What your toddler eats during their first 1000 days of life can have a big influence on their future growth and development, including brain development. During this time, it is essential that your toddler receives a variety of nutrients to ensure they grow up happy and healthy. One nutrient that is of particular importance during this time and for the rest of their life is calcium.

It’s not a news flash that calcium is important for healthy bones and teeth. However, we still frequently hear myths popping up in the media disputing this science, so let’s revisit what the research has shown in regards to calcium just to put your mind at ease.


What is Calcium?

Calcium is an essential nutrient that is necessary for the development of strong teeth and bones. The research has found that adequate intake of calcium can help reduce the risk of osteoporosis (weak bones) later in life. Calcium also plays a role in muscle movement and hormone release. Once children are aged over 1 year, their calcium requirements almost double because they are growing and developing at such a rapid pace.


How much calcium do toddlers require?

It is recommended toddlers consume 500mg of calcium per day – this is around 1 ½ serves of dairy. To put that into perspective, a glass of milk contains around 125mg of calcium, so including small amounts of calcium-rich foods throughout the day will ensure your child can meet this requirement.

*Images from Nutrition Australia website


Best Sources

It may not come as a surprise that dairy foods are the best source of calcium in the diet.

  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Yoghurt
  • Custard (only occasionally!)

Once children reach the age of 2 years they are able to consume reduced fat dairy products, however, this is completely up to you. The reason they need full fat before 2 years of age is because they need the increased energy in full fat milk for growth. Reduced fat and full fat dairy are both healthy options for toddlers and will help them meet their calcium requirements.


Other sources of calcium

Calcium is also found in other foods, however, the bioavailability tends to be poorer in these foods (meaning the calcium is not absorbed as well into the bloodstream).

  • Tofu
  • Oily fish (salmon, sardines, canned with bones)
  • Beans (soybeans, kidney beans chickpeas)
  • Dark green leafy vegetables (spinach, broccoli
  • Almonds
  • Dried figs
  • Calcium-fortified cereals


What about allergies and intolerances?

For lactose intolerant and sensitive toddlers, there are dairy alternative options available to ensure your child is still able to meet their calcium requirements. When choosing a dairy-free alternative, it is essential you look for one that has calcium added to it. Soy milk has the most nutritionally similar profile to cow’s milk and is recommended for children who cannot tolerate cow’s milk.


And for Fussy Eaters

If your toddler is a fussy eater it can be difficult to ensure they are receiving all of the important nutrients they need, including calcium. Children are unlikely to like or try new foods the first time they are offered it, however, continually offering small portions of a new food should eventually result in them trying and (hopefully) enjoying the food! It is also important that you role model healthy habits to help encourage your toddler to adopt these habits.

If you think your toddler may be lacking in calcium, here are some ways to try and bump up their intake:

  • Use yoghurt as a dipping sauce for fruit or veggie sticks as a snack
  • Add yoghurt to fruit salads
  • Make fruit smoothies with fresh fruit, milk and yoghurt
  • Substitute peanut butter for almond butter in sandwiches or as a snack dip
  • Include tofu sticks with fruit and veggie sticks as a snack
  • Offer milk in place of water at mid meals
  • Include grated cheese in pasta, veggies, mashed potatoes and meatball dishes- it makes the dishes creamier!
  • Include milk and/or cheese in scrambled eggs


Calcium supplements

We always encourage a food first approach to meeting nutrient requirements. However, if your child cannot eat or drink all of the calcium they need in a day, they may need to take calcium supplements. This can be in a liquid, a pill or a capsule, a chewable tablet, a gummy or a dissolving tablet. Talk to your doctor, dietitian and/or pharmacist before starting your child on any supplements.


Don’t Forget Vitamin D

Vitamin D is extremely important for ensuring that the calcium consumed is properly absorbed in the body. Ensuring your child gets enough time in the sun is critical to help children meet their Vitamin D requirements.

For more information on fussy eating, please see

This blog post was written by Sarah Young who is a dietitian intern at The Biting Truth. Sarah is currently studying her Masters in Nutrition and Dietetics.

Sign Up To Get Free eBook!


Enter your email below and receive a FREE copy of our '5 Healthy & Delicious Vegetarian Recipes eBook'.

Check your email to download your eBook!