Dairy Free: Foods to Meet Calcium Needs

When you think of calcium, you think of dairy. When you think of dairy you think of calcium… or some delicious creamy sauce or cheese. But what if you are needing to be dairy free?

There are a lot of reasons why people have to be dairy free and why people choose to be dairy free from food allergies to intolerances, to the love of animals. But since dairy has been marketed to be the go-to for calcium, can you meet calcium needs without having dairy as part of your everyday diet?

Let’s take a look at why we need calcium, what dairy-free foods contain high amounts of calcium, and then let’s look at the recommended amount of calcium intake to see what that would look like throughout the day.

Why Do We Need Calcium?

BONE HEALTH: No doubt one of the most important reasons to regularly intake calcium is for our bone health. Calcium is stored in the bones and teeth. Interestingly, that storage takes place before your are about 30 years old. After that, what calcium you’ve been able to put in the “savings account” of your bones, is all you’ll be able to save. After 30 it’s maintaining what you have and trying not to deplete your savings. Regularly intaking calcium is essential.

HEART FUNCTION: Calcium is a key contributor to your heart contracting to pump blood. It’s one of the key minerals for blood pressure control.

NERVE FUNCTION: Like with the heart, being a muscle, calcium helps fire cell signals to contract muscles to get you moving.

Dairy Free Sources of Calcium

With any nutrient, being able to get calcium through the food we eat is the best way, unless prescribed by your doctor for one reason or another. So how can we meet calcium needs if we are dairy free?

    • with bones
    • If it is fortified with calcium, it should say it on the front, but you can always check the nutrition label to see the calcium content.
    • Not all orange juice will include calcium, but like with the other fortified products, it usually will say something on the front of the carton, or you can always check the nutrition label on the back.
    • made with calcium sulfate. Again, you can always check the nutrition label and ingredients.
    • kale, turnip greens, collard greens
  • FIGS
    • you can always check the back, but look at cereals like Total, Raisin Bran, Cherrios, etc. A lot of cereals now will have on average at least 10% or 130mg of calcium per serving.
    • Garbanzo beans, white beans, kidney beans, navy beans, etc.
    • Seeds are known to be little nutrient powerhouses. Some that are high in calcium would be poppy, sesame, celery, and chia seeds.

You can see without even the fortified foods listed, there is a wide variety of foods, no matter your “beet”, that you can find and add to meals to provide you with your calcium needs. But what does it look like throughout the day?

Calcium Needs and What It Looks Like Throughout the Day

Below is the chart of Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for calcium. RDA means that this is the average daily level of intake sufficient to meet nutrient requirements of nearly all (97%+) healthy individuals.

So numbers is great and all, but how does that translate into food? Let’s look at the higher end of the RDA, 1300mg of calcium, (which would be the needs of a growing teen) and what that would look like throughout the day for a dairy free person with a few options:

Photo by Deena Englard on Unsplash


380mg: Fortified Cereal with Fortified Plant Based Milk

  • 1 Serving Fortified Cereal, average 130mg
    • Calcium Fortified cereals can range from 10% to 100% RDA, for this we will take the lower since most will have about 130mg or 10%. It’s better to get your calcium throughout the day than all at once since your body can only absorb so much at a time.
  • 1 Cup Calcium Fortified Plant Based Milk, average 250mg

320mg: Scrambled eggs, sauteed broccoli, and a toasted English Muffin

  • 2 Eggs, 50 mg
  • 1 Cup Cooked Broccoli, 180mg
  • English Muffin enriched with Calcium Propionate, 102mg

335mg: Tofu scramble with Black Beans and Satueed Broccoli on the side

  • Tofu, 1 cup, 130mg
  • Cooked Black Beans, 1/2 cup, 25mg
  • 1 cup cooked Broccoli, 180mg

310mg: High Calcium Plant Based Yogurt topped with Fruit and Chia Seeds

  • High Calcium Plant Based Yogurt, average 130mg
    • Depends on the brand. Plant Based yogurts can range from 1% (13mg) calcium to 20% (260mg) calcium depending on the brand. Always read your labels.
    • Chia Seeds, 1 tbsp, 180mg
Photo by Deryn Macey on Unsplash


449mg: Large Kale and Spinach Salad with your choice of protein and dressing

  • Kale, 1 cup, 177mg
  • Spinach, 2 cups, 272mg
  • **If using something like 1 cup garbanzo beans (86mg) 3/4 cup extra firm tofu (380mg) as protein, calcium intake will increase.

446mg: Sandwich of choice including 1 cup spinach, side of high calcium plant based yogurt with fruit and chia seeds

  • Spinach, 1 cup, 136mg
  • High Calcium Plant Based Yogurt, average 130mg
    • Depends on the brand. Plant Based yogurts can range from 1% (13mg) calcium to 20% (260mg) calcium depending on the brand. Always read your labels.
    • Chia Seeds, 1 tbsp, 180mg

358-434mg: Canned Salmon Salad, like tuna salad, (or smashed garbanzo bean salad, different info below) on top of, or in a wrap with with fresh spinach. Include crackers as a side, carrot sticks, etc.

  • Canned Salmon, 1/2 alone, 162mg
  • Garbanzo Beans, 1 cup, 86mg
  • Spinach, 2 cups, 272mg
Photo by Brenda Godinez on Unsplash


  • 155mg: Edamame, 1 cup
  • 75mg: Raw Almonds, 1oz or 20-25 almonds
  • 102mg: English Muffin, Enriched with Calcium Propionate, Toasted with Jam
  • 234mg: Chia Seed Pudding using 2 Tbsp chia seeds
  • 130mg: High Calcium Plant Based Yogurt ***Read Your Labels!
Photo by Michele Krozser from Burst


426mg: Veggie Stir Fry including Broccoli & Bok Choy with choice of protein, topped with sesame seeds with/without brown rice

  • Broccoli, 2 cups, 180mg
  • Bok Choy, 1 cup cooked, 158mg
  • Sesame Seeds, 1 tbsp, 88mg
  • Adding Brown Rice, 1 cup, +20mg
  • **If using something like 1 cup garbanzo beans (86mg) 3/4 cup extra firm tofu (380mg) as protein, calcium intake will increase.

484mg: Salmon Burger with any sides, bun, toppings you want.

  • 1 Burger Patty using canned salmon, 484mg
  • Adding coleslaw or using spinach with the burger will add more.

431mg: White Bean and Kale Chili, depends on recipe, but usually will contain ground turkey. Vegetarian version, add more beans, with veggies, crackers, etc.

  • White Beans Cooked, 2 cups, 252mg
    • *Possibly more with the serving if using more beans for vegetarian version.
  • Kale Cooked, 1 cup, 179mg


A calcium rich diet that is dairy free is possible! To do it you do need to do a few things:

  • Educate yourself on the foods naturally rich in, fortified, or enriched with calcium.
  • ALWAYS read your labels, especially with plant based yogurts and know the brands you like and give you what you need. Still check the labels since they can change the formula and the nutrient aspect can change.
  • Spread out your calcium intake throughout the day if you can. Your body only absorbs so much at a time, so eating calcium rich foods throughout the day is best.

Keep finding you beet and I’ll see you tomorrow with a dairy-free cheese sauce and soon to come queso recipe.

SPOILER: The cheese sauce uses calcium-rich white beans. If you want to see both recipes in action, the YouTube video will be up tomorrow that will show both the cheese sauce and the queso! The queso recipe will be coming later this week to the blog.


Healthy Mindset for 2021

Are you ready to say goodbye to 2020 and welcome 2021?

To be honest 2020 definitely had it’s negatives, but it taught me a lot about myself and also helped me to slow down and change up my routine. If it wasn’t for 2020, I wouldn’t of set the different goals I did, and probably would have not been able to go about them the same way as I did this year. But I’m also about moving on and going forward, so let’s start 2021 with a healthy mindset when it comes to making and accomplishing goals.

These are somethings I’ve learned myself, but also somethings I have to remind myself of. We can be so goal, deadline, and numbers driven that we forget why we are setting the goals to begin with.

#1 – Write down WHY you have a certain goal.

We might have a goal in mind and even write down what that goal is, but it’s important to remember WHY we want to accomplish or work towards that goal. If there is not a clear reason behind why we want to accomplish a goal, there’s nothing to keep motivating us, and eventually it’s not “worth it”.

You might want to have the goal of exercising 3 times a week. Why? Is it to become stronger? To get tone, or stay toned? Is it for overall health? Sleeping better? Stress management? How will doing this improve your quality of life, and how will you see yourself progressing?

Which brings us to the next point…

#2 – Realize what progression looks like.

Let’s face it – personal goals, especially with health is an ongoing progression, not a one and done goal. Just because you might not have reached a certain goal, doesn’t mean you haven’t progressed to accomplishing your goal. Here is some questions you can ask yourself.

  • Do I have more energy than before?
  • Am I sleeping better on a regular basis?
  • Are everyday chores easier?
  • Am I able to handle more stress (physical or emotional) than before?
  • Are the changes in my eating patterns easier for me to stick to?

Any progression is progress. If you are making changes for your overall health, then health progression can show itself in a lot of smaller ways that might not be the way you’re looking for it to change. But acknowledging a seemingly small progressions is important.

#3 – Be realistic.

I’m positive that this will be on any “goal” list. It’s important to be honest with yourself and what you will do. I know for me, I’d love to say that I’ll workout and keep to a vigorous schedule each week… but that’s not me.

I love walking, hiking, pilates, and some weights here and there, even jogging…but pushing myself to get “my pump on”, running each week, or something that requires a lot of explosive energy… I’m not going to consistently do because I don’t enjoy it. I’ll do it here and there to change things up a bit. It has it’s place. If I do it, then that’s a bonus to the regular schedule I know I can keep up.

Be realistic with yourself. And if you work on what you know you can accomplish and you can consistently keep it up, then challenge yourself to see if you can set records, or lift a little more, or run a little further, or take your workouts to the next level, or having fruits and vegetables be a part of every meal and not just one or two. You know you. You know what you are comfortable with and when you’re ready to challenge yourself to take it a step further.

Hope you are all staying safe! I’ll talk to you all in a few weeks with some exciting news!

Portion Control

One of the common things I’ve noticed people wanting to know is about portion size. I’m not a stickler about portion sizes. I “eyeball” a lot of things. Especially since counting and measuring food just makes eating stressful when it should be enjoyable. I’m already stressed enough with everyday life, I don’t need to be stressed about if whether I have a cup of rice on my plate or if it’s more.

Photo by Edward Guk on Unsplash

However – being mindful of your portions is beneficial. It’s something I had to learn. Especially when you plates seem to keep getting larger, small size cups seemed to have doubled in size over night. (Don’t get me started on the small 8 ounce clear cup they give you at pay-before-you-eat places for water, but if you get a soda, it starts at 20 ounces.) Different restaurants and especially fast food venues give you more than is needed.

I was shocked one day when I drove through somewhere while I was running errands to grab a medium iced tea, thinking it would be 16-20 oz., and it came out and was 32 oz. It reminded me of a Parks and Recreation episode. There was a 512 oz. soda called “Child Size”. “Well, it’s is roughly the size of a 2 year old child, if the child was liquefied.” I mean, for real! But because of this, and the reasons I mentioned before, most people don’t know how to gauge what a normal portion would be just by “eyeballing” it. Let’s first talk about the benefits of portion control.

How It’s Beneficial
Weight Loss

I know for me, this was one of my biggest changes and the best thing that helped me to loose weight and continue to do so. Of course eating the right foods is definitely the top thing, knowing how much to eat is the next. Once you start seeing how much should be enough, portion control really isn’t the headache it seems to be. And you won’t be hungry all the time if you’re eating the right foods. I’ll get to that in a minute.

Photo by i yunmai on Unsplash


If you don’t like working overtime without any compensation, why make your body do it? If it’s overloaded and overworked, then you can have some serious issues because it can’t keep up. Stomach pains, cramping, weight gain, unhealthy blood sugar levels, etc. Give your digestive system what it needs in decent amounts throughout the day so that it can handle it.

Stops Over Eating

Once you start to eat the right amount of portions, you stomach will be satisfied sooner and will be used to lighter meals and knowing it’s not starving if you don’t weigh it down. You’ll get fuller faster. If your stomach is the appropriate size then you will have less of a chance of overeating. It will start to feel uncomfortable.

How to Measure without Going Crazy

If measuring seems like it’s going to stress you out like it does with me, do what I do and I use my hand to measure. Once I know how much my serving will be I use my hand to roughly guess. If you have never used the hand method, check out this article ab out it on Runtastic.com. It’s a great first step if you don’t want to count calories but know you need to watch what you eat.

Tips on Portion Control
Average Measurements to Keep in Mind for 1 Serving
  • 1-2 Tablespoons for any fattening spread – butter, nut butters, avocado, etc.
  • 2 Tablespoons for any dried fruit
  • 1 slice of bread
  • 1/4 cup (roughly) for raw nuts
  • 1/2 cup for whole grains – rice, cereals, pasta, oats, etc.
  • 1/2 cup for fresh fruits, or 1 small piece of fruit
  • 1/2 cup for beans, legumes, etc.
  • 1 cup for vegetables
  • 2 cups for raw leafy greens
  • 3 oz of meat – red meat, chicken, or fish (palm of your hand)
  • 1 egg or 2 egg whites
  • 1 cup milk or yogurt
  • 1 oz of cheese (about 1 domino size)

It all depends on your diet and goals, but this will at least show how much 1 serving is no matter the diet you might be on.

For example, for breakfast you might have:

  • 1 slice of whole grain toast with 1 tbsp of unsalted butter
    • 1 serving of grains, and 1 serving of fat
  • 1 small apple
    • 1 serving of fruit
  • 1 boiled egg
    • 1 serving of protein

Nutritional Information: 

365 calories | 18 g total fat | 2 g polyunsaturated fat | 5 g monounsaturated fat | 9 g saturated fat | 0 g trans fat | 217 mg cholesterol | 221 mg sodium | 39 g carbohydrates | 7 g fiber | 19 g sugar | 12 g protein

Use Smaller Plates and Bowls

One thing I started doing was using smaller dishes. Even if you go back for seconds, it’s still better. It can give you a reason to wait a few minutes before getting more and giving your stomach some time to respond to what you just ate. So if you are not all about the measuring or eyeballing and wanting to just listen to whether your stomach is satisfied or not, start with this. Wait 10 minutes after finishing your food before going back for another plate.

Photo by James Harris on Unsplash

Eat Fiber Rich Foods

Fiber keeps you fuller longer and also helps with digestion and blood sugar. So when you are sitting down for a meal, see how many vegetables, whole grains, or beans you have on your plate. Usually dinner is my heaviest meal. Breakfast and lunch are lighter or quickly digestible foods because I don’t stop moving until after dinner. Keeping things lighter helps to keep me from being sluggish because my digestive system doesn’t have to take a “time out” to digest what I just gave it. Since dinner is heavier I usually try to have a salad with it. If I’m starving when I get home from having light meals earlier, I go ahead and eat my side salad while I’m cooking dinner. It holds off the hunger and when my heavier, richer foods come I don’t over indulge, and eating slower isn’t a problem.

Bottom Line
  1. Be mindful.
    • I’ll be saying this a lot with my posts. Your body will thank you! When you keep your portions in mind, then splurging on some queso on girls night out won’t completely wreck what you’ve been working towards all week and your body will be equipped to deal with it.
  2. Don’t make it stressful.
    • Do what works for you. The first week or two of keeping it in mind might seem a little much since it will be an added step to your routine and something else you have to think about. But afterwards it will start to become second nature and not a burden at all.
  3. Depends on your goals.
    • Serving sizes and how many servings to have a day might differ from person to person, but knowing what a portion size actually looks like will help keep your goals on track.


Know Your Labels: Fat Terms

For this “Know Your Label” post I wanted to talk about the different labels about fats and what they mean. It’s important to know because if you are trying to watch your fat intake for weight loss, heart health, or any other concern, you need to know what these labels mean and not take it for granted that it’s healthy for your because it’s “reduced fat”. Things can start to get confusing when they start adding in percentages and then you have the “lean” and “extra lean”. What do these mean? Also, cholesterol terms I’m putting in a different post. These can be put together, but since the list is so long for the fat terms, I’m just sticking with “fat”.

Different Fats

This can be a long discussion, but here is a simple breakdown.

Unsaturated Fats: fats that stay liquid at room temperature (olive oil, vegetable oil). These are made of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. They can also be known as your Omega fats.

Saturated Fats: fats that are solid at room temperature (butter, coconut oil)

Trans Fats: manufactured fats – never a healthy fat and needs to be as low as possible or avoided

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Fat Terms & Meanings

Fat-Free: Less than 0.5 g of total fat per serving

Saturated Fat-Free: Less than 0.5 g of saturated fat per serving

Trans Fat-Free: Less than 0.5 g of trans fat and less than 0.5 g saturated fat per serving

Low-Fat: 3 g or less total fat per serving

Low Saturated-Fat: 1 g or less saturated fat per serving & less than 0.5 g trans fat per serving

Less Saturated-Fat: At least 25% less saturated fat and trans fat combined than the comparison

Here is where it gets interesting… get ready for some math.

% Fat-Free: An indication of the amount of a food’s weight that is fat-free. This can only be used on foods that are low-fat or fat-free to begin with and must reflect the amount of fat in 100 g.

Example: A food that weights 100 g with 3 g of fat can be labeled as “97% Fat Free”.

***It is the amount of the foods weight that is fat free, not the calories.

Example: If the same 100 g food applies here. Say that food is 100 calories with 3 g of fat. The food can technically be labeled low fat & with it being 100 g in weight can technically be called 97% fat free. Sounds pretty good. However, if the food is only 100 calories, with 3 g of fat (1 g of fat = 9 calories, so 3 x 9 = 27 calories) 27/100 calories are from fat. Which means 27% of the calories from that food is fat. If you are needing other Macro-Nutrients, you might want to check the nutrition label first.

If you are trying to eat a low fat diet, then finding foods that are “fat free” and “low fat” should be a good indication that what you are eating will go along with your diet. Just be aware of serving sizes. The “% fat free” can be a little misleading. Make sure to check the nutrition label before deciding to buy these to make sure you are staying within the limits you think you are.

Lean & Extra Lean

These describe the fat content of meat and poultry products.

Lean: Less than 10 g of fat, 4.5 g saturated fat and trans fat combined, and less than 95 mg cholesterol.

Extra Lean: Less than 5 g of fat, 2 g of saturated fat and trans fat combined, and less than 95 mg cholesterol.

Bottom Line

Being informed about what you are buying is a huge deal. And whether you are watching the amount of fat in your diet because of weight loss, lowering your cholesterol, etc. it’s important to read the nutrition label no matter what the front of the product may say. And remember to always check the serving size. It might be less than what you are actually going to use it for.

2019 Healthy Habit 2: Drinking Water First Thing in the Morning

We like to complicate things when it comes to our overall health, but it’s usually the simplest things we overlook that are the most important. Water is definitely one of them. The hardest part of drinking a glass or two of water first thing, was remembering to do it right after waking up. I do get out of the habit in the winter because I want something warm in the morning, and the fact that I’m usually more groggy than usual in the winter time and can’t wait for my cup of joe. Anytime I get off of this habit, it doesn’t take long before I want to get back to it.

Why Is It Important?

When you are sleeping your metabolism slows, your body detoxes from the day and repairs. Those processes need water. Since you are sleeping and not drinking water, when you wake up your body is looking for water, whether you are thirsty or not. It hasn’t had anything to drink in 8-ish hours. Knowing that we are on average 60% water and all body functions need water to work properly, it makes sense that we need to hydrate ourselves first things in the morning if we expect our bodies to work properly.

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How Does it Help Your Digestive System and Health?
  • Water helps to jump start your metabolism. While you sleep your metabolism slows because you are not using as much energy. When you wake up, hydrating yourself with water helps to kick start it. Not only that, but water helps deliver nutrients to the rest of your body and helps get rid of toxins and free radicals that we are exposed to each day.
  • It also allows you body time and the water needed to make enough digestive juices for the day so breaking down and digesting is easier.
  • For your liver and kidneys to do their job in detoxing, it needs adequate amounts of water to flush out your system. While you sleep your liver and other organs work on detoxing your body from the day. First thing when you wake up, you want to make sure to have a glass of water before anything else reaches your digestive system to ensure that the toxins your body was trying to get rid of during the night are being flushed out and taken care of.
  • Along with helping your metabolism start, and help your body with flushing out toxins another part of this would include stimulating the colon for regularity. Your colon HAS to have water to pass waste along. Drinking water after being dehydrated helps to stimulate the bowels to get things moving again.
Hot or Cold Water?

I’ve heard both that hot or cold is better. “Use hot lemon water to detox.” “Use cold water to rev up your metabolism.” “Best digestion is with room temperature water.” And it continues to go back and forth. If you want it to do one thing more than the others then it determines on if you drink it hot, cold, or room temperature. Not saying that there is not something behind those statements, but what’s important is making sure you are hydrated. If you don’t like warm water, drink cold. If you can’t drink something cold in the morning, have room temperature or warm water. Whatever will make you drink water to hydrate yourself from the “drought” sleep causes, do it.

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Don’t Like Drinking Water?
  • Reward yourself with tea or coffee after you are done drinking your 16-24 ounces of water.
  • Can’t start with that much? Build up to it.
  • Add lemon slices or a squeeze of lemon juice

I was a person who started the coffee pot the second I woke up and sipped on it while getting ready. Now when I wake up, 9 times out of 10, I’m thirsty and can’t wait to get to my glass of water. When your body gets into a routine, especially taking in something so highly used like water, it will start to expect it. The longer you keep with the routine, the easier it will be and you won’t see it as something you’re doing, you’ll just start doing it.

Changes I Noticed
  • I woke up better. I didn’t feel so groggy by the time I left the house. Not that that doesn’t still happen.
  • I was hungry for breakfast. I normally ate breakfast but at some point it was more out of habit than hunger. After having my glass of water, about an hour later my stomach was actually growling.
  • I went to the bathroom in the morning before leaving. It’s different for everyone, but when I started this, about a few days into it, I HAD to go to the bathroom before I even left the house.
Bottom Line

Your digestive system will thank you. It wakes up your whole body and digestive system and gets things going for the day. It’s like an internal shower for your digestive system. Your metabolism is awake and ready to start burning fuel, your digestive juices are there and can be made, the leftover toxins from the night are getting a second chance of flushing out of your system, and your bowels are back to moving. What better way to start the day?