Dairy is one of those foods that can wreak havoc in our bodies. It’s been blamed for everything from acne, allergy symptoms, respiratory issues, constipation, diarrhea, sinus issues, mucus (clearing throat), weight gain, and anxiety, among many others.
Everyone is different and dairy affects everyone differently. Some people cannot digest the milk proteins (casein and whey), while others lack the enzymes necessary to digest the milk carbohydrate (lactose). If you have made the decision to eliminate or restrict dairy, you might be surprised to learn that it is often hidden inside products you are still consuming.
What is Dairy?
Dairy is any food or ingredient that comes from animal mammary glands (think milk, cheese, yogurt, sour cream, all forms of whey, custards, creams and curds to name a few). From a nutritional perspective, eggs are not considered dairy (we get that question a lot).
In our Standard American Diet, dairy is everywhere and is used as an additive in a lot of packaged foods (even some that don’t look like they contain milk, cheese or butter). Packaged food may use different names for dairy in their products. Lactose, casein, caseinate, whey powder, whey, curd, cheese powder, cheese flavor, lactoglobulin, and the list goes on. Memorizing all the ingredients that come from dairy is daunting and makes navigating a dairy-free way of life frustrating.
And food manufacturers don’t help by giving us conflicting information. Often what they advertise on the front of the package doesn’t match what the back of the label lists.
Identifying Hidden Dairy on Packaging
Let’s look at Non-Dairy Creamer in the image. Non-dairy, right? It says so right on the package so it must be true. WRONG! Further investigation (looking at the nutrition label) shows the truth. That “non-dairy” creamer CONTAINS MILK!
Now let’s look at these plain almond crackers with sea salt. You wouldn’t even think to check if this product contains dairy, right? Even reading the ingredient list shows no milk products but they can sometimes hide in “natural flavors” as is the case for this cracker. Luckily the nutrition label helps us out again, indicating it “Contains: Milk”.
With a little knowledge and preparation, going dairy-free doesn’t have to be so confusing.
Tips for Going Dairy Free:
Here are 8 tips for a successful dairy free life:
- Become a label detective. Be cautious of “non-dairy” labeling. Always read the Nutrition Label and avoid the product if there is any dairy listed. Milk will be listed in parentheses next to the ingredient, like “whey (milk)” or at the end of the ingredients if it “Contains: milk”.
- Eat more whole foods and less packaged food. The fewer the ingredient list, the less likely there is hidden dairy in the food.
- Try dairy alternatives like nut and seed milks. When cooking, it is easy to substitute your favorite nut milk (almond, rice, soy coconut, etc.) in place of regular milk in recipes. You can also find yogurt, sour creams, etc., made from nut milks instead of dairy.
- Look up restaurant menus in advance. This is especially helpful if dining with a group and lets you enjoy the conversation rather than playing detective with menu options. Also ask the waitstaff how items are cooked. Maybe they can provide a dairy-free version that’s not on the menu.
- Keep dairy-free snacks around. Keeping dairy out can be especially hard if it’s in the house for other family members. Snacks like guacamole or hummus with veggies have that satisfying creamy feel. Having non-dairy yogurt in the fridge can save you during a weak moment and a smashed avocado on your sandwich can also give it a creaminess so you won’t miss the cheese.
- Don’t be afraid of the word “vegan”. You don’t have to be vegan to purchase vegan products. And if it says vegan on the label, it was made without animal products so it will be naturally dairy free (no need to play label detective with anything labeled vegan).
- Go Cold Turkey. If you continue to let dairy sneak in, it could derail your efforts. Cheese seems to be the one dairy people cling to. Dairy can be an addiction. If you let it sneak in, it can make you want more so it’s best to stay away.
- Be the ring leader. Offer to have the holiday meal or friend gathering at your house so you can control the food. If that’s not an option, at least bring a dairy-free dish you know you can enjoy.
For some dairy free recipes please visit “x” blog post . . . .