Like a lot of breastfeeding mamas, I've cut out dairy while I'm nursing the baby because it does make her a little fussy. Turns out cow’s milk products are the most common problem foods and the only foods conclusively linked by research to fussiness and gassiness in babies. Cow’s milk sensitivity or allergy can cause colic-like symptoms, eczema, wheezing, vomiting, diarrhea (including bloody diarrhea), constipation, hives, and/or a stuffy, itchy nose. The good news is, it is now easier than ever (and more delicious than ever) to go dairy free. Click through for my top picks for going dairy free.
Now, let me give you a little background on my dairy free-ness. Before I had kids I was a bona fide vegan for five years. No meat, no dairy, nada, so I know a thing or two about dairy free. I also know that the dairy free alternatives now are OMG SO MUCH BETTER than they were when I was vegan. First off, when I was vegan soy milk was like the only decent alternative. That's it. I remember getting excited about when they made chocolate soy milk, it was a big deal for me back then. But now there are so many choices (also ones that are now soy free) that taste so much better you'll find it hard to ever switch back.
First up, let's chat about milk. I was never a big cows milk drinker even before going dairy free, so this one was easy for me, but my favorite non-dairy milk remains coconut milk, specifically the So Delicious Vanilla Coconut Milk (they have an unsweetened version too if you are looking for lower calorie).
Another new favorite is Ripple milk, it's a plant-based milk that's made from yellow peas (yes, PEAS). But don't let that weird you out, the drink has an impressive list of credentials: it's gluten free, lactose free, soy and nut free, GMO free, and 100% vegan and it is so creamy and delicious you will totally forget it is actually made from peas. I especially love the chocolate Ripple milk (so do my kids, who are HUGE chocolate milk drinkers). I use the plain one in smoothies, on cereal and oatmeal, pretty much everything.
Now for cheese. First, let's get something out of the way. When I was totally vegan people would always say "But does it actually taste like CHEESE?!" The truth is, not really. Vegan cheeses have come a long long way, but the real important stuff as far as being "like cheese" is more to do with texture, specifically, does it melt. The taste isn't bad, not at all, it's just a little different. My favorites (after doing a lot of taste testing) are the Daiya shreds in cheddar jack for stuff like nachos and quesadillas (I eat a lot of Mexican food what can I say) and the mozzarella slices from Go Veggie for grilled cheese. I know that sounds weird, mozzarella for grilled cheese, but trust me, it works.
Now for butter. The BEST, BEST vegan butter is Earth Balance, in any flavor (it comes in Olive Oil, "original", and a few more). This stuff is so good and actually really does taste like butter, this is the ONE vegan product that I have gotten my entire family to eat and enjoy. My mother even loves this stuff and she does not like vegan alternatives, at all. The best part is that it also comes in sticks for baking (or if you are a die hard stick butter person), and I have baked with it a bazillion times and no one ever notices a difference, if anything it tastes better. It's just the best, seriously.
As far as dairy free yogurts, there are now a ton to choose from, and I really don't have a huge preference there. The So Delicious coconut milk ones are always good, but again there are a bunch and it can be sort of fun to pick up a few different ones for a taste test and discover a new fave. Dairy free ice cream is sort of the same too, they are all really good now, oh AND Ben and Jerry's even makes some dairy free flavors now too: P.B. & Cookies, Coffee Caramel Fudge, Chocolate Fudge Brownie and Chunky Monkey, yes please!
My final dairy free food choice has got to be avocados. Besides being my favorite food of all time, you can replace a lot of dairy with avocado, blend them in smoothies instead of yogurt, blend them into dressings, you can even bake them into brownies! Plus they are so good for you, click here to get some amazing recipes using avocados in place of dairy.
Now, keep in mind, that breastfed babies who are sensitive to dairy in mom’s diet are sensitive to specific cow’s milk antibodies, in the form of proteins (not lactose), which pass into the mother’s milk. If your baby is sensitive to dairy in your diet, it will not help to switch to lactose-free dairy products (like Lactaid, etc). The problem is the cow’s milk proteins, not the lactose. Cooking dairy products may reduce but will not eliminate the allergens.
Another thing to keep in mind is if you think that your baby may be sensitive to dairy products in your diet, it can take 10 days to 3 weeks to eliminate cow’s milk protein from your system, so allow a full 2-3 weeks of dairy elimination before deciding if that was the culprit or not.
For baby Welles, she is only a little sensitive to dairy proteins so eliminating only the obvious sources of dairy (milk, yogurt, butter, cheese, ice cream, etc) does the trick and I can still eat small amounts of dairy without it affecting her, but some babies are highly allergic, making it necessary to eliminate all sources of dairy proteins, (which requires a careful reading of food labels). As always, it's best to chat with your doctor to evaluate these concerns, of course.
Now for a few last goodies, my "vegan junk food" go tos. I LOVE the Amy's Organic vegan frozen pizzas and frozen vegan mac and cheese. They can really help satisfy those specific kind of cravings (especially the pizza one). With all of the above mentioned products, you can find them ALL locally at Healthy Living Market and Cafe on Route 50 in Saratoga Springs. In addition to all of my favorites there are so many other options too and so many great products to try. They have a dairy free alternative for literally everything, and it is so fun to go in and try new options and discover new favorites.
Do you have a dairy free favorite? Share it in the comments section! xoxo