Milk allergies and calcium intake for toddlers

I have a 15 month old with allergies to milk and nuts. How would you suggest I make sure he gets an adequate supply of calcium? Also, have you any suggestions in general on diets that are milk-free?

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Sue Gilbert

Sue Gilbert works as a consulting nutritionist. For many years she worked with Earth's Best Organic Baby Food, integrating nutrition and... Read more

I have received similar questions from parents who are concerned about the diets of their babies who are also allergic to milk. After reading my response below, you may like to look at my previously answered questions on this topic

I know that it is a difficult situation to be in, however, the good news is that most children outgrow milk allergies by two or three years of age. I hope that your son will also. You should make a point of challenging him with small amounts of milk when he gets to that age to see if he has, in fact, outgrown it.

In the meantime, you can be sure he is getting enough calcium by feeding him calcium rich foods other than milk, or by giving him supplements.

A fifteen month old baby needs about 800 milligrams of calcium daily.

You will need to become very adept at reading labels to avoid processed foods that have milk products in them. Some names to look for and avoid are...caseinate, casein, curds, dry milk solids, nonfat dry milk, and whey.

You should also try to calculate that he gets around the 800 milligrams of calcium per day by adding up the amount in different foods. For example, if you feed him calcium fortified orange juice, the % daily value is stated for adults. One hundred % of the RDA for adults is1000 milligrams, so if the product says 6 ounces provides 25% of the RDA for calcium, you know that it has 250 milligrams of calcium. Some other foods that are high in calcium are:

  • tofu ( 3.5 oz. = 100mg. Ca.)
  • broccoli ( 1 med. stalk = 100 mg.)
  • 3 oz. canned salmon equals 150 mg.
  • 1 cup cooked spinach = 150 mg.
  • Soy milks and rice based beverages that are calcium fortified.

More and more food items that do not contain milk are being calcium fortified these days in large part to help women get enough calcium to prevent osteoporosis when they age. Some breads are now calcium fortified, just be careful that they do not contain any milk products. You may find it difficult for your son to get enough calcium because there really is no other source of concentrated calcium like milk. If this is the case, than ask your pediatrician to recommend a child's supplement that would be appropriate.

The following are some resources that you can look up to help you:

  1. The American Academy of Allergy and Immunology. 1-800-822-2762. They have recipe books and other resources you can order.
  2. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, Suite T 900, 1835 K Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20006, 1-202-293-2950.
  3. The American Academy of Pediatrics, 1-800-433-9016. Explain your problem and they should be of particular help since they deal with children exclusively, unlike these other organizations.
  4. "Good Eating for the Milk-Sensitive Person", Ross Laboratories, Columbus OH 43216. Recipes for cooking without milk. Free.
  5. "Soyalac: Information and Recipes" Loma Linda Foods, Medical Product Division, Riverside, CA 92505, Recipes for cooking without milk. Free.
  6. I also advise you to contact a registered dietetician for some individual nutrition instruction. Look in the yellow pages, or ask your doctor for a referral, or contact the American Dietetic Association, 430 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60611.

Milk is also an important source of protein for young children so you will need to be certain that you provide other protein rich foods in his diet such as beans, meats, and whole grain products.

The nut allergy should be somewhat easier to deal with since the protein and oils they contain are easily found in other foods so by excluding them from your son's diet, you are not at risk of any nutrient deficiencies. However, you will need to be careful to avoid them. Again, be very careful when reading labels.

Good luck,

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