Non-dairy calcium options

non-dairy calcium optionsAre you a female?
Are you pregnant or a mom of littles?
Do you have bones?

I would guess you can say yes to at least one of those categories. As a Registered Dietitian I work primarily with women and most of them are pregnant or young moms. I’m either pregnant or getting un-pregnant & breastfeeding in this season of life with a 3 & 1 year old so naturally I attract that niche. Your bones continue to grow through your 30s and beyond that is maintenance but calcium is a misunderstood and often neglected nutrient. Let me explain.

D comes before C
You need calcium but in order to absorb it you need vitamin D. Some foods are fortified with it but the best source is from the sun. However, if you live in Michigan where winter is hangs around longer than it should then you need some additional vitamin D support. I highly recommend a quality vitamin D supplement if you are not outside in the sun for at least 20 minutes each day.

Skip the milk, you don’t need it
With that said, let’s move on to calcium. Contrary to popular belief and billboards I see on the highway, you don’t need to drink milk. It’s fine to have in small amounts (count it as a carb if you do, not a protein. You can learn why in my article on balanced eating basics) but you can get all the calcium you need from other non-dairy sources.

Non dairy options
Aside from milk, calcium is high in yogurt and cheeses. If you are avoiding dairy due to lactose intolerance, a milk allergy, or just because you don’t buy it often, here are a few  non-dairy options that are non-fortified (meaning naturally occurring in the food, not added in) and will give you plenty of calcium.

Broccoli, dark leafy greens (think kale, Swiss chard, turnip greens, bok choy… make some stir fry), canned salmon with bones (don’t worry; the bones are so soft you can make salmon burgers and won’t even notice), almonds, almond milk. Be sure to check your nutrition label with almond milk; one cup has about 50% of your daily needs! Check labels though; I just learned that the Kirkland brand from Costco only has 2% of your calcium needs.

If you aren’t sure how much calcium you are getting I highly recommend keeping a food log for a week. You can either enter it in something like MyFitness Pal to verify your intake or simply look up the calcium content of each food I mentioned above. You need more calcium when you are pregnant so be sure to accommodate the higher need. Lastly, calcium is best absorbed in smaller amounts so don’t eat all the calcium-rich foods in one meal and can it good; space it out throughout the day. For example- sauté some kale with your morning eggs. Grab a handful of almonds (fat) with your small piece of fruit (carbs) and a hard boiled egg (protein) for an afternoon snack. Stream broccoli to serve alongside dinner.

Take good care of your bones, mamas! You need them to carry around those wiggly, talking 10…20…40# dumbbells.

What are your favorite calcium-rich foods? Any clever ways you use kale?

My favorite breakfast

20140202-133714.jpgSpoiler alert: it’s eggs. 

I just wrote about my most used kitchen tool so now I can tell you how I use it every day to make my favorite breakfast! I love having eggs for breakfast. I usually hard-boil a dozen so Dave can pack a couple in his lunch but I really like my eggs fried and runny. You may think making eggs in the morning before work takes too much time but honestly, it doesn’t take much longer than it would if you were waiting for a piece of toast to…toast.

eggs for breakfast

It’s this easy:20140202-134040.jpg
Melt butter…add veggies…cover…
Put away clean dishes…
Uncover…add eggs… cover…
Drink a big glass of water because it’s good for you
Add cheese or avocado… eat up

Not only did you just enjoy an awesome and healthy breakfast, you became a great multi-tasker.
Well done.

If you pack your own lunch for work you’re already saving $2,000-$3,000 per year. If you pack your lunch the night before you’re saving precious time in the morning and you can use a portion of that time to make a hearty breakfast! How awesome! You know how important breakfast is, right? A bonus of having eggs for breakfast is that it provides an extra opportunity to sneak in a serving of vegetables. You don’t have a side of kale with your bowl of cereal do you? Didn’t think so. You don’t even need to worry about prepping veggies if you buy them frozen (see top photo).


What’s your favorite breakfast?

My most used kitchen tool

I’m surprised it’s taken me this long to realize I haven’t written a post about my most used kitchen tool. I literally use it every day. I had never seen or heard of it until I was given one as a gift. I’m guessing you don’t have one. If you don’t, you are missing out and should get one. Now.

It’s a Charles Viancin Suction Food Cover/ Cookware Splatter Guard

Of course! You probably guessed that.

The lid comes in different shaped and styles but I have the 11-inch pink hibiscus flower pictured above. I’ll let the product do the explaining:
“This suction food cover creates an airtight seal to lock in juices while you simmer soups, contain splatters while you fry bacon, prevent freezer burn in the freezer, and keep your cappuccino warm between sips. The Charles Viancin Small Hibiscus Lid is made from BPA-free silicone that is safe for temperatures up to 450° F on the stove, in the oven, or in your microwave. Dishwasher safe.”

My mother-in-law gave us the lid as a gift when they visited us in Calgary over the summer. It was more helpful than I realized since the condo we stayed at had pots & pans…but no lids. We eat eggs A LOT and I like them sunny side up. Unfortunately my egg-flipping skills are awful. Slight tangent– I hate South Park but Dave occasionally tells me about episodes he’s seen before. You don’t have to have seen this episode but the South Park meme below perfectly captures what goes on when I try to make a good omelette or runny fried eggs:

Using my handy kitchen utensil allows me to cook my eggs without having to flip them. I use it as a pan cover to avoid splatter messes, I put it over finished dishes to keep them warm until they’re ready to be served, and I occasionally use it in place of foil or saran wrap. It’s a handy tool I tell you.

What’s your favorite kitchen tool?

FYI- I was not asked to write this article nor was I compensated for writing it. It’s all my own opinion, folks.

How to prepare kale

photo source: vivelevegan.comKale has been growing in popularity as well as other dark, leafy greens like spinach, swiss chard, collard greens, and mustard greens. The dark leaves are rich in nutrients like Vitamin A, C, K, folate, iron, and calcium. Since Vitamin A and K are absorbed through fat it helps to consume these leaves with a fat source like nuts, seeds, olive oil, coconut oil, or just good ol’ butter. Kale sometimes tastes a little bitter if you eat it uncooked like in a salad but it can offer a lot of flavor with a little preparation. If you want to get more dark greens in your diet, here are a few simple methods to try if you want to know how to prepare kale:

kale chipsKale Chips
You know I was skeptical if you read my experience with making kale chips. I’ll confess that while these are delicious, I was annoyed that it took me an hour to bake a full bunch of kale and only 5 minutes to scarf it all down (I obviously loved them). Since I don’t have a convection oven, I couldn’t stack two cookie sheets and therefore had to make 3 batches that took 18 minutes each to cook. If you have the time and you want something healthy to satisfy your crunch-craving, these are a great alternative to potato chips.

Kale smoothie
Just like any other leafy green, kale is disguised in smoothies since it will be masked by the sweetness of whatever fruit you add. Use milk or a milk alternative to boost the protein content and don’t overdo it on the fruit. Even though the sugar in fruit is naturally there, you don’t want to overload your body. I’d say to aim for about a cup total of fruit and add your leafy greens in with the mix.

Sauteed Kale
This is a really easy one and far less time consuming than baking kale into chips. Add a little coconut, olive oil, or butter and stir a big handful of kale (remove stems and break into pieces) into the pan on medium-high heat until the leaves are slightly wilted. I add a sprinkle of salt and pepper for a little more flavor and occasionally Parmesan cheese. If time allows, mince a clove of garlic and cook it in the oil for adding the kale. You can enjoy this as a side to accompany a meal or make it part of the main course. For example, saute some cubed sweet potatoes, mushrooms, and kale to top over quinoa for a healthy vegetarian dish. You can also add the cooked leaves to your eggs in the morning since breakfast is the meal that usually contains the least servings of veggies.

Soup, soup, and soup
Kale can fit into just about any soup you want to make. I’ve added kale to my mushroom and barley soup and it blended right in. Kale can add a burst of nutrition to a vegetable soup, white bean soup, chili, lentil soup, and any type of stew.

What are your favorite methods to prepare kale?

How to Make Kale Chips

Kale is the current hottie tot on the block. Health magazines are touting it as a superfood and Pinterest has been blowing up with recipes involving kale. When I saw a recipe for kale chips, I thought it was a joke. There’s no way baked leaves can taste as good as people are claiming. However, I’m an advocate for saying “don’t knock it till you try it,” so I decided to take matters into my own hands and make them myself.

20121012-143746.jpgI didn’t know how to make kale chips, so I browsed through a few recipes and decided how I wanted to make mine. Making the chips was so easy; the hardest part was not eating them all! I pulled the first batch out of the oven and actually said out loud “gross.” I thought they looked soggy but when I picked one up it was perfectly crisp! The Parmesan added a great touch. I brought the tiny portion that was left with me to work and encouraged coworkers to try them. As I predicted, they knocked kale chips before trying them but were happy to find out how great they taste! P.S. Save yourself an awkward interaction and check your teeth after eating them…those little buggers sneak in between the cracks of your teeth and don’t show up until you’re talking to someone.

How to Make Kale Chips
One bunch of kale
Parmesan cheese (grated)
Olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit
2. Separate Kale leaves, rinse, and dry with a towel
3. De-stem the leaves then tear or cut into bite-size pieces
4. Line baking pan with foil (for easy clean up)
5. Drizzle olive oil over kale on the foil-lined baking sheet and mix with your fingers until the leaves are evenly coated with oil
6. Sprinkle a teeny bit of salt and some grated Parmesan cheese over leaves
7. Spread leaves out on baking sheet so they don’t overlap
8. Bake for 18-20 minutes (18 worked for my oven)
9. Stop yourself from eating the whole batch at once

Before baking…


and after…


FYI, kale chips may not work too well with canned kale since the leaves are so wet but you can still use it like you would use spinach in casseroles, omelets, soups, etc. Just look for the “no salt added” on the label. I sauteed a can with some with fresh sliced mushrooms, onions, and garlic and added it to our sauce for lasagna. I totally forgot I put it in there, but at least my body appreciated the extra nutrition 🙂


Have you tried kale chips? What else have you used kale in?