The Health Advocate

by Hannah Whittenly, The Health Advocate

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If you have a child with food sensitivities, you know that while there are tons of choices for purchasing allergy-friendly foods, the cost can be quite prohibitive. Trying to replace all of the items you usually buy with a special dairy-free version is entirely possible, and often quite tasty, but not budget-friendly. With a little planning, you can make the adjustment to a dairy-free diet, both simple and drama free.

Milk Substitutes

The options for milk substitutes are easy to find and plentiful. When purchasing for kids, it’s nice that these options are quite popular and socially acceptable. First, you’ll need to determine whether your child prefers almond, coconut, flax, macadamia, cashew, or oat milk. Making this a fun “experiment” can ease your child into the adjustment and increase buy-in for their new lifestyle. Take them to the store with you and make a game out of seeing how many different milk alternatives and flavors you can find. Then purchase the smallest portion of each type you can find for an at-home experiment. Keep in mind that avoiding the sweetened versions right from the start will be better off for your child in the long run. Test out your purchases with something your child enjoys (a favorite cereal perhaps) rather than drinking it plain.

Milk Products

After finding a milk substitute, the other items, you may want to explore alternatives for include yogurt, cheese, ice cream, and butter. Yogurt and ice cream have the most options, and you may find it helpful to repeat the milk substitute experiment. Most major grocery stores have options made with almond or coconut milk, but don’t assume that because your child likes almond milk in their cereal, they won’t prefer coconut milk yogurt or ice cream. Butter can be replaced with coconut oil in many recipes, or sticks of butter substitute (made mostly with coconut oil and found at major grocers) if your child isn’t fond of coconut flavor. Cheese substitutes are the most challenging and probably best to save for last, especially if you have a picky eater.

Whole Foods

The absolute most straightforward and least expensive way to transition to a dairy-free diet is to focus on a whole-food diet. Processed foods often include dairy in their ingredients even when you least expect it. Therefore a dairy-free substitute is almost always the more expensive option. Fruits, veggies, nuts, and seeds all make for easy and healthy dairy-free snacks with little preparation. The internet is full of easy and healthy recipes that are kid-friendly and simple to make. Even tried and true family recipes can successfully be made dairy-free with some simple substitutions. Smoothies, dips and dressings, baked goods, and even bread can all be made with one for one replacement for milk, cream, and butter.

Portable Snacks & Eating Out

Depending on the number of processed foods your child currently eats and the frequency with which you eat outside the home, convenience foods and parties will be your most significant battle. With a little pre-planning, however, even this can be drama free. A batch of individually frozen dairy-free muffins or cupcakes can be made ahead and readily available for defrosting on the day of a special event. Homemade dairy-free granola bars or trail mix bags can be made in bulk and tossed in the car or a backpack for during or after school snacks. Even dairy-free bread and buns can be sliced and individually packaged to take out to eat or to a friend’s house.
There is an abundance of options for every household and budget when it comes to dairy-free eating. Pre-planning and experimentation with substitutes are the key to making a dairy-free lifestyle drama free and satisfying for your child.

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