Dealing with Dairy Allergies

by Lucy Watkins

Giving up anything can be difficult at first, especially if it’s an old time favorite. That’s one of the reasons dieting can be such a challenge. Add a nursing child and dairy allergies to the list and, although it may change the spirit of the deprivation, it can still be a struggle for mom. Luckily, with the increasing awareness of healthy foods, the benefits of soy, and a movement towards ethical consumption, there is a long list of readily available, nutritional dairy alternatives that might make the nursing mom a little more comfortable (and healthier) while keeping the baby safe from allergic reactions. One of the major concerns for mothers with dairy allergic nurslings is calcium. Women are regularly and overwhelmingly bombarded with the importance of calcium in our diets. Unfortunately, these calcium pushers are selective about the information they provide; ignoring the fact that there are many dietary reasons calcium is depleted from our systems. According to John Robbins, author of The Food Revolution (Conari Press Books, 2001), animal protein, salt, and caffeine produce calcium loss through urinary excretion. After eating a hamburger, a woman can lose 28 milligrams of calcium while one cup of coffee only depletes us of 2 milligrams. 

Robbins further sites the American Journal of Clinical Medicine stating cow’s milk has one of the lowest absorption rates (32%) of all the calcium sources available in any store. On the other hand, kale, turnip greens, broccoli, mustard greens and Brussels sprouts have calcium absorption rates of 50% or higher. Despite this, the dairy industry still maintains that one must consume outrageous amounts of calcium-rich vegetables or soy in order to get the equivalent amount of bio-available calcium as found in 8 ounces of milk. Not true, according to Robbins. Indeed, it only takes ½ cup of sesame seeds or ½ cup firm tofu with calcium to get the same amount of calcium as a full cup of milk. Why? It’s all about absorption rates. 

That said, there are a number of readily available dairy substitutes on the market that provide great flavor and nutrition while filling the nursing mother’s need for the dairy sensation. This long list includes soy yogurt, milk alternatives, frozen soy and rice desserts, cheese substitutes, sour cream substitutes, and imitation cream cheese. 

Soy yogurts come in a variety of flavors including blueberry, strawberry, Key lime, peach, raspberry, cherry, vanilla, and lemon. Silk, Whole Soy, and Trader Joe’s are the best brands available. Whole soy also produces a calcium-enriched drinkable soy yogurt. Veggie Slices also manufactures soy yogurt that is available in most stores, but it falls short on flavor. 

Milk alternatives are quickly becoming a popular item in grocery stores; mainstream and otherwise. Whether you’re looking for soy milk, rice milk, almond milk, or oat milk, you can usually find a tasty milk alternative in the health food section of most markets. Many of these products are enriched and contain as much, if not more, calcium than cow’s milk. Silk, Westsoy, Almond Breeze, Smart Plus, Whole Foods, Rice Dream, Soy Dream, and Pacific are just a few of the companies making non-dairy milks in a variety of flavors. Not only can these items replace milk in cereal, smoothies, or home-made ice cream, you can even use these in your favorite recipes. 

Soyajoy, Soy Toy, Salton, and Miracle Soy are just a few of the soymilk makers available in stores and online making it easy to make your own soymilk at home. Not only is it easy, it is less expensive. This method gives you the freedom to create your own flavors, sweetened and unsweetened, fresh every day. The difference in flavor does take some getting used to, though. 

If you like ice cream and ice cream sandwiches, have no fear… Soy Delicious, Tofutti, Soy Decadence, and Rice Dream are here. Each company makes a variety of frozen ice-cream substitutes including frozen sandwiches, “fudge”cicles, ice cream, and more. All of these desserts are tasty. Frankly, the Tofutti and Soy Decadence products will fool even the most devoted of cow’s milk fans.

Imitation cheese products are more prevalent that ever. Unfortunately, most of them contain the milk protein, casein, which can trigger an allergic reaction in your nursling. This is the case with Veggie Slices, Good Slices, and Tofu Rella. If you are fortunate enough to live near a health food store selling Tofutti sliced vegan cheese, get some. It’s got a buttery taste, even if it doesn’t melt very well. Soyco makes vegan cheese alternatives that have a pleasant taste if you aren’t expecting them to taste exactly like cheese. Follow Your Heart also has a vegan cheese alternative. It’s been getting rave reviews from the vegan community and is available in some stores and online. Other options include Hemp Rella, Almond Rella, Soya Kaas, Rice, Vegan Rella, and Road’s End Organics products. If you prefer making alternative cheese products at home, there is a short list of recipe books including The Uncheese Cookbook and Vegan Vittles by Joanne Stepaniak. Both books have been well received in the vegan community. 

Do you miss your morning bagel and cream cheese or your baked potato with butter, sour cream and chives? Again, Tofutti comes to the rescue with plain and flavored “Better than Cream Cheese” and “Sour Supreme”. For a different twist on these products, try the Rice sour cream and cream cheese or the Soya Kaas products. If you’re looking for a margarine or butter replacement, keep your eyes open for Willow Run, Earth Balance, and Veggie Spread. Each of these is tasty. The butter substitutes don’t usually spread very well, but they melt perfectly. 

Whether you are faced with the challenge of nursing a dairy allergic child or if you are ready to go dairy-free, you need not feel deprived. There are many milk-free, non-dairy alternatives available on the market today making it easy to get the flavor and sensation of dairy without suffering through allergic reactions. Many of these alternative products are lower in fat, last longer, taste great, and are reasonably priced. It’s just a matter of trying them. 

Lucy Watkins is the work from home mother of Joy and Shirlee, wife to Barry, Activism and Interviews Editor for VegetarianTeen.com, and a columnist for VegNews. She makes her home in a small rural town northeast of Dallas where the cows far outnumber people.

Author: cynthiam

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