Designing a dairy free meal plan
Managing your child’s dairy allergy can be confusing, frightening and complicated to manage on your own.
A consultation with a registered paediatric dietitian is essential to help you accurately diagnose and manage your child with a dairy allergy.
Note, cow’s milk protein allergy should not be confused with lactose intolerance which is sometimes known as milk intolerance.
Whilst dairy allergy is an abnormal response by the body to the protein present in dairy, lactose intolerance is an inability by the body to digest a carbohydrate known as lactose that’s naturally present in dairy. In lactose intolerance, a strict dairy free diet is not always required. Speak to your dietitian for bespoke advice.
“Up to 3% of UK infants suffer from milk allergy. A dairy allergy to cow’s milk protein can lead to immediate or delayed symptoms. Look out for blood in stools, vomiting, diarrhoea or constipation, severe eczema or gastro-oesophageal reflux. “
On the other hand, in dairy allergy and depending on your child’s diagnosis, your dietitian may recommend following a very strict dairy free diet.
This is when you will need to follow a process for designing the best dairy free meal plan that suits your child but also your family.
Step one when designing the best dairy free meal plan
Once you get home after your expert consultation with the paediatric dietitian, screen all food labels for the word ‘milk’.
Your dietitian will give you a list of words to look out for when reading the ingredients list which you can find in almost all packaged food items.
Some foods have hidden milk as an ingredient which is contraindicated on a dairy free diet so make sure that you screen all food labels carefully.
In the UK, most packaged food items contain allergy advice and will have ingredients listed in bold if it contains any of the common food allergens such as milk.
Step two in designing the best dairy free meal plan
It’s confusing but dairy and milk are literally the same things when following a dairy free diet.
Lactose is the natural carbohydrate found in dairy and milk but if a packaged food item lists lactose as an ingredient, it’s impossible to guarantee that the product is not free from cow’s milk protein.
Sure lactose is not a problem in cows milk protein allergy, however, most manufacturers wouldn’t be able to guarantee that the lactose in a product isn’t contaminated with milk protein.
As you know, in dairy allergy, it’s the protein present in cows milk that your baby or child will react to.
Your dietitian will most likely ask you to exclude foods containing lactose too so make sure that any food items that contain the words dairy, milk or lactose are removed from your child’s dairy free menu plan.
Ask your dietitian for the full breakdown of the words in a food label that can suggest hidden milk protein. Unfortunately, a dairy free diet is not as straightforward as you may think. It’s worthwhile booking in a session with an experienced paediatric dietitian to help you with this journey.
Step three for designing the best dairy free meal plan
Make a list of your child’s favourite meals. If your baby has been recently diagnosed with cows milk protein allergy and you are ready to start weaning, make a list of your favourite family recipes.
For easy dairy free family recipes do visit the recipe section in this blog for inspiration.
By using clever substitute ingredients, you can easily revamp your child’s pre-loved recipes to suit a dairy free diet.
Dairy free recipes don’t always need specialist ingredients but for sauces, you could probably omit the milk or cream.
Here’s a clever trick. Now use oat or soy-based plant milk to make a delicious milk free sauce. You could even use a thickener like cornflour to thicken the sauce if it’s runny or needs a creamy touch.
Cornflour is great because it is also naturally gluten free. It’s perfect for children with multiple food allergies, for example, if your child is also following a milk and gluten free diet.
But don’t stop there. Considering that butter is a popular ingredient in many baking recipes, simply switch to a vegetable spread for an instant dairy free makeover. But be careful, some plant based spreads do have milk solids as an added ingredient to boost flavour. It really is worth dedicating some time towards reading food labels carefully.
Avocado is also fantastic in dairy free baking as you’ll find in this easy avocado and chocolate milk free cake. Bookmark it for a special occasion.
In some cases, children following a dairy free diet may also be asked to follow a soy free diet. This is because a small percentage of the proteins found in soy are similar and also found in cows milk proteins. Not all children with a milk allergy will react, but if your child reacts to these particular sequences of proteins, book in a follow-up review session with your dietitian after the agreed trial period of the milk free diet.
In the trial period if your child does not have complete symptom resolution, speak to your dietitian about the appropriateness of further exclusions such as soy.
It’s always worthwhile checking in with your with children’s dietitian for further help with menu planning on multiple food allergies.
If you find the process daunting, then book a Skype or video consultation with me and I’ll give you tools and tips that will save you time and bring joy back into your family meals.
See the example below of a milk free menu plan to get you started.
EXAMPLE DAIRY FREE MENU PLAN
Pear and chia powered oats (substitute whole milk with calcium fortified plant milk)
Apple and cinnamon porridge (substitute formula with your GP prescribed dairy free formula)
Wholemeal fruit bread with a nut spread, fruit and dairy free yoghurt
Oat and raisin cookies with fruit
Fig and dark chocolate flapjack served with fresh fruit
A cup of calcium fortified plant drink
Roast butternut squash and coconut soup served with milkfree bread
Bottom line – how to plan a dairy free menu plan
- read labels to identify which cupboard items your child can have on a diary free diet
- remember dairy, lactose and milk all mean cows milk protein and won’t be suitable on a dairy free diet for your child with a milk allergy
- write down your family’s favourite recipes and see how you can revamp these with easy dairy free substitutions
- jot down 5 favourite recipes that will work for lunch and dinner then rotate these during the week, making extra portions and freezing as necessary.
- Don’t be afraid to tweak recipes until you have tasty variations that the whole family can enjoy and gradually build on your bank of dairy free recipes.
- Subscribe to my podcast and you’ll receive at least 1-2 dairy free recipes every month.
Mastering Food Allergy
Does your child have a food allergy? Do you also worry about fussiness and tantrums at the dinner table?
Does it feel like your child has regressed from what used to be good eating and you just need help expanding the variety of their free from diet? Get in touch to see how I can help you.