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Simply Nutritious, Quick and Delicious

Jenna Smith, Extension Educator brings you helpful tips to make meals easy, healthy and tasty!

Calcium for Non-Milk Drinkers

I'm pleased to introduce guest blogger and Illinois State University student intern, Katharine Beberman!

Ever since I was a child, I despised drinking milk. There was just something about it that I did not like. Pediatricians would express that I must drink milk for calcium in order to grow strong bones, but that did not change my poor opinion of the beverage at the time. Realizing that milk was not going to be a part of my diet, I had to find other sources of calcium.

While we all know that milk is an excellent source of calcium, it's important to explore other sources from different food groups. Variety is a key element in a healthy diet.

For those like myself who dislike dairy products- or have trouble digesting them- there are other options! Good sources of calcium are found in dark green, leafy vegetables, like collard greens and kale. While spinach is a dark green, leafy vegetable, it is not the best source for calcium. The chemical structure of the plant can actually make the calcium less available to the body. Other calcium sources are dried beans and legumes, calcium-fortified orange juice, and tofu processed with calcium sulfate and soy yogurt. Soy, almond, and rice milk are fortified with calcium and therefore, are good alternatives to cow's milk.

A personal favorite calcium-rich vegetable of mine is kale, which is also high in vitamin K playing an important role in bone formation and calcium regulation. Kale by itself can taste a little bitter, so I prefer to bake the leaves. Check out the previous post, "Eat Your Greens!" for making kale chips. And try my mother's delicious recipe for kale and spinach balls. You can prepare the balls ahead of time and store them in the freezer, ready to bake.

Kale and Spinach Balls

10 oz. pkg frozen chopped spinach, thawed, well-drained (press through a strainer, then press in paper towels)

1 cup fresh, finely chopped kale, discarding stems

2 large eggs, beaten

¼ cup minced sweet onion

1 large garlic, minced or pressed

3 Tablespoons melted butter

1/3 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese

1 cup panko bread crumbs

¼ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon thyme or dill dried, or 2 Tablespoons fresh herbs, chopped

1 teaspoon lemon zest and a squeeze of lemon


Using a fork to break up the spinach, combine all ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Roll into 1 ½ inch diameter balls. Place on a non-stick baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes at 350°F, turning over after 5 minutes if you don't want a really crisp, brown bottom. To freeze: place unbaked kale and spinach balls on a baking sheet and freeze until firm. Then, store in a zip lock freezer bag. When ready to bake, pull out of the freezer and place on a non-stick baking sheet. Bake frozen balls at 375°F for 18 -20 minutes, turning half way through.


Yield: 6 servings, 3 balls each


Nutritional analysis per serving: 170 Calories, 9 grams fat, 80 milligrams cholesterol, 260 milligrams sodium, 15 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams dietary fiber, 8 grams protein


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