Help! My Child Can't Have Dairy

Christine Pope | 03 Mar 2020
I frequently get people tested for food intolerances and whilst its good to know what the child is reacting to its not always easy to change the diet.

The most common adverse reactions I witness are wheat, dairy, and surprisingly, egg.. 

So what can be done to eliminate these foods, and how do you find suitable replacements?

The Dairy Dilemma

The first concern people “freak out” over is their belief that eliminating dairy products means their child won’t get enough calcium. The truth is, their child is unlikely to have been getting adequate calcium anyway because they cannot digest dairy foods. So it’s best they remove the offending allergy-causing foods from their diet; and begin ingesting foods which they can actually tolerate.

Alternative Dairy Food Sources

Nuts and seeds; green leafy vegetables; legumes such as chickpeas and lentils, all contain calcium – you know, all those things that kids really love to eat! (ok, well they might when you cut out the stuff that’s been making them feel below average).

Beware of Processed Foods

Many processed foods use milk or dairy as cheap fillers and flavouring, often when you don’t expect it. My children both searched an entire aisle of biscuits trying to find one they could have. They found just one brand. This was a few years ago, now there are more options.

Vegan food is dairy-free because it doesn’t contain anything from animals.

Product Labelling

Watch out for words in processed foods like casein, whey and rennet – these are all dairy-based.

Milk Substitutes

When I consult with a new patient who has to eliminate dairy, I spend time focussing on their choice of alternatives.

Soy, almond, coconut and rice milks contribute to calcium intake. (Rice milk contains 110mg of calcium per glass).  I am not keen on replacing a significant intake of dairy each day with a direct substitute, as variety in food is really important. However, I do find it handy in cooking to have the substitutes easily available.

Soy milk works better in savoury dishes – for example, if you need a little milk for scrambled eggs or quiche. Rice milk is sweeter and I find it substitutes easily into baking muffins or cakes. Either work well as a substitute for milk on the morning cereal.

Coconut milk is a great way to add a creamy flavour to a curry or stew. One of my favourite breakfast dishes is easy chia pudding – which is 1 cup of coconut milk to 1/3 cup of chia seeds and half a cup of frozen berries. Stir, leave overnight, and top with flaked almonds to serve. Filling and delicious! The chia absorbs most of the liquid but still has a nice little crunch as well.

Butter Substitutes

Depending upon your child’s intolerance, you may need to stop using butter as well. Use some good oils in place of the butter. Olive oil is great to dip bread in, or drizzle over vegies. And coconut oil has a higher melting point which is perfect for longer, slower cooking. With coconut oil, ensure you use the extra virgin variety, otherwise it can have quite a strong odour. Remember, fats are also important as they help us absorb minerals such as calcium, so adding a little fat to your steamed vegetables will assist with absorbing as many nutrients as possible (and make it taste a lot better).

About Christine Pope

Christine is a natural medicine practitioner, blogger, educator and lecturer in natural medicine and health care, treating acute and chronic conditions in men, women, children and babies. 

She is passionate about preventative medicine and addressing the underlying cause of a patient’s health problems, treating the individual and finding the right combination of diet, nutritional supplements and homeopathic medicines to improve their health.

She was previously head of Natural Medicine at Nature Care College and is currently serving as elected director of the Australian Traditional Medicine Society. Connect with Christine on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.   

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