or a topping for a jacket potato, or use sardines in a tomato sauce with pasta – topped with a few flaked almonds!
It may be a bit of a middle class joke, but the key ingredients of hummus, chickpeas and sesame seeds, are both relatively high in calcium, however supermarket versions are usually high in salt. It’s super easy to make your own by blending canned chickpeas, tahini, olive oil and lemon juice to taste. I often add in tinned salmon for a hearty, teething-friendly, calcium-packed sandwich filling (see below).
A small handful of dried fruit is Baby A’s idea of heaven. The added fibre is a bonus too, so I usually give her a small selection of chopped dried apricots, figs and currants as a mid-morning snack, or with her breakfast. We also love to add these dried fruits to tagines and casseroles (see below).
Leafy greens like spinach, kale, broccoli and watercress aren’t renowned for being child-friendly, but actually babies will eat most things (with A, provided you don’t give it to her as the same time as carbohydrates – then that spinach is going on the floor). I find blending them into pesto or a tomatoey pasta sauce to be a good way to get volume in. Putting them in a quiche or slice of frittata also ensures they are gobbled down.
Here are a couple of our latest creations. Both had the second helping seal of approval from Baby A and the Gluten Eating Husband:
Chick-Chicken, Apricot & Quinoa One-Pot
Serves 4, Approx 150mg calcium per portion
- 1 onion, finely sliced
- 1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped (optional)
- 1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, finely chopped or grated
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 6 chicken thighs
- 2 large carrots, diced
- 1 can chopped tomatoes
- 12 dried apricots
- ½ can chickpeas, drained (save the rest for hummus!)
- 2 tbsp honey (omit if cooking for a baby)
- 200g uncooked quinoa
- 250ml Chicken or vegetable stock (I use Kallo low salt stock cubes)
- 80g raw spinach
- Heat a little oil in a large casserole dish. Brown the chicken thighs all over, and remove from the pan.
- Add in the onion, chilli, garlic and ginger, and fry until softened.
- Stir through all of the remaining ingredients except for the spinach, and nestle the chicken thighs in, ensuring they are partly covered. Then either bring to the boil and simmer with a lid on, on medium for up to an hour, or put everything in a slow cooker on high for 4 hours.
- At the end of the cooking time, you may wish to skin and debone the chicken and return it to the pot. Switch off the heat, add in the spinach, and put the lid back on. Serve when the spinach has wilted.
Creamy Hummus with Salmon
Serves 4, Approx 180mg calcium per portion
In a blender, blend the following until smooth. Add a little water if you prefer a smoother consistency:
- 1 small tin (120g) of bone-in salmon, drained
- ½ tin (200g) of unsalted chickpeas, drained
- 2 heaped teaspoons of tahini
- A glug of extra virgin olive oil
- A squeeze of lemon juice and black pepper to taste