Thursday, 15 March 2018

Going Dairy Free

A good friend's daughter is embarking on a medically advised dairy free diet for her son and my friend asked me for some substitution tips. It occurred to me that recent posts have focussed more on those on very restricted diets, and whilst that is our reality there are many out there catering for single excursion diets - which can be just as daunting and stressful at the outset!

I wrote some suggestions down and decided it would be a good idea to publish them on the Recipe Resource!

First of all, the usual disclaimer! Children have complex nutritional needs and dairy products fulfilling many essential requirements. The vast majority of children outgrow dairy allergy, and those who are dairy intolerant are usually only temporarily so. Whilst nothing can stop an adult imposing restrictions on their own diet, you must take advice before taking such steps in a child's diet. Calcium, Vitamin D and other minerals - plus essential fats and low sugar make cow's milk a perfect food and drink for most children. 

Getting started

I have a "Basic Substitutions" page here with some information, but this article focusses on purely Dairy Free diets. 
First, try not to substitute all dairy with soya products. Soya is high in oestrogens, and also highly allergenic in itself. It's not uncommon to develop an allergy to soya protein, and you increase that risk in an allergic child by substituting wholesale with soya. That said, if you are allowed soya it should mean you can more easily achieve a balanced diet without dairy products, without some of the sugar that is put in all free from foods.
When you take out food proteins, you remove flavour, so manufacturers replace it with sugar…. a concern which I have written about before. Most free from biscuits and cakes are full of cheap fillers and “non-foods” so I always bake myself wherever possible.

A few things to remember

*ALL animal milks contain the same proteins (casein and whey) as cows’ milk, and lactose, just in different ratios. So you need to avoid ALL animal milks.
*“Lactose free” is not dairy free, and it’s almost always the proteins which people react to, so lactose free products are only for lactose intolerant individuals. These are almost never Caucasian people, and if so usually only after a bout of gastroenteritis and therefore only temporarily.
* Milk comes in many forms in processsed food. Processed meat usually has dairy products in. Anything which says casein, whey, lactose etc and powdered milk, condensed milk, buttermilk etc are all dairy products.

Cheese substitutes 

- Violife is the most versatile, and behaves the most like cheese, there are many varieties. The downside is that there is no protein in it, so it’s not a nutritional substitution. most of the supermarkets now sell this.
- Vegusto make vegan cheese which is nut based and therefore contains protein. Their No-Moo cheese sauce is fab! it’s currently mail order only but I by in bulk and freeze.
- Sainsbury’s make their own dairy free products, including cheese which is soya based. 
- Redwood make a product called “Cheezly” which tastes more like regular cheese but is an acquired texture. (My two hate it) One is soya based and tastes nicer, one is soya free.

Milk Substitutes

- See my "Got Milk?" article for a full comparison of milk alternatives
- Always go for fortified to get the calcium etc
- For cooking avoid soya, it’s not heat stable and curdles. If we could have anything I would go for oatly or soya on cereal - UNsweetened is best, almond in cooking and rice milk occasionally as it’s v sweet.
-If you are on a prescription formula, such as Neocate, you can still cook with it! Here is one of my attempts...

Butter substitutes

- By far the nicest is “Pure” Margarine, either Pure Sunflower or Pure Olive. The Olive is better for baking. 
- I use the Stork gold wrapped blocks for baking
- Flora’s new free from spread is nice tasting but not great for baking

- You can make custard with any milk substitute but rice milk makes a thin, translucent custard which isn’t very nice. Soya curdles so oat or almond are best.
- Alpro do a set custard too in different flavours, soya based.


- You can make custard with any milk substitute but rice milk makes a thin, translucent custard which isn’t very nice. Soya curdles so oat or almond are best.
- Oatly make a delicious custard or Alpro soya do one.
- Alpro do a set custard too in different flavours, soya based.

Ice Cream

- The Coconut Collaborative
- Booja Booja - expensive but tasty
- Ben and Jerry’s now do dairy free! 
- Alpro do a dairy and soya free almond based choc ice cream which is fabulous. 
- Sainsbury's allegedly now offer a new free from ice cream but I've not managed to get hold of any yet!


- Here you probably need to stick with soya or introduce coconut. (The latter is considered much better nutritionally) 
- The Coconut Collaborative make some delicious chocolate mousse pots, very rich but mine love them as a treat.  Available in all supermarkets! There are lemon ones also. 
- Redwood “Wot no Dairy” comes in a few flavours, but we often buy plain and add a teaspoon of jam or chocolate spread!

Our daughter likes these but they are quite thin and pale compared to regular yoghurts. She’s never had regular ones though can’t have soya so doesn’t know the difference...which is an important consideration when focussing on only dairy free - you make different choices if children like and are used to dairy products.


A word of advice - always taste new chocolate items yourself because some are just gritty with sugar and have little taste at all!

- Most dark chocolate is dairy free, Hotel Chocolat make some yummy celebration chocolate!
- Moo Free chocolate make Easter eggs, advent calendars etc and bars of chocolate.
- Plamil make delicious dairy free chocolate which has soya in but is a more genuine "dairy" taste.
- Celtic chocolates in supermarkets and H&B
- If not there is another! 
- “Just” from Kinnerton is dairy free but not very flavourful ..….
- Choices dairy free  tastes like milk chocolate, highly recommend!

- This is THE best chocolate spread usually available in Sainsbury’s but I haven't sourced it recently. I now buy the "Nature's Store" spread which is almost as good! 


- Biscuits are a tough one because they tend to be very sweet.  Genius Breakfast bakes are nice.
- I buy the “Angelic” reduced sugar range for my kids or make my own. They have always loved decorating them! Not all are dairy free! 

The main thing is to check, check check ingredients! Something might be ok one week and not the next… meat products often have dairy in, it crops up in unexpected places. In an attempt to broaden their market and appeal to more people.  many gluten free items are also dairy free, such as Marks and Spencer's "Made Without Wheat" products are often dairy free too - but still check!. Some online supermarkets, like Ocado, let you select a dietary need eg dairy free and then browse their whole shop which contains safe foods. Tesco dairy free products are all listed here and currently they seem to to be the best for supplying a wide variety of free from products.

Good luck!

1 comment:

  1. Twinnings also do a dairy free hot chocolate powder

    Currently Tesco's dark choc digestives are also dairy free



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