Dairy Allergy: Which foods contain dairy and what you can eat instead
Are you or your child allergic to milk?
Many people are. So what do you do when you’ve been a regular consumer of milk and dairy products and find out that it’s actually making you sick?
To the uninitiated, this may seem like an easy fix…don’t drink milk.
However, many foods contain dairy or dairy products; so many in fact, that you may be surprised by what they include!
Read on to discover common foods and ingredients that often contain dairy, as well as natural, healthy dairy-free alternatives.
Dairy by Any Other Name
Dairy products go by many names. Of course, there are the common forms of dairy including milk, butter, cream, and cheese. But dairy also goes by the more uncommon names of lactose, casein, caseinates, and whey.
This is important to know if you or your child has a dairy allergy or intolerance, as these are the names on packaged products to watch out for. Though they all spell “dairy”, what exactly are they?
- Lactose - Lactose is the sugar found in milk. Many people are “lactose intolerant” which means their body cannot digest these sugars. This can happen for one of two reasons: they either don’t produce enough lactase - the enzyme that breaks down the sugar, or they have reduced enzyme activity. If you cannot digest lactose and happen to drink milk, it causes stomach pain, diarrhea, bloating, and gas. If you have experienced this, you know just how unpleasant it can be.
- Casein - Casein is the main protein found in mammal’s milk. This includes the milk from all mammals - cows, goat, sheep, yak, buffalo, camel and humans alike. Though casein is found in all milk and milk powder, avoiding casein goes further than simply saying ‘no’ to that expensive latte. Casein, also known as rennet casein or casein hydrolysate, is not only widely used in cheese making, but is often used to thicken and congeal many different foods. This widespread use of casein makes it one of the more difficult allergens to avoid.
- Caseinates - A caseinate is casein that has been combined with a metal or salt. They include calcium caseinate, potassium caseinate, magnesium caseinate and sodium caseinate. So, if you have an allergy to casein, you must also avoid these caseinates.
- Whey - Like casein, whey is a protein found in milk. Unlike casein, it makes up only about 20% of the proteins in it. When milk is separated to make cheese, whey is the liquid residue produced, while casein is the solid portion or curd in “curds and whey”.
How to Avoid Dairy
If you are one of the increasingly number of people who have an aversion to dairy, you know what gastrointestinal distress occurs when you are exposed to it - either knowingly or not.
You also know that the best way to avoid these tummy troubles is to stay away from dairy. To do this, it’s important to familiarize yourself with words that mean dairy and learn to read all food labels to ensure it’s free from dairy in all its forms.
What will also be helpful is to know the different products that may contain dairy or one of its derivatives, casein or whey, so you can make an effort to avoid these foods.
Casein is found in all types of milk, so a casein-free diet is a dairy-free diet. Plus, as there are many other foods that contain casein, it is best to avoid them all, including:
- Butter: This includes salted and unsalted butter, butter fat, butter oil, buttermilk, margarin, and non-dairy creamer butter.
- Milk in all forms: This includes condensed, full-fat, whole, skim, non-fat, powdered, dry, evaporated, and malted milk, as well as half & half, milk protein, milk solids, milk powder, sour milk solids, and goat’s milk along with milk from other animals.
- Cream: All cream, ice cream, sour cream, sour cream solids, custards, and puddings.
- Yogurt: All yogurt made with a milk base.
- Cheese: All cheese (unless it’s made from soy), curds, and cottage cheese.
- Creamed soups, soup bases and creamy sauces, like mayonnaise.
- Some margarines, ‘dairy-free’ cheeses, canned tuna, and ghee contain casein.
- Processed foods: Sausages, hot dogs and lunch meat use casein as a binding agent.
- Artificial flavourings and additives: This includes artificial butter flavour, caramel colour, caramel flavouring, brown sugar flavouring, Bavarian cream flavouring, coconut cream flavouring, and natural chocolate flavouring.
- Breaded, battered & fried foods: Cheese is often added to breaded foods for flavour and texture.
- Soy products: Many soy-based foods like veggie dogs and sausages contain small amounts of dairy.
- Even some vegetarian cheeses, non-dairy yogurts, and non-dairy creamers can contain casein.
Also be careful when buying meat from deli-counters as slicers are used for both meat and cheese without being cleaned in between.
Whey protein also goes by many names. If you have a dairy or whey allergy, its important to avoid ingredients that include the word “whey” and those that start with the prefix “lact-“, including the following:
- Lactalbumin phosphate
- Lactic acid starter culture (may contain milk)
- Glycomacropeptide or GMP
- Whey protein concentrate
- Bovine serum albumin or BSA
- Tagatose or Naturlose (sweeteners derived from whey)
What Can I Eat on a Dairy-Free Diet?
With such an extensive list of ingredients and foods that contain dairy, avoiding it can become overwhelming. So if you have to avoid dairy, let’s look at what alternatives you have.
Luckily, there is an increasingly greater selection of foods that fit the bill.
To ensure you are choosing the right products for you or a child with a dairy allergy, look for the following labels: “kosher”, “non-dairy”, or “pareve”. Foods designated as kosher are certified casein-free and free of all dairy. Translation: you can enjoy them free of guilt!
There are also many substitutes for milk-based products, including:
- Nut, soy, rice, or potato-based milks
- Sorbets and Italian ices
- Certain brands of creams and creamers
- Most soy ice creams
- Coconut butter
- Certain brands of soup
The following list contains safe alternatives to dairy products:
- Non-dairy milk: This includes rice milk, almond milk, other nut milks (like cashew), potato-based milk, coconut milk, and soy milk.
- Non-dairy cheese: As with everything else, read ingredients to avoid casein.
- Non-dairy products: This can include yogurt, ice cream, and other products made with coconut milk.
- Sauces: Homemade mayo, sauces, and dips made with safe ingredients can replace store-bought ones.
- Dark chocolate: Ensure it is free of dairy.
- Treats: There are many dairy-free sorbets and Italian ices. Ensure their safety by checking that casein has not been added as a clotting agent.
- Ghee: Ghee, or clarified butter is normally safe, as long as it is guaranteed casein-free on the label. Though ghee is made from butter, it has been clarified by the removal of all milk solids (or proteins).
- Sweeteners: Dairy-free sweeteners include natural stevia, coconut sugar, raw honey, pure maple syrup, and evaporated cane juice.
For recipes that call for 1 cup of milk, simply substitute it for 1 cup of nut milk (almond or cashew), soy milk, rice milk, or coconut milk. You can even use 1 cup of water combined with 1 egg yolk as an alternative.
If I’m allergic to dairy, can I eat eggs?
In one word - Yes!
Though we all know eggs come from hens, some of us may wonder if eggs are actually a dairy product. Maybe this is because eggs are shelved with dairy products in the grocery store, or because eggs are often grouped with milk and cheese in nutritional images. The confusion whether or not eggs are considered dairy could also be due to the similarity of the terms dairy product and animal byproduct. But contrary to the popular misconception, eggs are not dairy.
Officially, dairy products come from the mammary glands of mammals and the products made from them, such as milk, cream, and butter. So the good news is if you are allergic to dairy but not eggs, feel free to enjoy them as often as you like!
Dairy-Free and Egg-Free Diets
Unfortunately, many people who are allergic to dairy are also allergic to eggs. So what happens if you need to stay away from both?
Many products marketed as “dairy-free” are also typically “egg-free”, however you must still do your due diligence and consult the ingredient label to make sure.
Additionally, if you are baking and in need of an egg substitute, I’ve got you covered!
Each of the following substitutes are equivalent to one egg, so any one of these options can be used as an egg substitute - one for one. Experiment with different options and find the one, or ones, you like the best.
1. Almond butter - 1/4 c
- Can be used for: binding, moisture, texture
- Good choice for: cookies, breads, pancakes, brownies
2. Chia Seeds (ground) - 1 Tbsp + 1/4 c water
- Can be used for: binding, moisture
- Good choice for: sweet & savoury recipes, puddings, cupcakes, breads, brownies, cookies, pizza crust
3. Flaxseeds (ground) - 1 Tbsp + 1/4 c water
- Can be used for: leavening, binding, moisture
- Good choice for: breads, any dough, cookies, crackers
4. Grass-Fed Gelatin - 1 Tbsp + 1/4 c water
- Can be used for: binding
- Good choice for: pizza crust, biscuits, pancakes, muffins
5. Unsweetened apple sauce - 1/4 c
- Can be used for: moisture, binding
- Good choice for: cookies, desserts, breads, cakes, muffins, brownies
6. Banana - 1/4 c mashed ripe banana
- Can be used for: moisture, binding
- Good choice for: desserts, breads, cakes, cookies, pancakes, muffins, brownies
One more note - some people who are lactose intolerant may find taking a digestive enzyme helpful, as it contains the enzyme they are lacking. This may be a reasonable short-term solution, but the bigger picture involves doing more work to aid the digestive process in general.
And as always, I value your feedback and would love to know what you think. Comment below with your favourite dairy alternatives. I’d love to hear from you!