I hear you. My son is dairy allergic. We're "lucky" in a way that the South Indian food we normally cook at home doesn't contain dairy by default, except in the form of ghee (easy to replace with oil) and yogurt (which is served by itself to the side). So that part didn't require much adjustment.
But oh I hear you on trying to avoid it in anything processed! 90% of breads at the grocery store contain milk proteins. At least 70% of cereals. Try finding even a dark chocolate bar that doesn't have it, outside a health food store. Some orange juice on the market might be a valuable source of calcium for the kid, except that it also contains an additive called sodium lactylate, which by the name might be derived from milk, and nobody can tell you it's not! When you find out that the "soy" cheese they sell at the supermarket contains casein, too, that's about the point at which you'd give up and bang your head against the wall if it wasn't your son's health at stake. I'm expecting to find superfluous added dairy in our favorite hummus just about any day now. (Rolling eyes here, but still. I wouldn't really be shocked.)
Here's a few sanity-savers I've picked up along the way. (Our son is now six.)
Look for kosher symbols, which are normally found on the front of the package somewhere (if present).
A stylized "U" or "K" without a small "D" alongside it always means no dairy of any kind. The same is true if you see the word "pareve". It's a good shortcut to label-reading sometimes. (Note that the presence of a "D" doesn't automatically mean the thing contains milk. Occasionally the ingredient list is fine, and I'm guessing the food just wasn't certified to be dairy-free for some other reason, so they have to include it. But lack of a "D" always means it's ok.)
Along similar lines, try rye or pumpernickel bread. I've yet to find a single brand with added dairy.
For cereal, the Nature's Path brand has a few dairy-free options that are pretty reasonable nutritionally. There's some others, too. For the most part, though, the "healthier" cereals almost universally contain added dairy, while stuff along the range of Cheerios to Corn Flakes to Fruit Loops usually does not. Go figure. Oh well. I love my little bowl of cereal in the morning, but it's honestly no great loss otherwise. It is possible to make your own granola, if that's something that interests you. Same with trail bars, another type of snack food that can be problematic.
They have some really nice soy, almond, rice and coconut based yogurts these days, but for the most part you need to go to a healthfood store to find them. (Unlike the "milk", which you can find everywhere.)
For restaurants, by far the easiest way to handle it is just to eat at places that wouldn't be using milk products anyway. Most this means East Asian cuisine. Chinese, Japanese, Thai --- they don't use milk anyway, so you never have to worry. If you have any near you, restaurants that cater specifically to vegan/vegetarian people can also be easy: though vegetarian options there could have milk, they'd be very used to keeping it away from people who prefer not to have it. But mostly we just stick to the Asian stuff.
And it probably goes without saying, but the more whole foods you can work into your diet, the less annoying it all becomes, because then you don't even have to worry about labels.
Edit: Oh yeah, and I second/third/whatever what's been said about vegan recipes (plenty of sites online), because there are some amazing foods within that universe and none of them has any milk. And also paleo might be worth a try, for meat-containing recipes, because I think milk is not included or at least is not focused on in that way of eating either.
Edited by: RENATARUNS at: 11/19/2013 (09:21)
Height 5'8 1/2"
5K 4/21/11: 31:55
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