Introducing Your Baby to Dairy - Part 2

Exploring the alternatives to dairy


In Part 1, we explored the first considerations for introducing dairy into your infant's or toddler's diet. Here we'll discuss their particular nutritional needs and alternatives to cow's milk that can help them meet those requirements without dairy.

Depending on your child's age and weight, their calorie and nutrient needs are different. These recommended amounts are expressed as Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA). The RDA is the average daily amount that is considered sufficient to meet the requirement of nearly all (97-98%) healthy individuals in a particular life stage and gender group. Values are based on a reference weight (7-12 months: 20 lbs, 1-3 years: 27 lbs). Your child’s individual needs may differ and can be discussed with a naturopathic doctor, dietitian or medical doctor.

The requirement for the number of grams of fat per day in a child’s diet varies. Total fat should make up a certain percentage of daily calories. Estimating the number of calories needed in your child’s daily diet requires an equation that takes your child’s weight into account. If you’d like to calculate your child’s needs, see the Health Canada website or talk to your child’s healthcare provider for help. As an example, a 12-month-old who is 20 lbs requires approximately 730 calories (kcal) per day, so they should be taking in at minimum 30%, or 219 calories (kcal) from fat.

Your child's daily needs

AgeCalories (kcal)Protein (g)Total Fat (g)Calcium (mg)Vitamin D (IU)
7-12 MonthsSee above11g30260400
1-3 YearsSee above13g30-40%700600


Measuring up the alternatives to cow's milk

As seen below, the issue with most animal milk alternatives is the caloric, protein, and fat content, but they are comparable to cow’s milk with regards to vitamin D and calcium. Goat milk is a commonly recommended alternative for those who have sensitivities to cow’s milk; the proteins in goat’s milk can be more easily digested and better tolerated. If goat’s milk will be your child’s main milk source, make sure that you are buying a fortified version with comparable calcium and vitamin D content. If cow’s milk isn’t going to be on your child’s menu, due to allergy, vegan lifestyle, or for other reasons, it is advisable to seek the services of a dietitian or naturopathic doctor who can help you in ensuring that your child’s diet is nutritionally sound with regards to calories, protein and fat.

MilkCalories (kcal)Protein (g)Fat (g)


(% daily value)

Vitamin D

(% daily value)

Cow's Milk



*amounts are based on 1 cup of milk or alternative, and each alternative is the fortified, original flavor version

Looking to expand your child's palate?

The nutrients like calcium and vitamin D found in dairy are also contained in other foods. Listed below are a few dairy free options to expand your child's diet while still getting those great nutrients.


  • Cooked spinach (from frozen) - ½ cup - 154 mg
  • Canned salmon (with bones) - 2.5oz - 179-212mg
  • Tofu (prepared with calcium sulphate) - ¾ cup - 302-525mg
  • Tahini (sesame seed butter) - 2 tbsp - 130mg
  • Beans (white or navy, canned or cooked) - ¾ cup - 93-141mg

Vitamin D

  • Egg yolk (cooked) - 2 large - 57-88 IU
  • Salmon (sockeye/red, canned, cooked) - 2.5oz - 530-699 IU
  • Salmon (Atlantic, cooked) - 2.5oz - 181-246 IU
  • Trout (cooked) - 2.5oz - 150-210 IU
  • Talk to your naturopathic or medical doctor about appropriate supplementation

Fat and Protein

  • Avocado
  • Eggs
  • Nut butters (talk to your ND, dietitian or MD about safe introduction)
  • Beans and Chickpeas
  • Chia seeds + coconut milk (in the form of chia seed pudding - soft, safe and yummy!)
  • Yoghurt (full-fat)

*Originally published November 11, 2016


Consolini DM. Nutrition in Infants. Merck Manual Professional Edition. Nov 2013.

Dietitians of Canada. Food Sources of Calcium. 2016.

Dietitians of Canada. Food Sources of Vitamin D. 2016.

Dietitians of Canada. Understanding non-dairy alternatives. 2016.

Fleischer DM, Spergel JM, Assa’ad AH, Pongracic JA.Primary prevention of allergic disease through nutritional interventions.

Health Canada. Dietary Reference Intakes Tables. 2010 Nov 29.

Health Canada. Guideline: Nutrition for Health Term Infants: Recommendations from 6-24 months.2015 Jan 19.

USDA. Milk, Goat, Fluid, with added Vitamin D. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. 2016.