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What is dairy?

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watch for hidden dairy

Dairy encompasses cow’s milk, sheep’s milk, and goat’s milk. Those with a milk allergy react to the protein in milk called “casein”. The proteins of other mammals are generally considered different enough that those with a dairy allergy can safely consume such food. This is different from lactose intolerance, which is the inability to digest milk sugars due to the lack of the lactase enzyme.

As a major allergen, dairy will be clearly marked on the labels of foods produced for the US market, usually in the form “contains milk”. However, it is still important to learn what to look for to avoid dairy in your diet.

Read the label for dairy

Dairy can be found in butter (all forms), buttermilk, casein and caseinates, cheese, cream, curds, custard, diacetyl, ghee (clarified butter), half-and-half, lactalbumin, lactoferrin, lactose, milk (all forms such as “dry milk”, “evaporated milk”, “condensed milk”, etc), pudding, sour cream, milk solids, whey, and yoghurt. It also may be hidden as “artificial butter flavour”, deli meats, nougat, and caramel.

Please be aware that just because a product name or front label may say “non-dairy” does not mean it is dairy-free. Many dairy substitutes such as yoghurt and margarine are produced on the same equipment as their dairy equivalents and as such may contain dairy.

Dairy free substitutions

It’s easy to convert any recipe to be dairy-free if you miss your old favourites after becoming dairy free. Dairy substitutes can be used almost interchangeably in any recipe that involved a dairy item. Read labels carefully to ensure that your dairy free item was not produced on the same line as dairy items. The other issue you might encounter is that most dairy substitutes are soy-based. If you cannot have soy either, you will have to be more creative in your dairy substitutions.

Milk is the easiest dairy item to substitute. You can swap in the same volume of any non-dairy milk: soy milk, rice milk, coconut milk, or any nut milk such as almond milk or cashew milk. Most of these non-dairy milks can be easily and conveniently made at home. If you require buttermilk, grab your favourite dairy-free milk and add a teaspoon of lemon juice.

If your recipe calls for ice cream, substitute the same volume of non-dairy “ice cream” such as sorbet, sherbet, or any of the soy-, rice-, or coconut-based “ice creams” that are commonly available. Likewise, use the same volume of dairy free yoghurt such as coconut yoghurt, soy yoghurt, rice yoghurt, or nut yoghurt.

Dairy free cream is an easy substitution. Use the same volume of soy-based creamer, cashew cream, macadamia nut cream, or coconut cream.

When substituting evaporated milk or condensed milk, use the same volume of coconut cream, cashew cream [cashew cream recipe], or macadamia nut cream. You should also add 8 grams of thickener (arrowroot starch, etc) per 236 mL of milk substitute to emulate the consistency of the dairy.

To substitute for solid butter in your recipe:

If you need melted butter, use the same volume of heavy (not extra-virgin) olive oil or nut oil.

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