It started out innocently enough. Nolan always nursed well, but spit up like nothing I’d ever seen. The pediatrician deemed him a “happy spitter”, which is the most ridiculous diagnosis ever. How can you be happy if you’re basically barfing all day? He was never too fussy so I rolled with it for a while, but when I found mucous in his diapers, I knew that couldn’t be good. I was sort of in denial that it was a dairy intolerance, especially since the pediatrician didn’t seem too alarmed, but my husband was dairy intolerant as a baby so it made sense.
What really convinced me was during one particularly violent spit up episode when it came out his tiny little baby nose. This had happened before, but never to this magnitude. I felt so bad for the poor guy and never wanted to see that sad, confused little look on his face again, so I did a dairy free trial for two weeks.
I didn’t really notice anything at first and after the recommended two weeks, so I tried some nachos. Mexican food is my absolute favorite, but guess what? It’s basically not worth eating without cheese. Probably not the best choice to go so big right out the gate, but hindsight. The next day he was back to spitting up and funky diapers, so it was pretty clear the dairy was the culprit.
I’m not a big milk drinker, so at first I just thought, “OK, no cheese. That will suck, but I can give it up for my baby.” Turns out it was a little trickier than that because dairy is in a lot of things I didn’t automatically associate with dairy. No toast at breakfast because butter, no chocolate because milk, no cream in my coffee, no Ranch and most baked goods were out. Dinners are a little more complicated too because pretty much all of my go to recipes have cheese in some form. Declaring “It’s pizza night! I’m not cooking!!” at 5 pm wasn’t an option anymore, which if we’re being honest has been the biggest challenge of the whole thing. Actually, eating out in general got more complicated.
So, here are some do’s and don’ts of going dairy free.
- Substitute avocado for cheese when possible. This works really well on burgers, sandwiches and burrito bowls.
- Use coconut creamer in your coffee. I get mine at Trader Joe’s. Almond milk also works and bonus- Starbucks has started offering almond milk so you don’t have to give up your fancy drinks!
- Use Smart Balance butter. Can’t even tell the difference!
- I have a crazy sweet tooth and chocolate has been hard to give up. Ben & Jerry’s makes a non-dairy ice cream (using almond milk) that’s pretty good. Oreos, while slightly questionable, are also dairy free!
- Spices are your friend, especially when you’re eating chicken…again.
- Don’t forget about checking sauces and spreads when eating out.
- Chicken is a safe choice, but stick to grilled. The fried stuff usually has buttermilk in it.
- Be careful of carbs! I found myself grabbing tons of carb-y snacks in a hurry when I got hungry throughout the day because I never have more than a 90 second window to eat, which leaves little time to read ingredients and I knew crackers were safe. But they’re definitely not filling and you end up eating way more! Nuts are a better quick snack.
Cooking at home is definitely easier than going out because I know exactly what’s in everything. Below are my go to recipes that have been on repeat in our house since.
My Go To Recipes:
- Crockpot Chicken Enchilada Soup (no cheese to garnish, but honestly I don’t even miss it!)
- Zucchini and Sweet Potato Hash
- Cilantro Lime Chicken
- Chicken Zoodle Soup
- One Pan Chicken & Roasted Veggies (really you can use whatever veggies you have on hand. I add 1/2 broth to add a little more flavor.)
- French Dips
- Guacamole Turkey Burgers
- Beef Short Ribs
- Stuffed Sweet Potatoes (minus the cheese)
- Asparagus Sweet Potato Chicken Skillet
- This Pinterest board has saved me. So many great ideas in one place.
I’ll preface this by saying none of these are really stellar ideas. This is mostly things I’ve found out of desperation and laziness.
- In N Out burger (or any burger really)- make sure to add ketchup and mustard because the sauce has dairy (cue angels crying)
- Chick-Fil-A- stick- with the grilled and no sauce (more angel tears)
- Sandwiches- no cheese, obviously
- Chipotle- burrito bowl sans sour cream and cheese. I thought this would be a total bummer, but I really didn’t notice it was missing!
Going dairy free has definitely been a struggle. If Nolan was better at taking a bottle, I probably would have switched to formula. By the time we figured out it was for a dairy intolerance he was already 6 months old. I figured by the time we trained him to take a bottle (he is very stubborn about bottles, so in my mind getting him to take a bottle full time would take at least a month, if not two) it would practically be time to start weaning him, so this seemed like the easier route for us.
It’s already a struggle to make sure I get enough to eat throughout the day while chasing around these two, so it’s really forced me to meal prep. I get crazy hungry while I’m nursing and need to get food in my mouth fast, and stopping to read labels and think about ingredients doesn’t work. In reality, it’s forcing me to eat what I probably should be eating anyway (more vegetables), but it definitely takes the fun out of eating.
Having to eliminate something from my diet has really opened my eyes to the realities of living with a food allergy. I know so many kids who have food allergies and this is their way of life. I feel fortunate that this is only a short period of time that I have to go without dairy and that Nolan’s intolerance is fairly mild, but once Nolan is weaned and eating solids full time, it’s still something I’m going to have to watch until he (hopefully) outgrows it. Luckily, if he gets some inadvertently it will just lead to a stomachache and not a more serious reaction. It’s tough and I’ve been a
trooper major complainer about it, but at the end of the day, it’s for my baby and that always makes things easier.
Have you had a kid with a dairy intolerance or other allergy? I’d love more dairy free food ideas!