Dairy allergy is one of the most common food allergies in the United States and other developed countries. It is especially prevalent among infants and children. This post is an overview of managing a dairy allergy.
Being diagnosed with a dairy allergy (also known cow's milk allergy) and having to avoid your favorite foods can feel overwhelming and sometimes pretty sad.
It's hard to imagine meals and snacks without milk, butter, cheese, and ice cream when those foods are staples in your diet.
Dairy allergy and nutrition
Milk products are in a lot of foods and delicious on their own (hello, ice cream!) But they are also a good source of important nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, and protein, to name a few.
Children with this allergy may be at risk for nutrient deficiencies because foods such as cheese sticks, yogurt, pudding, and flavored milk are good sources of these nutrients and are usually well-accepted.
One study showed that children with cow's milk allergy are shorter and weigh less than their non-allergic peers.
Even though eliminating these foods from your diet can create some nutrition gaps, it is not impossible to get adequate nutrition without cow's milk and foods containing it. It might just take some extra planning and effort.
To help with this, I offer food allergy and nutrition coaching. I am a Registered Dietitian and have experience managing my own son's dairy allergy.
If you prefer to work with a Registered Dietitian in your area, go to eatright.org to find one.
Reading food labels
To learn more about food labeling laws, go to the Common Food Allergies page. Here are some terms to watch for on food label ingredient lists:
- Artificial butter flavor, butter oil, butter fat
- Buttermilk solids
- Casein (all forms)
- Caseinate (all forms)
- Cheese flavor
- Hydrolysates (casein, milk protein, protein, whey, whey protein)
- Lactalbumin (all forms), lactoglobulin, lactoferrin, lactulose
- Milk solids
- Recaldent™, used in tooth-whitening chewing gums
- Whey/whey solids
Foods commonly containing dairy
- Beverages including milk, buttermilk, hot chocolate, "non-dairy" creamers
- Baked goods including baking mixes and frosting
- Spreads including butter and many margarine varieties (even some that say "non-dairy" on the label)
- Boxed dinners/foods such as macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, puddings, gravies, vegetables in cream, cheese or butter sauces, canned pasta meals
- Prepared meats including hot dogs and lunch meats
- Salad dressings often have cheese or other sources of dairy in them
- Yogurt (including frozen)
- Frozen desserts such as ice cream, sherbet and sometimes sorbet
- Whipped topping
- Many types of chocolate (cocoa powder is dairy free)
Dairy free substitutes
When we had to start avoiding dairy, it really changed the way we ate. Many of the foods we ate on a regular basis had milk derived ingredients but could be made without those ingredients using dairy substitutes.
If you have just started avoiding dairy products, you will be able to do the same. Like eating with any food allergy, it just takes an open mind and some creativity.
Check out these resources to get started.
Dairy free recipes
I've got great news - ALL of the recipes here at Eating With Food Allergies are dairy free! Go to the recipe index to check them all out.
Here are a few of our favorites:
- What is Cross Contact? - May 5, 2023
- Dairy Free Sorbet - April 25, 2023
- Are Marshmallows Dairy Free? - April 22, 2023