Replacing Dairy in your food
There are an increasing number of milk alternatives on the market. Be choosey. Do your research. Read the ingredients. Many will be full of sugar, or other additives. I always try to buy organic and definitely non GMO. It's worth paying a bit more for your health.
Soy milk can be substituted for cow’s milk in most baking recipes that call for milk. It can be found fresh in the cold milk section of the supermarket. There are also a range of soy milks in long life tetra packs. PLEASE, buy organic soy milk that specifically states it does not use genetically modified soy beans. Also beware of the sugar content of the fresh soy milk. I've found the sugar content of long life milk to be much less. I'm not going to use this platform to scare you about the dangers of soy milk, but encourage you do do your research. Briefly, please be aware that many studies suggest that young children should not consume large amounts of soy and that soy based infant formula should be avoided. There is also a body of evidence to show that soy can mess with your absorption of lots of good nutrients, so I recommend not using soy as your only milk-replacing product. Mix it up- use other alternatives as well.
You can find this in the fresh milk section of the supermarket and you can use it to replace dairy milk in any recipe. It has a much stronger flavour than milk and is not to everyone's taste, but worth checking out.
This is a fabulous alternative but one of the most expensive alternatives if you buy it. But it's a great alternative if you buy a brand with no refined sugar. You will find it in the long life milk section of the supermarket. Almonds are a great natural source of calcium and high in protein. You can make your own almond milk, which is MUCH cheaper. Click here for a great step-by-step explanation of how.
Rice milk has a thinner consistency than soy or almond and is less like 'real milk' than the other alternatives. It is also from a carbohydrate source, rather than a protein source, if this concerns you. Some kids prefer the taste of rice milk to soy, and it is a relatively cheap alternative. You can also make your own if you have a high speed blender, using rice grains and water.
This is another great alternative, offering a rich, creamy flavour. Again, it comes in long-life Tetra packs and it's about the equivalent price of rice milk. Just check for gluten content if this is applicable to you.
This generally comes in cans, or if you have plenty of time on your hands you can make it yourself from fresh or dessicated coconut. I find it a great alternative in baking (cakes, muffins etc) when milk is called for. Most people will find it too rich for topping cereal, but some people like in in coffee or hot chocolate. Just beware, as always, of additives. There are some brands, like AYAM, with no additives or fillers. The more expensive brands tend to have a much higher percentage of coconut, and less water added. My research to date tells me that the only canned coconut milk available in Australia with a totally BPA free lining is the Honest to Goodness brand.
A thicker version of coconut milk- usually because it has a higher coconut content. It shouldn't have water added- if it does, it's probably been thickened with flours and gums. I use it to replace regular cream in many recipes, including custard and cakes, and if you leave it in the fridge, it will also whip up nicely as a topping- like whipped dairy cream. It's brilliant in curries, or even savoury dishes that would normally use cream- such as a butter chicken or stroganoff.
HELPING KIDS MAKE THE SWITCH
When switching children from drinking cow’s milk to a non-dairy milk, try gradually mixing in the new with the old. Start with about one fifth of the new milk in with the old milk for a few days, then add another fifth and continue until after a few weeks they’ve switched over without noticing.
Tip: If you have a recipe that calls for buttermilk, try replacing it with the following ratios: 1 cup non-dairy milk to 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar or lemon juice. Rest in the fridge for 5 minutes before using.
Goat’s and sheep’s fetta are a lovely replacement for cow’s fetta. Bulgarian fetta seems to be commonly available in supermarkets now, and this is a sheep's cheese. I buy my sheep fetta in large tubs as it's cheaper, then marinate it in olive oil to make it last longer...see my recipe here. Hard sheep’s cheese such as Manchego or sheep peccorino make a great replacement for Parmesan (try looking in delis or good fruit and vegetable shops for both of these). Soft goat cheese is lovely spread on bread with some salad, or on crackers with dried fruit such as figs (which are also high in calcium). Some people like soy cheese alternatives but I personally avoid them like the plague!
REPLACING ICE CREAM
Soy ice cream and dairy/gluten-free sorbets are available in supermarkets but should be consumed sparingly as they are generally full of sugar. In my area I can only buy vanilla and chocolate soy ice cream so sometimes I let it go soft, stir in my own 'mix-ins' and refreeze. Check out my favourite here. It works well! I also have recipes for a couple of dairy free home made versions in my book.
If you have a yogurt maker, you can make your own goat’s milk or soy yogurt. Sheep’s and goat’s yogurt is available from many health food or organic food stores. Soy milk yoghurt is also available in most supermarkets. I'd advise great moderation for soy yoghurt, though, for reasons mentioned above in Soy Milk, as well as it being fairly high in sugar. You can also buy Coconut Yoghurt in some stores, or make your own really easily using this recipe.
Dairy-free ‘margarine style’ spreads (such as Nutelex) can replace margarine or butter in baking. However, the hydrogenation process that the vegetable oil in margarine is subjected to turns the fat molecules into Trans Fatty Acids (TFA’s). Evidence of the health dangers of TFA’s have prompted some countries to make moves to eradicate TFA-containing products from supermarket shelves. Basically, margarine is a chemical cocktail that I tend to avoid....I advise using these spreads with caution and sparsely.
I have found that coconut oil can replace butter in most baked goods. I often pan-fry with coconut oil. I use it for stir fries, curries, omlettes, frying eggs, making pancakes and crepes, shallow frying crumbed chicken and fish, and you can even deep fry with it. Coconut oil is one of the only oils that does not change molecular structure when heated, therefore not going 'rancid' or turn to Trans Fatty Acids. Check out this helpful article which helps explain the benefits of coconut oil.
Ghee (or clarified butter, found near butter in the supermarket) contains virtually no milk protein or lactose and can therefore often be tolerated by people who can't tolerate butter. It's great for cooking with, not so much for spreading on toast!
Tip: Home made garlic bread is great just with olive oil rather than butter.
Many supermarkets have decent dairy- and sugar-free chocolate (decent after you’ve been off sugar for a while!). Dark chocolate with a cocoa content of around 70% tends to have no milk solids and not as much sugar. You will be amazed at how quickly your taste buds adapt to the richer flavour of dark chocolate – the super-sweet, dairy-filled alternative may no longer appeal. I always try to buy Fair Trade Chocolate as I'm not ok with the thought of my chocolate or cocoa being harvested by people working under atrocious conditions, sometimes as slaves. I usually wait till it's on sale and buy up big. Aldi also does the cheapest Fair Trade dark chocolate you can buy from a supermarket in Australia. I use it in cooking but I don't particularly enjoy it plain. Loving Earth make some beautiful raw, fair trade, naturally sweetened (ie. refined sugar FREE) chocolate which I love. For a book full of dairy free (and refined sugar free) chocolate recipes, look no further than here:
Non-Dairy calcium sources
The dairy industry has done a great job at convincing us we need '3 serves' of dairy a day to consume enough calcium. Little is said about all the other fabulous sources of calcium available to us all. Eat these regularly and you've got nothing to worry about!:
If you’re tempted to take calcium supplements, or consume “calcium enriched” products, please be careful. Many come from dolomite or rock sources and cannot be utilised by the body. The best source of calcium comes from natural sources.
Still worried about your calcium intake?
A review on dairy products and bone health (Lanou et al., Pediatrics 2005) found little evidence to support that children and young adults should rely on dairy for bone health. They found the most critical factor for maintaining bone strength is physical exercise, followed by improving diet and lifestyle (specifically eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, and reducing caffeine and alcohol, which have been shown to reduce calcium absorption). It is also important to have enough vitamin D in the diet, as this is required for calcium absorption. The most natural way to get this is from appropriate exposure to the sun.
If you've found this helpful, or still have lots of questions, you might be interested in my Friendly Food Coaching Service. Personalised information to help you get on track with cooking and eating the way that YOU want to, to accommodate your lifestyle and achieve optimum health! Click here for more info!