Dairy Free Essentials

So I have had a few people request more information on my dairy alternatives. As I said in my previous post, it hasn’t been easy, but gradually you get used to what you can and can’t eat and food labels become a breeze. There are some things I use on a daily basis and a few other things I have found that have surprised me in that they are ‘safe’ foods. I am only human and so have discovered a few treats that I am allowed, although I have no excuse really seeing as there are loads of tasty healthy options that I can make myself! Always good to have a few options though, especially when you are having visitors over and want to put a plate of biscuits out! Of course most of the items below are soy free too as Poppy was intolerant to this too. If you are choosing to cut out dairy and/soy completely then make sure you familiarise yourself with all of the hidden ingredients that become out of bounds. It is not as simple as changing your milk and butter! Use google to find a list of dairy/soy ingredients to look out for, it is long, but amazingly you memorise is pretty quickly!

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Pure spread – I don’t tend to have butter in sandwiches, but this is the best thing for baking. In fact my mum has always used it even though she is not dairy free. I have never liked margarines; they are not good for you at all. I have heard this is much better, but seeing as I don’t have too many options and don’t use it all that much, I haven’t really looked into how healthy this is. It is good value at about £1.50 and it is often on offer, buy 2 for £2 or similar. It means that most cake recipes are no longer out of bounds, and even if you struggle with eggs, you can substitute these with an egg replacer (try orgran no egg from Holland and Barrett). I use an egg replacer in baking anyway because it is such good value for money and otherwise we would use way too many eggs! The Pure spread is also good for frying, as it is made with sunflower oil, and of course you could just use it as your regular spread on bread or toast. I have come across a much more extravagant butter, made with very healthy things, but can’t remember the name of it because it cost over £5 for a tub! Sometimes I have to draw the line on my health addiction and think about my bank account.

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Almond milk (unsweetened) – by far the best option I have found for tea and coffee. I now much prefer it to cows milk. I have it everyday on my porridge too, although you can use any milk for this really. It also goes in to many of my super smoothies. Almond milk contains 120mg calcium per 100ml, compared to 124mg per 100ml in cows milk, and the bioavailability of the calcium is no doubt much higher in the almond milk, so your calcium absorption would probably improve.

Coconut milk – You can buy cartons of coconut milk along with all of the other milk alternatives, and I do enjoy a lovely coconut milk latte at our favourite café, however I don’t tend to choose this at home as I find almond milk more palatable in tea and coffee. However the thicker coconut milk that you buy in cans is used regularly at our house. Since we can no longer eat the cheese sauce which seemed to accompany so many of our staple meals, we had to have a bit of a menu change (which is never a bad thing seeing as it is so easy to cook the same things week after week). I didn’t want to give up my warm, hearty, comfort foods and start living on salads and steamed vegetables (my appetite is far too big!) so I started making quite a few curries. We absolutely LOVE Thai green curry and use half a can of coconut milk and stock for the sauce. There are loads of variations for Thai curry but mine includes loads of fresh ginger, leeks, spring onions, spinach, garlic, lemon zest and coriander so it is pretty healthy. Serve with wholewheat noodles or brown rice for a wholesome meal.

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Oat drink – Just another everyday milk alternative. Oats are very healthy so this is a good one to include in your diet, use on cereal or in porridge if you don’t fancy it in your tea.

Rice milk – Same as above! Also good for rice puddings surprisingly.

Hazelnut milk – This is my favourite milk for when I am feeling indulgent. I make hazelnut lattes with this using all milk, coffee and sugar. You could also try Ferrero Rocher hot chocolate just by using hazelnut milk instead of normal milk! If you don’t have dairy free hot chocolate try using cocoa powder instead, adding a natural sweetener such as agave syrup or maple syrup, a drop of vanilla essence and a pinch of cinnamon.

ImageOatly cream – I use this fairly regularly to add creaminess to a dish, for example in soups, curries or risotto. A very quick risotto recipe is Arborio rice cooked in vegetable stock, with loads of chestnut mushrooms, garlic and chorizo and finish by oatly cream. It is really easy but very delicious. Can also be used in puddings. A quick caramel sauce to add to deserts is made with 100g pure butter and 150g soft light brown sugar melted together in a pan, add 125ml of oat cram and simmer until heated through. I never used to use much cream at all when cooking, but I feel that oat cream can’t be all that bad for you!

Bread – Not a dairy one but I have only included this because I found it difficult to find a SOYA free bread. Ideally it is best to make your own, and occasionally my lovely Dad brings me a fresh loaf from his bread maker, but the rest of the time I have found wholewheat pitta breads to be brilliant alternatives and one brand of multiseed bread to be safe; Wheatfield Bakery as pictured. Tip: Try buying fresh bread from farmshops which shouldn’t usually contain soy. I also found that the tesco organic white bloomer (not the brown one) has no soy in, so we occasionally had this as a weekend treat!ImageDairy free treats – Nature valley oat bars (the healthiest option in this list by far), Oreos (contain soya!) Jammy dodgers, Ginger nut biscuits and Nice biscuits. There are probably many more but I haven’t bothered finding many as we rarely eat biscuits. A lot of sweets are fine but watch out for soya, I found they were in starburst amongst other popular sweets! Of course anything caramely or buttery is a no go, I am yet to come to terms with the loss of werther’s originals.

Nakd bars – I haven’t put these under treats, although I do think they are delicious. But they are 100% healthy! Raw pressed fruits and nuts, no additives, no added sugar, no baking involved. If you are avoiding soy as well be careful as some of them do have soy and some don’t. My two favourite are cocoa delight and cashew cookie which is literally just dates and cashews. They are rather pricey though at over £2 for a box of 4.

Shortcrust Pastry by Jusrol – We don’t eat much pastry, even though Tim is a big fan of pies. But every now and then I love a homemade quiche with loads of salad. I was sad when we had to give this up, but then I read the ingredients on the pastry I used and was very surprised to discover it doesn’t contain any butter or soy!! Oh and yes this is lazy but I really don’t have time to be making pastry from scratch! I actually think this pastry tastes really good, even though I am not a big pastry fan (Tim always gets my crusts once I have eaten the best bits of the quiche!) You could also use this pastry to make jam tarts or apple pie to add to your collection of dairy free treats!

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Raw Cacao Powder – You can also use normal cocoa powder for baking. But I love this healthy chocolate ingredient, it gives you the same endorphins as that unhealthy bar of milk chocolate, with none of the guilt! You can use it in pudding recipes, cakes and smoothies, or even in your porridge! Try blending a handful of dates, oats, a tablespoon of cacao and a splash of water, then rolling mixture into balls and refrigerating: Healthy chocolate truffles! Yum.

Ice cream and yoghurts – I am yet to try any dairy free yoghurts, but there are plenty available, whether you choose soya yoghurts or the healthier coconut yoghurts. Ice cream will definitely be tried this Summer! I did struggle to find any without soya in them, although there are a few expensive brands available online, but I tried plenty of dairy free ice creams when I was younger in a poor attempt at going dairy free, and they were mostly delicious. All major supermarkets should stock these.

Cheese – I am afraid I am not much help here either. Cheese was definitely the hardest thing for me to give up. I had it on a daily basis! There are cheese alternatives out there (look online) but I just don’t know if they would cut it for me. I have got so used to it now that I don’t really miss it, but maybe one day when I am feeling flush I will invest in some vegan cheese. If you have tried it let me know what you thought! Goats cheese may be ok for some people, other people may still find this causes problems.

I hope that helps. If there are any other dairy items that you miss or do not know how to cut out of your diet then comment below and I will see if I can help! Remember the blogging world is rife with dairy free recipes for al of your favourite dishes! Do not assume you will never be able to enjoy puddings again!

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Holy cow!

If I were to offer you some of my breast milk what would you say? I mean I would put it in a glass first. Or I could mix it with some fruit and whack it in the freezer to make some ice cream? Still a no? And yet no one seems to bat an eyelid at the fact that we consume the equivalent from a cow on a daily basis! Dairy is not designed for humans and the more I read, the more convinced I am that we shouldn’t be consuming it on such a large scale. 

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Since eliminating dairy from my diet over 5 months ago I have noticed a lot of positive changes. The biggest of these is the improvement, in fact complete eradication, of my chronic eczema on my hands, as well as much clearer skin on my face. I only really appreciated this when I tried reintroducing dairy for one day over three weeks ago; my hands are still healing as a result. I had dry cracked skin, open wounds that would not heal and tiny blister type things all over my right hand. I also broke out in spots. On top of that after consuming dairy I noticed stomach cramps and a severe headache, as well as feeling very lethargic. Having read up on the subject it seems I am not alone, and worse still dairy may increase your chances of developing heart disease, diabetes, cancer and many other ailments.

Interestingly Poppy didn’t seem to react in the same way she used to, (crying in pain, struggling to pass stools and breaking out in severe nappy rash were a few symptoms) which was initially a relief, but I still believe that dairy will probably do more harm than good to us both if I do decide to reintroduce it permanently. Unsurprisingly our bodies struggle to break down the milk that is designed for the baby of a different species, a species that has a different digestive system, diet and nutritional needs to us. Cow’s milk contains way over double the amount of protein than human milk. If we look at the two proteins found in milk, casein and whey proteins, we see that cow’s milk contains a vast amount more casein than human milk, and a lower ratio of whey proteins. Casein is difficult to digest, it is even used to make glue, and it is linked with a range of diseases and allergies, including type 1 diabetes. Excess protein causes changes in a babies blood PH balance, weakening their immune systems and making them more prone to infections. It is clear too see why we are advised not to give infants cows milk. Cows secrete rennin which breaks down casein, but most adult humans do not, which helps to explain why many adults also suffer digestive problems due to dairy.

Let’s move on to lactose. Around 75% of the worlds population is lactose intolerant, which to me says a lot about the suitability of dairy for human consumption. Yes there is lactose in breast milk (so be careful if you are told that your baby is lactose intolerant, it is more likely the proteins causing problems), but most of us stop producing the enzyme that breaks down lactose at around 5 years old, suggesting that we should no longer be including lactose in our diets.

milkYou may still feel that dairy is perfectly good for you but then perhaps more worrying is the way in which cow’s milk is now mass produced. Like most types of non-organic farming you can bet your bottom dollar that these animals are not having the happiest of lives. Once you get past the disgusting living conditions that many of the animals are subject to, you are then faced with the reality of exactly how these animals continue to produce milk month after month after month. Well first of all they have to continue to be pregnant, and so are pumped full of hormones and artificially inseminated. They spend most of their lives pregnant, which you will know if you have ever been pregnant yourself, is going to put a massive strain on their bodies. They become exhausted from the weight and producing ridiculous amounts of milk which makes their udders unnaturally heavy, putting pressure on their legs. To counteract the problems that are obviously going to arise from this process, the cows are then pumped full of antibiotics to treat a long list of inevitable infections including mastitis. In the end the cows are rendered useless and killed at about 4 or 5 years old, many years before their natural lifespan. Cows today can give 25 times more milk per year than they did 50 years ago. This is achieved with drugs, hormones, antibiotics, forced feeding plans and specialized breeding. Would you be happy taking drugs, antibiotics and hormones regularly whilst breastfeeding your baby? Probably not, but we are consuming another mammals milk which potentially contains plenty of them.

Of course I’m not saying it easy to cut out dairy completely. I spent at least a month feeling very sorry for myself indeed. I was overwhelmed by food labels and going out to eat anywhere was a no no. But gradually I got used to it, I purchased a great recipe book, and found lots of dairy free versions or alternatives to our regular shopping basket items. I will write a post about these soon. The most common concern when eliminating dairy is where you will get your calcium from. Contrary to popular belief the calcium in cows milk is much less easily absorbed than calcium in other foods, and some people even believe dairy increases the likelihood of osteoporosis. I haven’t felt the need to supplement my calcium intake in any way; my healthy, balanced diet already contains plenty of easily absorbed calcium.

I admit I miss chocolate and cheese, I used to eat so much cheese! And no doubt when we are in Italy later this year I will indulge, but aside from the odd holiday I can see this being a permanent lifestyle change which I feel very positive about. I have enjoyed experimenting in the kitchen, I feel healthier and happier than ever before and am slimmer than ever before despite eating like a horse. A couple of my dairy free treats can be found here and here. I am curious to see if my hay fever is reduced this year on my diary free diet.

For more information I found this very interesting, but a bit of a long read, or look here for simple facts.

A note for breastfeeding mummies: The proteins in dairy do go into your breast milk, despite what your doctor may tell you, just like alcohol and other substances do (of course your doctor and health visitor may warn you about consuming too much alcohol, but dairy, no way, must be colic!) If you suspect that your baby has intolerances then trust your instinct and do your research, it is well worth the effort. Also, a lot of babies with this intolerance are also intolerant to soy which we soon discovered was the case with Poppy. This is called Milk Soy Protein Intolerance (MSPI). 

Credits image (top right): Jelle (CC) Credits image (bottom left): saltaylorkydd (CC)