As a mother of a child with a dairy intolerance, I worry about making sure he gets enough calcium and vitamin D. Green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, spinach and kale, along with seafood and tinned fish, such as tuna, salmon and sardines are all excellent sources of calcium.
Let’s face it though, they’re not child friendly foods are they?
A recent study, conducted between 2011 and 2014, compared 52 children with cow’s milk allergy (all around aged seven) with 29 children who had other allergies. The researchers measured total body composition, blood vitamin D levels and lumbar spine bone mineral density. They also assessed dietary calcium and vitamin D intake using questionnaires.
More than 60% of the children with a cow’s milk allergy were not getting the daily recommended amount of calcium in their diet compared with 25% of the children with other food allergies. In addition, less than 15% of both groups met the recommended daily allowance for Vitamin D. The children with a cow’s milk allergy were also found to have low bone mineral density.
Not to be confused with dairy intolerance, a cow’s milk allergy causes a severe (in some cases) allergic response.
Nevertheless, whether avoiding dairy products due to either intolerance or allergy, both result in reduced calcium in the diet. Given that the main source of calcium and vitamin D for children usually comes in the form of milk, yoghurt and cheese, it is no surprise that children who have to avoid it are at risk of not getting enough.
I’m fortunate that my son does like broccoli, kale and spinach and I make sure we have some form of dark green vegetables with every meal. He even likes sardines, however, I’m also conscious that he doesn’t eat these things in the same quantity as you might eat dairy products. To make up for that I also give him a multi vitamin and mineral supplement specially formulated for his age group (he’s seven).
In addition, I buy a dairy alternative to milk that has added calcium. His favourite (and mine) is Koko Dairy Free. You can also find other foods that are supplemented with calcium. These include breakfast cereals and fruit juices (though take care to avoid those with a high level of added sugar).
It’s difficult to maintain a healthy diet for a child who has a food allergy or intolerance, particularly if they have to avoid more than one food group. We do our best though, conscious of what they are missing out on, both from a nutritional perspective and also from a psychological point of view. I know my son copes very well knowing he can’t eat the same as other people, but I occasionally find him looking longingly his sisters’ food. He understand why though and it’s a pleasure for both him and I when we happen upon a dairy free treat that allows him a little bit of indulgence.