Before starting my allergy-friendly diet, I loved dairy products. I drank milk with many meals; I ate yogurt and cheese all the time. I never understood people who didn’t like dairy products.
Because I have never cared for eating a lot of meat and I’ve known about my egg allergy since 2005, dairy products seemed like a good place to get protein. I favored skim milk and Greek yogurt — often touted as two good, low-cal sources of protein — and although I had a weakness for cheese, I could justify cottage cheese and cheddar-and-fruit or cheddar-and-crackers snacks because of the protein.
So cutting out dairy has been one of the harder adjustments I’ve made for my allergy-friendly diet. I still eat a little cheese now and then (though not Swiss or cottage, as I’ve tested more sensitive to those dairy products, along with yogurt). The main reason for this particular bit of cheating is so I can have some of my mom’s pesto — the best in the world — which she doesn’t make that often, so I don’t feel too bad about that.
In order to eat cereal and make smoothies, I tested out a variety of milk substitutes. But on top of cutting out dairy, I’ve also cut out soy. This has caused a bit of a dilemma, as soy milk is pretty much the only milk substitute out there with any protein. And after soy milk, other milk substitutes are slightly harder to find.
Most grocery stores these days do carry both rice milk and almond milk, thankfully. And most brands have about 30-45 percent of the daily recommended calcium per serving. Personally, I prefer almond milk (plain, unsweetened) because of its thicker, creamier consistency. (Which is kind of odd, considering I could only stand skim or 0.5% dairy milk because I didn’t like the thicker 1% and 2% varieties.)
Many grocery stores also carry coconut milk. I’m not talking about the cooking type in the can, obviously, but the drinking type in a carton, available with the rice and almond milks. Coconut milk is creamy, smooth and yummy, but you have to buy the right brand to make sure it’s fortified with enough calcium. Also, it does have a more specific taste than other milk substitutes, so I generally use it for treats like tropical smoothies. 🙂
I’ve never tried hemp milk, as that’s usually only available at specialty stores and it just doesn’t sound appealing.
Another problem with these milk substitutes is I drink less of them than I drank of dairy milk, so I’m not getting the same amount of calcium as I used to when I was eating dairy products.
And when it comes to cheese substitutes, I haven’t found much luck. Any time I used to read the ingredients for “vegan” cheese, it would contain soy. Then I heard of Daiya brand vegan cheese, which I hunted down. It is vegan AND soy-free, which is pretty awesome. But the taste is still odd — it’s somewhat better melted and cooked than eaten straight out of the bag, but it’s not satisfying in the way that normal cheddar, mozzarella or pepperjack cheese is. And again, there’s no protein. The list of ingredients is long, and the list of nutrients is zilch. So I wondered why I would bother putting that in my body. Sometimes it’s easier just to prepare dishes that don’t call for cheese.
I also had resigned myself to eating sorbet while my friends had ice cream — until a couple of friends told me about coconut milk ice cream. (Turtle Mountain/So Delicious makes great coconut ice cream.) This has been one of my favorite non-dairy finds! It’s definitely not low-cal, but it’s absolutely delicious, and most coconut ice creams contain fewer ingredients than rice milk ice creams. I’d definitely recommend a small portion of coconut milk ice cream as a special occasion treat!
The other day, however, I was browsing through Whole Foods — the first time I’ve lived near one since 2007 — and came across rice yogurt and coconut yogurt. These will be the next dairy-free products I try! 🙂