Living without dairy is udderly ridiculous...
September 7, 2004 5:28 PM   Subscribe

I have to cut dairy from my diet, and I need guidance and suggestions. MOOOOOre inside.

My newborn has some breathing issues and we need to rule out a sensitivity to dairy. She's breastfed, so that means that I need to completely cut out all dairy intake.

I have never gone a day in my life without dairy. It wouldn't be so bad if I didn't have a husband and a toddler for whom cheese is a major food group unto itself.

I would welcome any suggestions for tasty substitutes.
posted by padraigin to Health & Fitness (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My son had the same problem, and I found out that I was intolerant myself (go figure, as I myself was addicted to dairy).
Here is the answer - Soy, soy, soy!

Soy milk - trust me, this has gotten a LOT tastier over the last years. Experiment a bit, but I usually stick to Vanilla. It costs a bit more per litre, but I have never looked back since I made the switch two years ago.

Soy cheese - in most deli's and more and more supermarkets carry it now. I can't taste the difference.
posted by Quartermass at 5:36 PM on September 7, 2004

Any particular brands of cheese you can endorse?

I am totally cool with soy milk, we already use it pretty often, but I have never touched a cheese substitute on purpose.
posted by padraigin at 5:37 PM on September 7, 2004

I'll never go back to milk. I was a vegan for 5+ years and am now an omnivore, but the taste of milk is yeuuch to me now. In tea, on cereal, wherever - it s a huge improvement nowadays, even 'unflavoured' and unsweetened.

Also, if you can, see if you can lay your hands on Swedish Glace - it's reason enough to give up dairy ice cream (almost...)

Cheeses - good luck finding a soy replacement. Soy yoghurts can be good tho.
posted by dash_slot- at 5:42 PM on September 7, 2004

Silken tofu makes a decent substitute for butter in your baking recipes. I don't think there's a general 1:1 substitution rule, but I've had some pretty damn good vegetarian deserts that use it.
posted by mkultra at 5:46 PM on September 7, 2004

Rice milk and soy milk are okay substitutes for putting something on your coffee and eating with cereal. Rice milk is thinner and a little sweeter usually, and soy milk is thicker and, some say, "beanier" Try a few kinds to see which ones you like, you can usually get fat free, vanilla/chocolate, enriched [extra vitamins], and normal. I don't like drinking it straight, but otherwise it's a good substitute. You can also add it to things like sauces and soups to thicken them up [do not use vanilla flavored for this, it's terrible] except for really exacting baking. You can blend it up with a banana and some ice and you don't notice that it's not milk in your smoothies.

Use olive oil instead of butter when you fry anything up, you can even use it on bread. A favorite of mine is good olive oil, some red pepper flakes and balsamic vinegar and use that for dipping tasty bread into. Many people try to cut out butter and substitute margarine which isn't as good as going for olive oil. Roasting some garlic in olive oil and using it as a bread spread is also savory without being full of dairy. Also, french fries.

Cheese substitutes are a mixed bag, try a lot of kinds before you discount the whole genre. I've had okay luck with the Tofurella types of cheese [more brands here]. The tofutti people [who make the tantalizing tofutti cutie ice cream sandwiches which are delicious] apparently make a mozarella that is pretty convincing and good in things like lasagna and other Italian dishes.

Drag your husband and toddler into this with you, don't just sit by and eat your vegan cheese substitute while they eat a pizza, try to get the whole family in on the act. When all else fails, remember that it's temporary and also fairly healthy. When I went vegan for a summer to drop my cholesterol, I was also surprised that I lost about 10-15 pounds.
posted by jessamyn at 5:47 PM on September 7, 2004

Personally, I find most vanilla soy milks too sweet (and I have a big sweet tooth), however *chocolate* soy milk is the bomb (I much prefer it to regular chocolate milk).
posted by o2b at 6:07 PM on September 7, 2004

For certain reasons, I have to reduce the amount of dairy in my diet. I don't have to cut it out entirely, but alternatives are welcome. I'm early in the process but here are my findings.

So far, I've learned:
  • that margarine is awful.
  • that olive oil is more useful than margarine.
  • a little bacon fat goes a long way when cooking in butter isn't an option.
  • that soy and rice milk is tolerable, but it ain't good. Functionally, these quasimilks seem to work OK in recipes, but aren't drinkable at all as beverages.
  • non-dairy creamer powder tastes better than soy anything in coffee. The idea is existentially icky, but flavor is king here.
  • there is no such thing as dairy-free cheese. There are cheese substitutes, but they are almost completely unpalatable. Give up parmesan and asiago completely -- the substitutes are repulsive, so save your money.
  • nobody has invented a useful dairyless sour cream.

  • posted by majick at 6:29 PM on September 7, 2004

    If you need a departure from soy (which I get weary of very quickly) Pacific Foods makes a number of very tasty milk substitutes. Variants include oat, almond, multigrain, and by far my favorite, hazelnut. That latter is majorly yummy, I can't resist just quaffing it straight. I can't recommend the flavor of the multigrain that much; poured on cereal the effect is like cereal squared.

    Their almond milk is better than the Blue Diamond brand, which seems a lot more watery; the ingredients list seems to bear this out.

    For coffee, the Silk brand of coffee creamer is quite good, it's dense like cream and you don't have to use much. You don't want to mess with the better known coffee creamer brand, they're all hydrogenated oils and corn syrup solids.
    posted by George_Spiggott at 6:52 PM on September 7, 2004

    I use this cheese substitute on pizzas and pasta and such. The Tofutti cheese is good, too.
    posted by cmonkey at 7:20 PM on September 7, 2004

    I love soy milk to drink straight, just plain (vanilla is too sweet). It's thick and creamy, yum. I buy just whatever is in the store, but other people are more picky.

    In cooking, coconut milk is really yummy and creamy - very rich. I've mostly used it in currys, which suits the coconut flavour.
    posted by jb at 7:51 PM on September 7, 2004

    If you can, try to consult with a dietitian. He/she will have some ideas for recipes to try, oher foods that you may consider avoiding and how to make up the nutrients you're not going to be getting now that you've suddenly cut out dairy from your diet. Your insurance may cover this.

    And George_Spiggott - trying to pick a fight or something? Just kidding
    posted by Coffeemate at 8:09 PM on September 7, 2004

    I gave up dairy for over a year, and like others have said, found no good substitutes for sour cream, yogurt, and cheese, although melted fake cheese isn't so bad. Mainly I just did without. Your dishes lose some zing, but you get used to it.

    Soy milk is an acquired taste, and if you find vanilla too sweet, WestSoy sells unsweetened vanilla and chocolate flavors. A word of caution: there's some controversy about the safety of feeding soy to newborns. Here are some links.
    posted by granted at 9:19 PM on September 7, 2004

    I second the Tofutti recommendation. Get the cuties, but only the vanilla kind; the berry and chocolate ones are disappointing by comparison. I actually prefer them to real ice cream sandwiches.
    Pizza joints don't mind if you order the pizza without cheese; black olive, green pepper, and onion pizza, sans cheese, from Papa John's was a grad school staple of mine. Speaking of pizza, I had a lactose-intolerant roommate who used to swear by pizza with soy cheese and anchovies.
    Sadly, I cannot remember the brand (maybe someone who lives near the Hyde Park H-E-B could look to see if they still have it), but there is a soy milk (I *think* it's Soy Dream, but that just doesn't seem right) that comes in a carob flavor--it's better than their chocolate flavor or any other chocolate soy milk I've had since (I swear; I only found out about it when I accidentally bought it, expecting real chocolate). On the other hand, I've never been able to find it outside of Austin, so that may not help you at all.
    The trick with soy/rice/whatever milk (for you haters) is to let it be its own thing. If you keep expecting it to be milk and to taste like milk, it will inevitably fail. If you just let it be it's own thing, it's actually pretty excellent stuff. It's not unusual for me to have soy milk and dairy milk in my fridge at the same time.
    posted by willpie at 9:57 PM on September 7, 2004

    I've been doing the paleolithic diet since January 1st - no grains, no beans (including soy), no potatoes, no dairy. Dropped four jeans sizes (so far) and fixed some incidental health problems, too. Anyway, why think in terms of substitutes and fakes? Just stop consuming the stuff and do things differently. As a nursing mom, you'll mostly have to be careful you get enough calcium from other sources, but it isn't a big deal - I was surprised how easy it was.
    posted by zadcat at 11:06 PM on September 7, 2004

    If you're making sandwiches, hummus is a good cheese replacement. I've never had a fake cheese product that I liked, but it's been a few years since I've tried any, so perhaps there have been improvements.

    I don't know if you can get it in the States, but I find that soy milk specially made for cooking is better in beverages than the regular stuff.

    It might be worth checking with your doctor whether you can use goat's milk products. Those are much easier for humans to digest than cow's milk, and chevre is delicious.

    To make sure you're getting enough calcium, you could take a few extra-strength tums every day. My doctor recommended I do this when I needed to supplement my calcium, as it's a lot less expensive than getting prescription calcium pills.
    posted by hazyjane at 1:20 AM on September 8, 2004

    soy yogurt doesn't seem that bad, and i've not been unhappy with soy drinks (chai or the vanilla milk from westsoy). the cheese is a different story; soy cheese just doesn't seem to melt well. mixed in things the flavor isn't that noticable, but don't expect it to soften much. if the other flavors are really as bad as i've heard, you might want to stick with plain boring american substitutes until you can go back to the real stuff again. (seeing as how kraft american cheese is pretty bland and flavorless to begin with, you won't be missing much.)

    another recommendation for the olive oil. it's great and has been my butter substitute ('cept when baking) for years. makes some awesome toasted bread, just drizzle it on, add some spices to flavor if desired, then toast in the oven or on a griddle. your garlic bread or ham-and-fake-swiss sammich has never been crispier. if you're baking things, the margarine might work better, but give both a try.
    posted by caution live frogs at 6:25 AM on September 8, 2004

    If you use margarine, read the ingredients; many will have some amounts of milk products (e.g. casien). Look for stuff that says it's lactose-free. Soy cheese is vile.
    posted by transient at 7:58 AM on September 8, 2004

    Second the recommendation to check on goat-dairy -- goat cheese is very, very tasty.

    I have a friend who swears almond cheese is very good, but I haven't tried any yet.
    posted by weston at 9:20 AM on September 8, 2004

    I strongly suggest you to omit soy during this dairy testing. If your baby's reactions to dairy are intestinal of nature, you might just be looking at a lactose (milk sugar) intolerance. However, you mentioned breathing, and that sounds more like a possible sensitivity to the milk protein casein. A majority of individuals with a sensitivity to casein will also have a sensitivity to a soy protein. Both are implicated in asthma.

    The notion that soy constitutes a large portion of the Asian diet is false. It was used during crop rotations to balance nitrogen in soil Soy is eaten in proportions more in line as a condiment, and then in its fermented state, which removes much of the anti-nutrient qualities.

    Read labels diligently; it's maddening to think that "rice cheese", often thought of as a milk substitute, contains the milk protein, casein. I've found this site to be a handy guide to identifying the hidden sources of common allergens in foods. Milk on page 1; Soy on page 2.

    It can take about 4 weeks for the milk proteins in your body to exit, but I suspect if you remain completely casein free, you'll see an improvement in just a couple weeks. The potential benefits to your baby are worth the small inconvenience (think, asthma, ear tubes, general ill-health). The easiest way to eliminate casein and soy from your diet is to shop the perimeter of your grocery store (avoiding the deli section). Eat whole foods, avoiding anything pre-packaged/processed.

    Yahoo Groups is an excellent source. Many parents there are implementing "Casein Free" (CF), "Gluten Free" (GF), "Soy Free" (SF), diets for their children because of the major health and behavioral improvements gained.

    On Preview: During this small window, please avoid ALL dairy. It's best to know definitively. If an improvement is seen, then individual items can be re-introduced to the diet and carefully monitored.
    posted by Feisty at 9:36 AM on September 8, 2004

    Ooh, Feisty, thanks! Good stuff.

    And good stuff everybody. Appreciate the input.
    posted by padraigin at 3:25 PM on September 8, 2004

    I forgot to mention that there's a slight chance that first week off dairy you might experience a round of some odd bowel movements, perhaps diarrhea. It's normal for the body to go through a type of mucous release.

    Warm wishes, to you and the new babe.
    posted by Feisty at 10:02 PM on September 8, 2004

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