A few months ago I was in the middle of changing my little guy’s diaper and saw some specks of blood. This could have been a moment of panic but luckily I was pretty sure I knew what it was. Thanks to having a fellow mom friend who had gone through this same thing, I felt confident this was a sign of a dairy and/or soy intolerance. So I headed to the pediatrician, diaper in a ziplock bag (parenting is weird am I right?), to get my suspicions confirmed. And sure enough, the test came back positive for an intolerance. This meant as a nursing mama, I was going to need to cut dairy and soy from my own diet while our little guy’s system matured.
I was of course willing to do whatever I needed to, to make sure my little one was comfortable and began eliminating the culprits from my diet immediately. Our son began spitting up much less and the blood in the diapers stopped as well. This was great! But I found that being dairy and soy free was no easy task. Those ingredients (especially the soy) hide in SO many things! Shopping became a much more challenging task as I looked at every label trying to deem what was safe and what wasn’t.
A few months into my journey, I feel like I’ve become much more savvy about what I can and can’t eat and also have found a handful of solid staples that have been monumental in making this diet more manageable. Spoiler alert: some things just don’t have a good replacement and you just work around it or your taste buds adjust accordingly. If you’re just starting out, hopefully this list saves you some of the leg work of hunting for yummy alternatives!
Butter and Oils
This is a big one because it’s in so many recipes. Having a safe oil you can use and a good butter substitute will make cooking much simpler! Olive, avocado and canola oil are my go to oils. You want to mindful of anything that is just vegetable oil because it will often include soybean oil in that mix. There are a lot of dairy free butters but fewer that are also soy free if you need that as well.
My favorite is Earth Balance. The pink container is both dairy and soy free and is a GREAT substitute. I have used it for cooking, baking and just spread on toast and it works like a charm! It melts well, spreads easily and has a good butter flavor too. It is salted so if you’re using it in a recipe that calls for unsalted just keep that in mind.
Milk- the dairy free milk has been around for awhile so you may even already have a substitute that you like but almond and oat are my go to. Just be sure you buy the regular unsweetened and not a flavor if you’re planning to use it for cooking.
Yogurt- I was eating yogurt daily before going dairy free so having a substitute for this was important to me. It is also a food I like to feed my baby now that he eats solids! I love the Kite Hill brand for him because it has no added sugar and the consistency is very similar to dairy yogurt. I like to buy the Silk Almond Milk yogurts for myself in the Greek style. The SoDelicious coconut based yogurt is also very tasty but a much thinner consistency. It makes great smoothies!
Cheese- In general, cheese substitutes are not my favorite but sometimes you need it! The Violife shreds are by far my favorite in terms of how they melt. I have also used the Follow Your Heart sliced cheese. It is not the same as regular cheese but is a decent replacement for a sandwich. It actually tastes like cheese as opposed to just being cheese shaped like many of it’s competitors.
Other Dairy Subs- The Kite Hill Cream Cheese, Follow Your Heart Mayonnaise and SoDelicious Ice Cream products are my other go to substitutes. My absolute favorite dairy free treat has been these cashew milk ice cream bars- they will satisfy your sweet tooth for sure!
Favorite Soy Free Products
The soy can make life difficult because most things that are pre-packaged seem to have soy in some form. Yes, it encourages you to eat more fresh ingredients which is great! But sometimes you need or just want something besides meat and produce. It can feel like there isn’t a snack food available and any quick grab and go items now seem off limits. Even bread! Most commercially made breads aren’t safe in this department. Here are a few favorites I’ve found.
Dave’s Killer Bread- safe, delicious and healthy! Check your peanut butter for soybean oil and you can still enjoy a classic pb&j for lunch or avocado toast for breakfast.
Pretzel Thins- These are great for snacking or dipping in hummus (another soy free favorite) and MOST of the flavors are safe but double check the label!
Simple Mills- most things in this brand are safe (skip the cheddar crackers) and delicious! I like their boxed mixes for baked goods, their crackers and the mini chocolate chip cookies.
Enjoy Life- There products are very allergen friendly and a go to if I need to bake! They supplied all my chocolate needs for Christmas baking. I also love their baked oatmeal bars for an on the go breakfast.
RX Bars- Simple ingredient list makes these a great, easy option for on the go.
Cereal- Most cereal I have found to be safe and this was so helpful to discover! It meant an easy breakfast option and I love a “sugar cereal” for dessert or after dinner treat!
Coconut Aminos- This can replace soy sauce which is helpful if you’re craving a stir fry, fried rice etc. I also found that a lot of my meat marinades needed soy sauce so it was very helpful to have this on hand!
ALSO! Keep an eye out for casein on any product labels – it’s a protein that makes up 80% of the proteins in milk. It’s snuck into “dairy free” products all the time, and while it doesn’t affect most tummies, it can still upset any particularly sensitive tummies.
You Can Do This Mama!
Rest assured that while it feels like you’ll never enjoy all the yummy things again, you will! And in the meantime there is actually a lot more available to you then you think. All of the products above are available at my local grocery store and I’m sure there are a ton of other yummy alternatives I could still discover. So read the labels, focus on what you CAN have, and just take it one meal at a time!