A quick reference guide to dairy free alternatives which are easy to inculcate into your everyday life:
Lactose-Free Milk: Milk sugar causes an allergic reaction in some people. This milk is carefully filtered to remove the lactose which causes abdominal pain, bloating and gas. Perfect for those who are lactose intolerant but definitely not an option for people who are allergic to dairy as lacto-free milk will still contain milk proteins and therefore is classed as a dairy product.
Goats/Ruminant Milk: The Oxford dictionary describes ruminant as meaning “Milk derived from other animals besides cows which chew the cud such as goats and sheep”. It is very close in similarity to cow’s milk with regard to proteins. As such, those who have developed milk allergies from cow’s milk may experience a similar reaction with ruminant milk. People who are lactose intolerant should also avoid these milks as they are rich in lactose.
Soy Milk: Soy Milk is made from soy beans which have been soaked and ground with water. The liquid that remains after the liquid has been strained is called soy milk. Located on supermarket shelves, it is often fortified with a nutritional cocktail of calcium and vitamins embedded within its natural protein rich consistency. A highly popular milk for vegans and those who are lactose intolerant, also a great milk alternative for those who are allergic to dairy. There are many varieties to choose from, so experiment with a few to find the ones which suit your tastebuds.
Nut Milk: A delicious and tasty alternative to dairy milk and perfect for vegans and those who are lactose intolerant or suffer from milk allergies. However, people with a reaction to nuts should avoid this milk. Make it a point to read the ingredients list on the carton as some nut milks contain casein which is a product derived from dairy milk. Nut milk is easy to make at home using ground almonds or nuts soaked in water and strained. Rich in protein, this dairy free milk combines well with hot beverages and is perfect for dairy free baking.
Rice Milk: Free from all animal ingredients, this slightly runnier dairy free alternative is perfect for vegans and those who are lactose intolerant or suffer from dairy allergies. Its slightly sweet flavor makes it perfect for splashing onto cereal, desserts or just enjoying on its own. Rice milk may not have as much protein as soy and almond milk but it is very low in fat. Look for cartons which are fortified with vitamin D, calcium and vitamin A.
Hemp Milk: A fairly new addition to the range of dairy substitutes. This milk alternative provides vegetarians with more protein than rice milk but not as much as soy milk. Hemp milk contains a protein which is easier to digest than soy milk thus eliminating flatulence. It is safe for anyone who is lactose intolerant or sufferers of milk allergies. A great friend to have in the kitchen as it blends well with most ingredients and is perfect in homemade sauces.
Oat Milk: A solution of finely ground oats and water which thicken up in cooking and react very much like cow’s milk. Blends perfectly with custards, mashed potatoes and in baking. Look for it on the shelves rather than on the chilled aisle. Oat milk is a better substitute for cooking than rice milk as it contains a moderate amount of protein. Neutral in taste and a natural dairy free complement for porridge in the mornings.
Perfect dairy substitutes: Nowadays, it is easier to find a dairy free replacement to cow’s milk. Fruit-puree butter and soy spreads are perfect substitutes for butter. Soya creams and nut creams replace the dairy version and there is an increasing variety of dairy free soy cheeses on the market which mean that vegans and people who are lactose intolerant or those who suffer from milk allergies can still enjoy the foods that other people take for granted.
The foods you can enjoy… When you first venture out on your dairy free diet, it may be easier to visit your local health or whole food store. Here you can choose cooking ingredients and processed foods for your non dairy diet without having to cope with so many hidden surprises. These stores also speed up the whole grocery shop and make the transition from dairy foods to a non-dairy diet less stressful. Many stores offer online shopping where you can sit and browse at your leisure for foods which tick all of your dietary needs.
Vegan foods are always a safe bet as no animal products are used.
Chocolate such as Lindt Excellence 70%, Green and Blacks and Cacao bars are often a safe choice. Many plain chocolates are dairy free but don’t take this for granted and always check the ingredients list. If you prefer the flavor of milk chocolate look for rice-milk bars which have a similar consistency.
Fruit sorbets, frozen fruit bars and ice-pops are dairy free.
If you want to meet a friend for coffee and end up in Starbucks, opt for black coffee, a specialty herbal tea or a vegan brownie. Some coffee shops serve dairy free tea and coffee using soy milk as a replacement for cow’s milk.
Many Chinese, Indian and Thai restaurants are safe bets especially when eating out. Confirm with the waiting staff that the dishes you order are dairy free. Most curries are dairy free but keep an eye out for ones which have a creamy sauce.
Most breads are a safe choice especially those made from grain.
Mayonnaise purchased from health stores is usually dairy free
Non-dairy milks including soy, rice and almond. Some may take more adjusting to than others but are an excellent way to enjoy homemade desserts, cereal and hot beverages.
Some supermarket biscuits are completely devoid of milk and milk derivatives. Browse online and run through each ingredient list to find ones which are dairy free. Many online stores have a ‘free from’ section where foods which are suitable for the non dairy diet have been given there own specialty section.
Some sandwich meats are dairy free but once again, be sure to check the ingredients list as many delicatessen meats contain dairy products
Soy coffee creamers make wonderful substitutes for the real thing. In many instances, it is hard to tell the difference.
Soy desserts and rice milk puddings are an absolute Godsend as they provide a copycat version of cow’s milk. Look for names such as Tofutti, and you can tuck into a dairy free version of the classic ‘Cornetto’ or a tub of ice-cream.
Soy-based margarines are relatively easy to buy as most supermarkets stock a dairy free version for those on a dairy free diet.
Popcorn…go ahead and enjoy but check that no butter has been added.
Plain taco chips…lovely dipped in hummus, guacamole or salsa.
Smoothies…these are perfectly fine as long as they have not been made with ice-cream or yoghurt.
Whole foods such as fruit, vegetables, meat, rice, eggs and beans.
Typical foods which contain dairy: If you are breastfeeding there are many foods which appear to be innocent but are actually laden with dairy products. Let’s take a look at the most obvious:
Any soups which are labelled ‘Cream of’ such as ‘Cream of Tomato’ or ‘Cream of Leek’ etc., Also do not be fooled by tinned soups with innocent titles such as ‘Tomato and Lentil’ as food manufacturers often add milk derivatives to soups which sound completely dairy free.
Cheese and many cheese substitutes. Heed caution in the health store as many dairy free cheeses can contain caseinate.
Fruit sherbets are laden with dairy…substitute these with sorbets.
Hot chocolate powders and instant hot chocolates.
Italian and Mexican foods usually come loaded with cheese and other dairy products.
Most margarines (at least in Canada)
Most breakfast cereals
Non-dairy creamers …do not be fooled by this term as it simply refers to the cream being lactose free. Therefore they may still contain the milk protein sodium caseinate.
Potato crisps and Nachos… although some flavours are dairy free depending upon manufacturer.