Getting Started/FAQ

How can I ease the transition from cow's milk to alternative milks?  

Cow’s milk is actually relatively high in sugar so I recommend trying sweetened alternative milks for cereal, straight drinking, and baked goods. Sweetened milks are usually labeled as "Original." In fact, any alternative milk that is not specifically labeled as "unsweetened" probably contains added sugar. Sweetened vanilla and chocolate milks are especially good for picky toddlers.  Then, when you get used to the taste of alternative milk you can switch to the unsweetened varieties if you want.  Also, you will want to buy unsweetened if you plan to cook with it in any savory dishes.

What is the best type of alternative milk?:  

We try to have a variety of alternative milks such as rice, almond, and coconut. (BTW, there are two types of coconutmilk:  the canned kind used in Asian cooking and  refrigerated “coconutmilk beverage” which is sold in half gallons in the same section as alternative milks. Here, I’m talking about coconutmilk beverage.) Different milks are better for different things.  So Delicious brand coconutmilk is very creamy, mild-tasting, and high in fat so it is good in mashed potatoes and baked goods.  Also, some people believe that babies and toddlers should be on a high fat diet and coconutmilk is more like regular old whole milk in it’s fat profile.   Almondmilk is my favorite for cereal.   Hempmilk is very strong tasting and I do not think it would be good to drink straight.  

I have definitely found differences among brands.  For example, Trader Joe’s brand coconutmilk tastes very coconut-y, while So Delicious brand is much more mild.  Whole Foods brand soymilk tastes kind of gross to me but I like Silk and Earth Balance soymilk.  So if you try one brand and don’t like it, it’s worth trying another brand.  

We make our own almond and coconut milks at home. Check out this blog post on recipes for lots of different homemade milks. To get started, you will probably want to buy a nutmilk bag or jelly straining bag.

How can kosher labeling help me identify dairy-free products?

If you or your child has a severe or anaphylactic allergy to milk, kosher labeling probably will not help you too much. However, if you are not worried about cross-contamination in manufacturing and simply looking to find products that do not contain dairy ingredients kosher labeling can be a huge help. (I am not a doctor. Check with your doctor if you have questions about foods that are safe for your child.) 

 Parve or Pareve: Dairy Free!

Dairy free! You don't even need to check the ingredient label on these foods!

May or may not contain dairy ingredients. Sometimes they are foods that don’t actually contain dairy but are made in a facility that also processes dairy so there may be some particles of milk in the food.  Other times they will contain actual dairy ingredients. So you'll have to check the label.

Foods labeled "vegan" also do not contain dairy.

Where can I find the best dairy-free recipes for desserts and baking?

Many of your favorite recipes will still be good if simply substitute and equal amount of non-hydrogenated margine for butter and substitute an alternative milk for cow's milk. This is especially true of things like chocolate chip and peanut butter cookies, quick breads, and muffins. However, these substitutions probably will not work for desserts that get most of their flavor from a dairy ingredient such as shortbread, sugar cookies, cheesecake, and caramel-based things. To make things like this, your best bet is to check out vegan dessert cookbooks. Isa Chandra Moskowitz has some great books like Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, and Vegan Pie in the Sky. Note that, because her recipes are vegan, they do not contain eggs and therefore can sometimes contain unusual ingredients you don't have on hand. However, you can readily find them at better supermarkets and health food stores.

What is the difference between a milk protein allergy and lactose intolerance?  

I find that doctors and experts give conflicting information in this area but my understanding is that a milk allergy is distinctly different from lactose intolerance.  Most kids under the age of 4 who are allergic/sensitive to milk have difficulty with with milk protein (whey, casein) specifically.  This means that they cannot drink lactose-free milk.  Lactose intolerance is a condition that normally shows up after 4 years of age, sometimes in people who were already sensitive to milk, sometimes in people who never had any issues.

Can people with dairy intolerance drink goat or sheep's milk?

Yes, some people can but others cannot. If you suspect that you or your child has trouble with cow's milk, I would recommend completely removing all milk products (including goat or sheep milk), then in a month or two, you can experiment with a little goat or sheep's milk cheese and see how it goes.

Is ghee a dairy product?/Can someone with dairy intolerance eat ghee?

For those of you who don't know what ghee is, it is basically clarified butter and is very common in Indian food. So yes, ghee is made from cow's milk. However, some people with dairy intolerance find that they can tolerate ghee. Similarly to what I wrote above about goat milk, I would recommend cutting all dairy out initially, wait at least a month, and then try a small amount of ghee to see how well it is tolerated.

Check out these blog posts for the answers to other common questions:

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