Your body does not make calcium, so you have to get it from food, fortified products, and supplements.
Four servings of fortified milk or other fortified dairy products will fulfill your daily calcium requirement by giving you about 1,200mg (approximately 300mg per serving). A glass of fortified orange juice has the same amount at about 300mg per serving. Other foods such as greens, nuts, and beans have a little less (about 100mg per serving).
Make sure the dairy products you eat are pasteurized and talk to your doctor about the type of milk and dairy products that are best. Low-fat and non-fat milk contains all the calcium and nutrients of whole milk without the extra fat and calories. However, your doctor will advise you on the best choice based on whether you are underweight, within the recommended weight range, or overweight
Dairy products that are a great source of calcium include:
- Milk (1 cup, whole, 276mg calcium).
- Cheese (2 slices or 1.5 ounces, 307mg calcium)
- Yogurt (8 ounces, plain, low fat, 415mg calcium)
- Kefir (1 cup, lowfat, 316mg calcium)7
Other foods rich in calcium include:
- Collard greens (1 cup cooked, 268mg calcium)
- Kale (1 cup cooked, 177mg calcium)
- Broccoli (1 cup cooked, 64mg calcium)
- Bok choy (1 cup cooked, 158mg calcium)
- Soybeans (1 cup cooked, 184mg calcium)
- Baked beans (1 cup cooked, 160mg calcium)
Please note that while fish is considered healthy during pregnancy, there are some caveats to consuming it. In general, pregnant women are advised to avoid larger fish that are known to have higher levels of mercury, such as swordfish and king mackerel.
Common calcium-fortified products include:8
- English Muffin (1 muffin, 100mg calcium)
- Waffle (2 pieces, 200mg calcium)
- Calcium Fortified Orange juice (1 cup, 349mg calcium)
- Cereal (1 cup, 100-1,000mg calcium)
Be sure to check the product’s packaging for labeling that indicates it’s been fortified with calcium.
If you enjoy dairy and can easily consume four servings a day (8 ounces per serving), then you’ll have no problem reaching your daily goals. But, if you aren’t a big fan of straight dairy, there are preparation methods that you may enjoy more than just drinking a cup of milk or eating a cup of yogurt.
Here are a few easy options to help you get what you need.
- Have cereal in the morning. Enjoying a bowl of cold cereal or hot cereal/oatmeal made with milk is a great way to start the day.
- Make it a latte. Add a little extra milk into your morning coffee or tea.
- Top it with cheese. Add a little bit of cheese to your salads, soups, and other dishes.
- Make it creamy. Add some milk or evaporated milk to your recipes and make creamy soups, sauces, casseroles, mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, and other delicious dishes.
- Substitute some dairy in your cooking. Use milk instead of water to cook noodles, pasta, rice, oatmeal, or other foods.
- Change your regular order. Have a glass of milk or chocolate milk with lunch or dinner instead of a soda or another beverage. In colder weather, enjoy a hot chocolate made with milk instead of water.
- Add it as a snack. Fill the fridge with cut-up cheese cubes, string cheese, or flavored yogurt so they’re ready and easy to grab when you need a little bite to eat.
- Have a treat. Enjoy a bowl of ice cream or frozen yogurt, a small milkshake, yogurt and fruit smoothie, or some pudding for dessert.
Vegetarian and Vegan Diets
Vegetarian and vegan diets can be very healthy. But if you choose to follow one, you’ll need to understand a little about nutrition to be sure you’re getting all the vitamins that your body needs. Getting the right nutrition is even more important when you’re pregnant.
There are different types of vegetarian diets. How much calcium you get and how much of it you absorb depends on what you eat. If you follow a lacto-ova vegetarian diet, you can have eggs, milk, and cheese. So, on this plan, you should be able to get enough calcium each day.
It may be more challenging to meet the daily recommendation for calcium if you follow a strict vegan or plant-based diet.
On a vegan diet, you do not consume any milk or dairy products. Plus, some plants interfere with how well your body absorbs calcium. That doesn’t mean you can’t get enough calcium in your diet if you’re a vegan—it just means you have to know the right foods to choose from.
Vegan sources of calcium include:
- Dark leafy greens
- Navy beans (1 cup boiled, 126mg calcium)Almonds (1 cup, 370mg calcium)
- Sesame seeds (1 cup, 1,400mg calcium)
- Tahini (2 tbp, 310mg calcium)
- Raisins (1/4 cup, 20mg calcium)
Commonly fortified products include:6
- Tofu, firm, with calcium sulfate (1/2 cup, 253mg calcium)
- Soy milk (1 cup, 299mg calcium)
- Rice milk (1 cup, 283mg calcium)10
If you are having trouble getting the calcium you need through your diet alone, you should talk to your doctor about a vegetarian or vegan calcium supplement.
Calcium is one of the key minerals you need during pregnancy—along with other vitamins and minerals, your body provides it to your baby to aid the development of vital structures like the skeleton.
Needs vary by age and too much and too little calcium can cause complications. Keep reading to find out how much calcium you need, why it’s important, and how to make sure you’re getting enough.