Intolerance Lab

Dairy-free kids, how to manage this

Dairy-free kids, how to manage this

Your child has been diagnosed with a dairy intolerance. Nowyou’re left wondering how to feed them in a way that ensures their dietary and nutritional needs are met. When you have to consider food intolerances and dietary preferences, aka fussy eating, it can feel daunting and confusing. Our aim today is to simplify dairy free eating for the little ones in your life, by offering you alternatives to the most common dairy foods today and some delicious recipes to try.

Firstly though, as adults, we often mistakenly think that dairy is the best and only source of calcium. Whilst it’s true that calcium is essential for children’s healthy development, the best and most absorbable sources of it do not come from dairy.Let’s all breathe a collective sigh of relief!

Non-dairy Calcium sources:

It turns out, one of the BEST sources of calcium is sesame seeds. These humble little seeds make a paste called tahini, which is an excellent alternative to peanut butter. Tahini can be used in many ways, for example; on toast as a spread, in smoothies as a flavour and nutritional enhancer, in cookies and baking, in sauces and marinades and a whole lot more.

Another fantastic source of calcium is green vegetables, particularly organic or biodynamic, where the soil is more nutrient-rich. Kale, Spinach, broccoli and cabbage are exceptionally high in calcium. If you have trouble getting your kids to eat greens, you can put them into the humble green smoothie, or blend them into a pasta sauce or muffin mix.

Canned sardines and salmon are also excellent sources of the bone-building nutrient calcium. Most kids love a good tuna pasta, and you can make some excellent varieties with vegan cheese alternatives and canned fish. 

Nuts and seeds are another calcium hero. Almonds and chia seeds in particular. Almonds can be made into delicious almond butter, used as a spread, in smoothies, or to make almond milk. They can also be eaten as they are. Chia seeds make a delicious ‘chia pudding’. They are also great for baking, putting into smoothies or sprinkling on cereal/porridge.

Moving on from the best calcium sources, let’s take a look at replacements for some traditional dairy foods! An excellent place to find these replacements is your local health food stores, and also the health food aisle of most supermarkets today.

Yoghurt – this is often a child’s favourite food, or close to it. These days you can find many dairy-free yoghurt alternatives. Coconut yoghurt is a great one to start with. There are a large number of varieties, so make sure that you don’t stop at the first one if you get a ‘yuck’. If you end up with a collection in your fridge, they are great in smoothies, or in any recipes that call for yoghurt (such as yoghurt cakes). 

Cheese – Savoury yeast flakes are a good alternative for making things like cheese sauce, and mac’n’cheese style dishes. You can also buy vegan based cheeses that are completely dairy-free.

Butter – this is a funny one. Many people who are dairy intolerant, can tolerate butter, or clarified butter which is called ghee. If this isn’t the case for your child, you can use any non-dairy based spread instead. Avocado makes a lovely natural butter alternative on bread if you prefer.

Ice Cream – dairy-free ice creams have come a long way! There are some delicious vegan ice cream varieties available. They are usually made with coconut milk, but also come made with things like almond or soy. Make sure that you check the ingredients to make sure the one you choose is entirely dairy-free, as some are mixed. 

Cream – the best cream alternative is coconut cream, which can be whipped just like regular cream. You can also find soy cream and other options at health food stores. 

Milk – there are many milk alternatives available these days, and if your keen you can also make them yourself at home quite easily. In your local supermarket, you can probably find oat milk, rice milk, almond milk, coconut milk, macadamia milk, soy milk and mixtures of all of these. This will be a trial and error process, as each child/person likes different things. If you get some of these milks and they are in the ‘don’t like’ pile, you can use them up in baking and cooking just as you would regular milk.

On the whole, you will be pleasantly surprised to find dairy-free alternatives to most dairy items available. Whilst you are at your health food store picking up these items, have a look in the cookie aisle. There are brands of cookies and snacks that are specifically dairy-free, and there will also be many vegan options to choose from. Vegan foods have no dairy and no animal products whatsoever.

Now for our selection of dairy-free, delicious and child approved recipes:

In summary, this article looks at how to manage dairy-free kids. It can feel daunting when anyone in your family gets a food intolerance diagnosis, let alone a fussy toddler or child. Often the main worry for parents of a dairy-free child is wondering how the child will get their calcium needs met. We give you the top non-dairy calcium sources, and let you in on a little secret. Dairy isn’t the best source of calcium! Thank goodness.

Moving on from calcium, you will learn all about replacement foods for traditional dairy such as milk, yoghurt and cheese. There are plenty of alternatives available today, and whilst you may have some teething issues with new flavours and different products, you are sure to find something to suit your child and family.

Lastly, we offer you a selection of delicious dairy-free recipes specifically for kids. We hope you find not only useful advice here but a source of inspiration too.

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