I know that I am not alone in having a child who cannot have dairy. I therefore also must not be alone in finding it an absolute nightmare at times. Constantly having to check packets, apologising profusely at parties for being a pest, or hovering anxiously in case they decide to lunge for some random bit of bread.
We had got to the point where Katie could tolerate small amounts of dairy providing it had been cooked. We were basically in the same position with soya. But after a couple of bad episodes, her consultant has asked that we cut out all forms of dairy and soya for six weeks.
Whilst we’ve been here before, last time Katie’s diet was this restrictive she wasn’t even walking. We’re now back to monitoring every single thing that she’s eating. With the added problem that she’s fed at home, school, and by all kinds of people at after-school club. It is a huge co-ordinated effort that involves me trusting those people to really monitor her!
Over the last few weeks I’ve had to really think about how to substitute all those things she had come to enjoy. What’s the best substitute for pasta and cheese? Can we make pizza? Are there any crisps that are dairy-free? What’s the best bread that isn’t also like eating cardboard?
I’m slowly gaining answers to all of these questions so thought I would share:
Whilst there are all kinds of bread available in the ‘free-from’ section, the consensus in this household is that they all taste… well… horrible. They tend to be dry, a slightly odd texture, and are only really acceptable toasted with a heap of butter. A good sandwich they do not make.
However – The Prince of Wales has saved the day! Duchy bread (stocked by Waitrose) is actually perfect. Not dairy or soya in the Wholemeal version and it’s very tasty. Katie has always eaten brown bread and would actually had seeded if given the choice. In my head kids are meant to only eat white bread without the crusts on. But then Katie has always been a bit contrary!
My Mum has also been a star and has often just baked us bread. once you start reading packets you realise how many additives our day-to-day foods have. This can really put you off and the effort of cooking from scratch suddenly seems a bit more worth it!
But our other discovery is Bagels. There’s no dairy and both kids would happily chew on them plain all day long! Happily they’re often on offer too.
Pasta and Pizza
My friend Francesca gave me some great ideas for pasta and I now have a couple of tubs of a plain tomato sauce in the fridge. I was originally imaging squirting ketchup over her pasta so this is a much more responsible, and sensible idea! The supermarket always seems to have a deal on these things and it’s our go-to lunch for weekends. Katie has still consumed it with her usual gusto so happy days.
I remember trying various lacto-free cheeses before we had worked out that Katie was actually allergic to cow’s protein rather than being lactose intolerant. I also remember coming to the conclusion that I didn’t want to try them again.
I’ve therefore been really surprised to discover that vegan cheese is actually edible. I found some in Waitrose called ‘violife‘ which was just next to the normal cheeses. It melts nicely on pizzas and Katie has been happy to dump it over her pasta as well.
It’s sell-by-date is a little worrying in that it appears to last for over a year. But the up side is that we’ve been able to stock up loads of the stuff as it’s been on special offer!
Crisps and other rogue foods
On the whole, crisps are fine – but weirdly pom bears are off limits. It turns out they are mostly made of soya.
Apparently (according to the dietician at the hospital), loads of kids who can’t tolerate cow’s protein also have problems with soya. Katie has a problem with cow, sheep, and goat protein so it’s not surprising she’s not great with soya either.
I have no idea why those little bears have to possess soya given they’re potato crisps, but they do. They also seem to wander in to every child’s birthday party on the circuit. Katie also loves them. Which is a problem.
It’s a problem because as a parent I have to be vigilant about this stuff all the time. I have to remember to tell EVERYONE about her dietary needs. I have to specify – ‘yes, and those stupid bear crisps!’ – because if I haven’t meticulously listed everything she can’t have, crisps seem utterly harmless.
But once you start reading labels like a crazy lady you discover all kinds of things. Like some companies actually put milk in ham. Which is gross anyway.
Prepping like a boss
To coin a Joe Wicks phrase, the easiest thing to do is to prepare food well in advance. Taking more advice from my friend Francesca, I’ve started batch baking and freezing little fairy-cakes. These can then be whisked out and sent to parties/playdates etc. to be given as a substitute. ‘Pure’ sunflower or olive spread actually makes an excellent sponge and ensures that Kate’s not missing out.
My final top tip is to stock up on ‘moo-free’ chocolate bars. Moo-free is a great company as it also does advent calendars and Easter Eggs. But it’s also actually nice chocolate – it’s all for Katie of course!
Do you follow a dairy-free diet? Or do your kids? I’d love to hear some of your ideas and tips!