Calcium in a Dairy-Free Diet

Sorry, Dairy Farmers of Canada, this blog post may offend you, but I can write what I want. This is my blog (note: I’m not affiliated with and I’m going to use it as my soap box, OK!?

Besides, I can’t advocate for a product that leads to such widespread intolerance in so many people. Bloating, gas, indigestion… sound familiar? Did that big milkshake or quart of ice cream happen to precede those symptoms? Often our friend milk is the culprit. Milk, and most dairy products in general, just don’t agree with most people. But by all means, if you can drink two gallons of milk a day and maintain a six-pack, more power to you, no need for you to read further. But for the average citizen, milk is a roadblock in the way of our health and fitness goals.

This does NOT including whole, unpasteurized milk, which is not processed and comes with a myriad of health benefits, but the vast majority of us don’t have access to such a natural source of milk, especially with politics the way they’re today. Money talks and milk is big business. Any small-time operation looking to sell whole milk at the local level will faceh too many obstacles to consider it.

So for those who don’t have whole milk at their disposal, read this blog and discover healthy alternatives to dairy milk that will satisfy your taste buds without expanding your waistline.

Back in Clair Calvert’s day, you had one brand of milk in a bag and your purchasing decisions were made for yout. Fast forward several decades, and nowadays you can drive three minutes to your local supermarket and be inundated with mass marketing and a dozen or more products that essentially offer the same thing. Some are certainly better than others from a nutritional standpoint, and my preference as a milk alternative is unsweetened almond milk (there’s a chocolate variation that’s low cal and works great mixed in a protein shake as a milk replacement) or brown rice milk etc. Be careful to read the labels, as some of these come packed with added sweeteners, but there are good options if you take the time to look! My preferred brand is Blue Diamond Almond Breeze.

And, yes, I’m sure someone is going to suggest I’m calcium deficient because milk isn’t a staple in my diet, but I beg to differ! First of all, calcium in too heavy of doses can actually be BAD for you. The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends a maximum daily intake of no more than 2,500mg per day. So, be advised, if you’re going to supplement your diet with a calcium tablet, keep an eye on how much “mg” is in each tab and don’t exceed the daily recommendations. The biggest side effect of calcium overdose (it can build up in your body over time) is kidney toxicity, commonlyknown as kidney stones. Continuous exposure to high levels of calcium in the blood can lead to the formation of calcium salts, such as calcium phosphate or calcium oxolate in the kidneys, according to the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University. Not good. But like anything, it’s all about moderation, and there are plenty of food and dairy-free drink options that’ll satisfy your calcium requirements without exceeding them.

Keeping our bones healthy, especially as we age, should be a priority. What food sources have calcium then, you ask?

The aforementioned milk alternatives, almond milk and rice beverages, often have comparable calcium quantities to good old fashioned milk. Almonds are naturally rich in calcium while many soy and rice beverages come fortified with calcium and vitamin D.

A tasty treat that satisfies your cravings and meet your calcium needs: frozen yogurt. It doesn’t contan lactose and its fat content is LOW.

My top five staples:

  • Almonds and/or almond butter. Tastes good and it works! 
  • Oatmeal. Some dislike porridge, but get creative with it. Cinnamon is your friend. And Almond Milk works as a milk alternative, remember!? 
  • Green veggies, notably broccoli, seaweed and kale. 
  • Canned fish with bones. 
  • Beans (I can’t guarantee you won’t have digestive issues with this one, lol).

For a full listing of dietary calcium sources (right down to the mg per serving), check out Health Link BC.

Note: I’m not perfect and will treat myself to the odd dairy treat once in awhile. Don’t deprive yourself here, but keep those designated cheats to a minimum and use the alternatives listed above in your daily routine. Healthy Habits are formed through repetition!


Mitch Calvert is a Winnipeg-based fitness coach for men and women like his former self. Heavyset in his 20s, he lost 60 pounds and now helps clients find their spark and lose the weight for life.