Milk: when it doesn’t do a body good
However, for a large percentage of people, an inability to properly digest lactose keeps them from ingesting products that are made from or with dairy. Lactose intolerance symptoms include nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea. On the other hand, a dairy allergy can cause a host of other symptoms, including hives, eczema, wheezing, coughing and anaphylaxis.
“The most common mistakes are accidental contamination,” said Marisa Voorhees, The Food-Sensitive Foodie and a holistic health coach. “The biggest assumption is that if there aren’t any dairy ingredients in the food product, then it is OK. But often times, restaurants and cafeterias will take a dairy-free product and mix it in the same bowl that was just vacated by a dairy-filled ingredient. Thus, the leftover dairy bits get mixed in with the ‘dairy-free’ version and it’s no longer dairy-free.”
College student Madeline-Camille – also known as “Chef Froggie” – said cross-contamination was the primary issue for her when she was dealing with finding food options in a college environment.
“The school I was at for my freshman year was awesome, but the cafeteria, I hated,” said Madeline-Camille, who is the author of the Gluten Free Froggie in the Kitchen, where she discusses her multiple food allergies and celiac disease. “Most of the staff was students working part-time. Some of them ‘got it’ because they also happened to be some of my really good friends, so I was able to sit down with them at other times of the day to explain things. [But] some of them just didn’t get it.
“I’d be in the line and ask, ‘What does not have any milk?’ and they would go back and ask, and there was frequently a breakdown in communication. I quickly learned I had to say ‘What doesn’t have any dairy, milk, cheese, butter, sour cream, etc?’ and even then, still mistakes were made.”
In addition to the obvious offenders, like milk, cheese, yogurt and butter, Voorhees said dairy likes to hide in a number of food items, including:
- Eggs: Often times, scrambled, skilleted, baked and fried eggs are made in butter, or a butter/oil mixture. If you order eggs, make sure to request they are made in oil only.
- Protein drinks and energy bars
- Sourdough bread: Lactic acid makes it sour.
- Fermented foods and beverages, such as sauerkraut, pickles, olives, kimchi, cider, beer, wine and cocoa (Read labels and look for lactic acid or lactobacillus.)
- Allergy medication: A number of them have lactose as a base in the pill.
- Probiotics: A number of them use bacterias made from dairy including L. casei and L. brevis.
Dairy also goes by a number of other names, including casein, lactate, whey, hydrolysates and villi.
Voorhees said lactic acid can also hide in common household products, like soap scum remover and other cleaning products. Hair and beauty items are also prone to containing milk or lactic acid because both ingredients are known as natural moisturizers.
As for finding safe food options in restaurants or even school cafeterias, Voorhees suggests sticking to whole ingredient foods, like chopped veggies, fresh meats and whole pieces of fruits.
“This way your meal can be made with a minimal number of processed ingredients and it will be easier to avoid your food allergen,” Voorhees said. “If the eatery uses a lot of prepackaged and/or frozen foods, more than likely the food has already been in contact with your food allergen.”
Voorhees also said eateries with more than one cooking surface or griddle are more likely to be able to make a meal in a clean, uncontaminated space.
“Seek out eateries that offer lists of ingredients with their meals,” Voorhees said. “If ingredients are not listed, do not be afraid to ask for them. If an eatery cannot provide you with a list of ingredients, then choose a different meal so you avoid accidental contamination because there was milk hiding in that pasta sauce.”
Steer clear of salad bars to avoid risk of cross-contamination: “The big container of cottage cheese is next to the tofu cubes and – whoops – someone just scooped their cottage cheese with your tofu spoon and then put it back in the tofu,” Voorhees said.
If you share a kitchen space with roommates or a dairy-eating significant other, Voorhees said it is important to keep utensils and cookware separate to avoid risk of cross-contamination.
Keep in mind, just because you have to be dairy-free doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy dairy alternatives. Munch on cereal with soy or almond milk, toss fresh berries in coconut milk yogurt and even dig in to dairy-free frozen desserts.
Caroline Shannon-Karasik is the upcoming author of a gluten-free healthy lifestyle book, set to be released in January 2014. She is the author of the popular gluten-free blog, sincerelycaroline.com and is currently training to become a certified health coach. Her writing and recipe development has been featured in several publications, including, VegNews, Kiwi and REDBOOK magazines. Caroline lives with her husband Dan and four adopted cats in Pittsburgh, Penn. Caroline can be reached at email@example.com.