Cheese, milk, butter, and cream are all common ingredients in recipes. You see them used in cooking shows and listed in many cookbooks. They are found in everyday life but for those dealing with a lactose or dairy allergy, these simple ingredients become a problem.
My food allergy journey started 10 years ago when I met my now husband. Almost every time we would eat he would get ‘sick’ after. I will spare you the details, but if you or someone you know is lactose intolerant or has a dairy allergen, you know what I’m talking about. I suggested to him that he may be lactose intolerant, but his response was, “No, that can’t be it!”
Well, it turned out I was right.
Allergy Diagnosis: Where to Start?
Initially, I felt overwhelmed. I was going to have to change the whole way I cooked and baked. My fear was that my family was going to have to live off of meat and potatoes, because at least those foods don’t contain any dairy.
I quickly became the person in the grocery store scouring the aisles, scanning everything to see if it contained dairy, usually with three kids in tow.
My first move was to switch out the big items first, such as milk and butter.
The milk alternative my husband drinks and that I use for all of my cooking and baking is Fairlife. Disclaimer: this is a lactose-free milk, meaning that it contains dairy. I prefer this milk since it doesn’t seem to make things sweeter in the way that almond milk does. However, almond milk is still a great non-dairy alternative. Other non-dairy alternatives include oat milk, rice milk, or coconut milk.
Instead of butter, I use margarine. I specifically use Country Crock in the tub or Blue Bonnet light margarine sticks. And I make sure it is the light kind so it does not contain any dairy, just soy. There’s also many alternative to cheese, and brands like Violife have been known to be good substitutes.
In my opinion, Target and Hornbacher’s have the best selection for non-dairy alternatives locally. I can usually find dairy-free creamers, cottage cheese, yogurt, sour cream, cheese, and even dairy-free pizzas! Other local stores that have dairy-free items are CashWise, Natural Grocer’s, Costco, Wal-Mart, and Aldi.
Some of my best kept secrets for a sweet tooth are Nestle’s allergen-free chocolate chips and also Ben & Jerry’s non-dairy ice cream. They both taste as good as the originals and can satisfy that craving for sweets! If you need a good creamer for your coffee, many brands make non-dairy options using soy, almond, or oat milk.
Now, for the true Midwesterner, you are probably wondering how to make a hot dish without a cream soup. At first I thought I would have to give up these comfort foods, but I found a way to make my own cream of chicken. If you look up substitute for cream of chicken soup, you can just improvise the ingredients to be dairy-free! Don’t get me wrong, it takes a lot more effort to do this, but it is worth it to make a dish that everyone in the house can enjoy.
When someone you love has lactose intolerance or dairy allergy, you may feel like going out to a restaurant is no longer a viable option. But, it can be done! Sure my husband can’t have his favorite pasta with creamy sauce anymore, but he still has options such as burgers, most breakfast foods, and pulled meats. We do make sure to ask questions because some restaurants will put butter on their buns or use oil or butter when frying food.
Also, don’t think you have to give up pizza! We simply ask for half of the pizza to be cheese-less, if dairy-free cheese is not an option. Make sure to ask if the crust has dairy in it!
Restaurants with Dairy-Free Options
There are ordering options at restaurants for people who follow a dairy-free diet. And I would suggest to look ahead on a restaurant’s nutrition and allergy menu before going out. This is helpful as sometimes restaurants will put dairy in the least likely of things such as fries, breading, and sauces.
Here are some restaurants that I have found to have dairy-free choices:
- Buffalo Wild Wings: their boneless and traditional wings and regular fries are dairy-free.
- Sandy’s Donuts: they have vegan donuts that taste just as delicious as their original.
- Dairy Queen: they have dairy-free dilly bars.
- Chick-fil-A: their grilled chicken sandwich and grilled chicken nuggets don’t contain dairy and neither do their waffle fries.
- Jimmy John’s: their sandwiches are dairy-free if you order without cheese.
- Chipotle and Qdoba: their items are dairy-free (tortillas are dairy-free) if you order your dish without cheese and sour cream.
- Moe’s Southwest Grill: they actually have quite a few items that are dairy-free, tortillas included; however take caution as their ground beef does contain dairy.
- Olive Garden: their pasta and their meat sauce is dairy-free.
- Hu Hot: You can customize your dish without dairy! Just be sure to ask about the sauces you add, as some could contain dairy.
- Blaze Pizza: they offer vegan pizza or you could always try cheese-less pizza with their toppings.
- Mehl’s Gluten-Free Bakery: they offer a dairy-free pepperoni pizza option. They also offer dairy-free cheese for their sandwiches, and some baked goods can be made dairy-free.
- Other pizza options: Blackbird Woodfire, Papa Murphy’s, and Papa John’s has dairy-free crust, just ask for a cheese-less pizza option!
- Stone Town Grill: they have build-your-own bowls and can accommodate any allergies – just ask for assistance!
- CRAVE: Check out their menu or ask the wait-staff for assistance in crafting a non-dairy dish.
- Bernbaum’s: they note which items are vegan and offer a variety to accomodate non-dairy patrons.
- Brewbird: their menu indicates options that are vegan and dairy-free!
Struggles and Triumphs
Having someone you love with an intolerance or an allergy is not easy. Planning out meals and making sure everything is dairy-free can be a huge struggle at times, but it can be done.
Do I wish I could throw in a frozen pizza some nights and not have to worry about what my husband will eat? 100%. The love we can for these people over shine these struggles. To the moms that may have to give up dairy for their child while breastfeeding or their husband or children may have an allergy, I see you. I see your struggles and the extra effort you put in for every single meal keeping your loved ones safe and healthy.