No Milk? No Problem!
Updated: Oct 3, 2019
For the first nine years of her life, my daughter was an avid milk drinker. Warm milk, mind you, but still milk at every meal. We never had to bribe her or remind her to drink her milk, it was pretty much gone as soon as we poured it for her. But then, just after she turned nine, she began having some stomach troubles, often complaining of a tummy ache, causing her to miss out on things because either her stomach was bothering her or she was worried that it would start to act up. She insisted that the cause wasn't because she was worrying about something, and that everything was fine at school and with her friends, which we confirmed with her teachers, so we decided we needed to take a closer look at her diet. We took her off dairy for a few weeks, and even had her tested for celiac disease. But, quickly discovered it wasn't gluten or dairy that was bothering her stomach, as the stomach aches continued despite testing negative for celiac disease and the removal of dairy from her diet.
We put her back on dairy and gluten, and over time the stomach aches just stopped and haven't returned. When we ask her about it now, she admits that maybe she was just anxious or worried about something that at the time she just wasn't able to explain or verbalize to us, and that was causing the tummy aches. However, despite returning to her regular diet, she has never returned to drinking milk (other than a little bit in cereal). She refuses to drink it as well as any other nut or plant-based milks. Her explanation is that she just doesn't like it anymore, but we're pretty sure part of her is convinced the milk was causing her stomach aches.
So, how do you ensure that your child who refuses to drink milk is still getting their Recommended Dietary Allowance of calcium of 1,300 mg/day? You find other sources of calcium that they will eat or drink. Luckily, she still enjoys other dairy products that provide her diet with some calcium:
ice cream (although in limit amounts, of course)
Fruits and vegetables can also be good sources of calcium:
Nuts, such as almonds and walnuts, are also great sources of calcium that she enjoys and we have been trying to incorporate more into her diet. And finally, some of the calcium in her diet comes from calcium-fortified foods/drinks or is added during food processing:
calcium-fortified orange juice
baked goods such as tortilla shells, breads and crackers
Fish consumed with bones is another good source of calcium, however, my daughter, as well as the rest of us, unfortunately, are not fish eaters. That's a whole other blog post - alternate sources of the very important omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids!
A daily multi-vitamin, in addition to a vitamin D supplement, also helps increase her calcium intake. It is important to note that vitamin D enhances calcium absorption. When vitamin D is deficient, calcium absorption drops to about 10%. Living in Canada, it is not uncommon for us to have a vitamin D deficiency, especially during the winter months when our exposure to the sun is much less than in the summer.
So, if you have a child (or an adult) in your life that refuses to drink any type of milk, there is no need to worry about their calcium consumption as long as you are providing them with other sources of calcium that they enjoy and are happy to eat or drink.