If your doctor has told you to avoid dairy, or you are testing it out on your own, you are about to realize that milk isn’t just milk anymore.  Understanding the alternative names, frequent places it can hide, and fabulous alternatives will help you be an expert in being dairy free.  And just in case you don’t understand the acronyms you may find on the web, DF = Dairy Free and CF = Casein Free

First, lets discuss quickly one misconception: lactose intolerance.  Lactose is milk sugar and infants are very very very rarely allergic to lactose.  There is lactose in mommy’s breast milk, so they have to be able to digest it.

From Dr. Green,

Infants from all parts of the world do tolerate lactose–otherwise they couldn’t digest breast milk well. Their bodies make an enzyme, lactase, which enables them to digest the sugar in milk. As a result, in healthy full-term infants lactose intolerance is extremely rare.

Yes, some people who grow into lactose intolerance can drink Lactaid and be fine.  The lack of lactase enzymes is usually something grown into, as Dr. Greene states 80% of people globally over age 3 are lactose intolerant.  Usually though, the true underlying issue is consuming the wrong type of milk, or a milk protein issue versus a milk sugar issue. By wrong type of milk, I mean pasteurized and homogenized.  Raw milk contains naturally occurring enzymes including lactase that are needed to digest milk.  But if you are going to do a dairy free trial, milk with lactose needs to go as well.  Sorry

Going dairy free means not just cows either.  Its goats, buffalo, reindeer and llama milk too.  Again, sorry.

The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 aimed at helping consumers in this very situation easily identify their allergens via special labeling of the Top 8 Allergens on all US sold packaged food.  Even though Sec 203 of the law gives manufactures guidelines for label printing, they do not always comply.  To be a safe consumer and non dairy eater, you need to know all the funky names and derivatives of milk.

So here is the list of milk and milk containing substances that you should avoid beyond anything that says obviously milk or cream…

Nisin (may) Curds Whey
Casein Rennet Lactose
Lactulose Whey and casein hydrolysates Lacalbumin
Lactoglobulin Lactate starter Ammonium caseinate
Artificial butter flavour (not always) Butter solids/fat Calcium caseinate
Caramel colour (not always) Caramel flavouring (not always) Caseinate
Delactosed whey Demineralized whey Dried milk
High protein flour (not always) High protein flour Hydrolyzed casein
Lactabum Lactabum phosphate Lactate
Lactroferrin Lactogloblin Magnesium caseinate
milkderivative Milk fat opta (fat replacer)
Potassium caseinate Solids Sour cream solids
Sour solids Sour milk solids Whey protine concentrate
Enriched flour(not always) Formage frais Sodium Steatoyal(not aways)
Sherbert(not always) Nougot hydrolized vegtable protein
tagatose / Naturose Recaldent PROSPEC MI (At dentist)

So now that you know what to look for on labels, you should be aware that milk pops up in all sorts of funny places you wouldn’t even think you need to be aware of.  I won’t go into the whole list, but toothpaste, skin creams, gum, canned foods like tuna, prescription medications, peanut butter, spice mixes, and soy based “allergen friendly” foods can all potentially contain milk products.  Go Dairy Free has a really good list of what to avoid, or be an active consumer and call the company to find out.

If you are dairy free and struggling with replacing what has likely been a staple in your diet, you are in luck!  There are plenty of good alternatives to choose from.

MILK – Nut milks like almond milk, coconut milk or hemp milk are great.  They come in unflavored, sweetened and vanilla, sometimes even chocolate.  For me, the closest thing to real milk is almond or coconut in the unsweetened variety.  I always try to buy the refrigerated version over the shelf stable one.

YOGURT – there are both coconut and soy yogurts available at health food stores and some larger grocery stores.  The ccoconut milk yogurt has a nice flavor and comes in a variety of flavors.  Soy may not be a smart option because of phytoestrogens, especially if other parts of your diet are soy laden.

BUTTER – This is one where I cannot find a non-soy product.  Earth Balance spread worked very well to make our Thanksgiving allergen free and it even melts somewhat normally, and did the trick for dipping lobster pieces in over the summer.

CREAMER – So Delicious now makes a coffee creamer, though it is hard to find sometimes.

ICING/FROSTING – There are plenty of aller-mom chefs out there with blogs and books about how to make dairy free treats for your kiddos.  Author Elena Amsterdam’s blog Elena’s Pantry is often updated with great dairy free recipes.  Here is one for coconut based frosting.

ICE CREAM -the So Delicious brand also makes ice cream.  They have a multitude of decadent flavors and for anyone that feels restricted by being dairy free, you will be liberated with one pint of this stuff.  There are soy ice creams and rice milk ice creams as well.  You can also make your own if you want to avoid some of the extra stuff.  Frozen berries and coconut milk blended and frozen makes a great sorbet.

CHOCOLATE – Yes, dairy free chocolate does exist.  Enjoy Life brands makes a terrific, and I mean terrific chocolate chip I have used in dairy free cookies and brownies.  Watch out though, they tend to be very addictive!

Now you have everything you need to get started with your new dairy free diet.  Expect that the first few days will be tough, and you may experience cravings or excessive hunger.  If doing this for a child, whining, excessive crankiness and other behavioral or stool changes may occur.  This is all natural and normal coming off of dairy.  Give it a week and you will begin to feel better, and maybe even better than you knew you could.  If you are giving up dairy and still breastfeeding, it takes at least 3 weeks to clear dairy from your milk.

Here are some of the web’s best resources for living dairy free…

Dairy Free.com Avoiding Milk Protein.com Food Reactions.com MIT’s site on Milk Allergy   Amazon.com’s Eating Without Casein store   Milk Sucks.com and many more to come….