All of us have times when we worry about whether we are getting or giving enough nutrients in our food. Many of us turn to supplements at these times and especially in the winter. It is the easiest thing to do because it means that we no longer need to worry! However, I always believe it best to gain nutrients from our food rather than rely on manufactured ones so I always try to make my recipes as nutritionally balanced as possible.
Recently, however, I realised that I had become rather lax on ensuring that my little ones were getting enough calcium. I never really worry about my littlest one because he has no restrictions to his diet and he eats lots of cheese and drinks milk. My eldest, however, has a dairy allergy (or intolerance, the jury is out as far as my consultant is concerned – and I really don’t care…it just doesn’t agree with her!) along with coeliac disease.
Having coeliac disease means that you need to consume more calcium than those without coeliac disease as coeliacs are less able to absorb calcium. In addition to consuming calcium, it is important to have vitamin D to ensure the calcium is absorbed. The NHS suggest that “all babies and young children aged six months to five years should take a daily supplement containing vitamin D in the form of vitamin drops to help them meet the requirement set for this age group of 7-8.5 micrograms (0.007-0.0085mg) of vitamin D a day.” Further information about how to get vitamin D can be found by clicking here – the NHS Choices website.
So, with a little help from my Twitter and Facebook friends I have come up with a number of recipes and ideas for getting that extra calcium in your diet without too much hassle! I am not sure about the vitamin D element – my kids have certainly never been offered/advised to have vitamin D drops by their doctors – I would be interested to know whether anyone else has been told this? I remain hopeful that they get sufficient from the eggs they consume in cooked goods, the oily fish they eat, the meat they eat and the sunshine they get in the summer (I don’t usually apply suncream until they have been in the sun for 15-20 minutes)…they don’t have rickets yet so lets hope they are getting enough!
So, onto my top tips on how to increase your calcium intake…this is not a definative list and I am not a nutritionist or dietician. If you have real concerns about yours or your childrens calcium intake then consult a professional.
1) Serve broccoli or green vegetables (but not spinach because the calcium is not easily absorbed) with your meals
2) Add seseme seeds to bread, stir frys, biscuits, home-made chicken nuggets etc, or make seseme snaps – this recipe looks good although I haven’t tried it yet! You can of course buy seseme snaps, but check they are gluten-free!
3) Add ground almonds to foods such as pancakes, biscuits, cakes, curries (great for thickening a sauce). Find my great breakfast pancake recipe by clicking here. It is full of goodness to start the day.
4) Use tofu in recipes – for example, add Cauldron marinated tofu in stir frys and chilli’s. Find my recipe for vegetable chilli with tofu here
5) Use beans and pulses in recipes…chickpeas, kidney beans, pinto beans, lentils etc. Chickpeas are great in my curry sauce…find the recipe by clicking here
6) Make chocolate milk or hot chocolate if your child or you does not like to drink milk on its own. I use Koko coconut milk which is a great alternative to dairy milk and tastes amazing in hot chocolate (much nicer than almond or hazlenut milk). Mix one teaspoonful of cocoa with 1-2tsp fruit sugar (Tate and Lyle do one) then make into a paste with a little milk. Once you have a smooth paste slowly add the remaining milk. Heat if you want it hot!
7) Have Alpro soya deserts, dairy-free yogurts, or home-made custard for pudding. To make chocolate custard that goes well with bananas, add 2 chunks of dark chocolate (check dairy and gluten free) to custard made following the instructions on the Birds custard powder (not the instant stuff as this contains milk). Again I have found that custard made with Koko coconut milk is the nicest!
8) Make tahini following this recipe and then use it to make hummus, halva, my chocolate seseme bites (recipe to follow – will add the link once done!)…or add to smoothies (eg. banana, dairy free milk and a tsp of tahini)…
9) Replace peanut butter in sandwiches with almond butter…you can even get this is supermarkets these days! You can also use this in things like smoothies to increase the goodness!
10) Experiment with maca…a peruvian root. See my post on superfoods to find out more…I add it to my breakfast pancakes!
11) Use Tropicana calcium fortified orange juice…if you can find it! I can’t!
12) Make kale crispies…follow a recipe like this one…just don’t add the salt if giving it to kids!
13) Finally watch out for organic breakfast cereals. Many gluten-free breakfast cereals are not fortified with vitamins and minerals because they are organic! Where possible follow the Coeliac UK directory and use own-brand breakfast cereals that are safe for coeliacs, rather than specific ‘freefrom’ cereals.
If you have a way of increasing calcium intake, or a specific recipe that you would like to share with others that is high in calcium please do so using the link-up tool below! I have started this by adding my pancake recipe! I would specifically love to hear from anyone who has a successful recipe using tinned fish that contains bones (like salmon or saldines – these are naturally full of calcium but my kids hate them!), or artichoke that is very high in calcium…