Cows' milk, cheese and other dairy foods are off the menu for many people. Vegans, for example, avoid all foods made from animal products. Other people have difficulty in digesting lactose, a naturally occurring sugar in all animal milks, including human milk. Still other people are intolerant or allergic to cows' milk and other types of milk.
Challenges for a Dairy free dietEdit
Milk from animals including cows, goats, sheep and humans all contain lactose.
Baking: Dairy-free spreads and coconut oil both make good cakes and pastry although the flavour is not as good as with butter. However, check ingredients carefully as many 'dairy-free' spreads contain lactose, whey or casein.
You can experiment with all sorts of baking recipes. If a recipe calls for yoghurt or milk, substitute it with a soya or rice yoghurt - the texture of the cake will be slightly heavier and more fudgy.
Custards and cream desserts: Use any of the alternative 'milks' to make up your standard recipes. Unless you're using the thinner rice milk the texture will be very similar. If you don't like the slightly different taste increase the amount of flavouring (chocolate, lemon, etc).
Frying: Use olive oil or vegetable oil (approximately two tablespoons is equal to 25g butter) for frying and sautéeing. You may miss the browning and the caramelised taste that you would have from frying in butter, so adding a little extra sugar or honey may help.
Serving: Substitute a little olive, pumpkin seed or nut oil if you usually serve your vegetables with butter. Dairy-free spreads are good on toast.
Dairy free ingredients and substitutionsEdit
Dairy-free 'milks' are widely available. Here's a selection of what you'll find and how to cook with them.
Coconut 'milk' and oil/butter: coconut milk is available tinned and is an excellent alternative to cows' milk for most cooked dishes provided you like its quite strong coconut flavour. Coconut oil, mainly available online, is an excellent alternative to butter for baking as the coconut flavour is less pronounced. It can also be used as a spread.
Oat 'milk': Available long-life; slightly porridge-like flavour but not unpleasant. Excellent for cereals and savoury dishes, but quite strongly flavoured for desserts.
Rice 'milk': easily available long-life; thinner and sweeter than cows' milk. Excellent for desserts, sweet drinks, etc (rice milk 'ice cream' is now commercially available), but not as good in savoury dishes.
Soya cheese: soya cream cheeses can be used in place of cows' milk cream cheeses and taste similar. The quality of hard soya cheese is improving, but don't expect it to taste exactly like mature cheddar.
Soya cream and ice cream: soya cream is a good substitute for single cream; if well chilled it will whip a bit. Good commercially made soya ice cream is widely available.
Soya 'milk': widely available and in many flavours, both fresh and long-life. Most are a good substitute for cows' milk. They cook very similarly, but may occasionally curdle when added to hot tea or coffee.
Nutrition for a Dairy free dietEdit
Many dairy substitute products are fortified with calcium, and green leafy vegetables can be a good source. A dairy-free diet may need supplemental calcium, especially for children, teenage girls and pregnant women. Be sure to discuss this with your doctor. Naturally occuring calcium souvres are prefered for men; who should take care of calcium supplements in foods, as this can lead to the formation of kidney stones.