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Having a toddler or kid with a milk allergy or lactose intolerance can change the way your kitchen looks and functions, as well as what it holds. It involves buying everything with detailed scanning of labels and cooking dairy-free recipes with a lot of precaution. You also have to use and store stuff in a way that ensures nothing gets mixed, even accidentally.
Many people, kids, and adults are allergic to different food types like dairy, nuts, eggs, fish, etc. Symptoms of an allergy can be mild (rash, itching, or swelling) or severe (wheezing and breathing difficulty). Unfortunately, there has been no treatment for food allergies until now, and the only cure is prevention.
Dealing with food allergies at home requires a lot of work and effort. You need to make sure that your kid does not accidentally consume food that can trigger an allergic reaction, and also work extra to figure out the right meal ideas to cover the nutrients that get missed in avoiding the food to which your child is allergic.
What is milk allergy?
Cow milk allergies are an immune system reaction to natural proteins present in milk. The results are either mild or severe allergic reactions hence called cow milk protein allergy (CMPA). It happens when the body’s immune system reacts to milk proteins and releases antibodies that cause allergic symptoms. Some people face minor symptoms, while in others, these can life-threatening.
An allergic reaction to cow’s milk is the most common allergy found in kids and infants, with almost 2.5% of kids under the age of 3 being allergic to dairy and dairy products.
The severity of symptoms of milk allergy in babies and toddlers can be different for different kids. It can depend on various factors like the amount of allergen consumed or the intensity of reaction from the immune system. The only way to deal with dairy allergies is to avoid dairy consumption in all forms.
Some of the common symptoms of allergic reactions can be:
- Skin irritation
- Redness or rash
- Stomach related symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, or stomach cramps
- Swelling of the throat that may lead to suffocation
Milk allergy is generally diagnosed in young toddlers, and at times, in infants too. While many kids outgrow the allergy as they grow, many have to live it with for the rest of their lives and watch everything that goes in their mouth.
Milk allergy vs. lactose intolerance
Milk allergy in kids is often confused and mistaken as lactose intolerance. However, these 2 conditions are very different and should not be confused with one another. Dairy allergy, as discussed above, is an immune system reaction to milk proteins and can be deadly in some cases.
Lactose intolerance, on the other hand, has nothing to do with proteins or the immune system. Instead, lactose intolerance is when the body’s digestive system does not have enzymes to digest sugar present in milk called lactose. This makes the work of the digestive system difficult, thus causing the condition better known as lactose intolerance, symptoms of which are gas, nausea, bloating, stomach ache, and at times diarrhea.
Substitutes for dairy products
When it comes to allergies and intolerance, prevention is the only cure. If your child is diagnosed with a milk allergy or lactose intolerance, you will have to remove all traces of dairy from every meal. This also means all the nutritional benefits coming from milk and milk products will have to come from other sources. Simple tweaks and replacements in the pantry list can help you deal with it.
Here’s a list of simple replacements you can incorporate in the everyday meals:
- Milk-Fortified soy milk, oat milk, almond, or any other plant-based milk make good milk alternatives for toddlers and other kids.
- Butter-Olive oil, vegetable-based margarine or shortening, plant-based oils like coconut oil, avocado oil, peanut butter are good non-dairy fat sources.
- Yogurt-soy yogurt, dairy-free yogurt
- Cheese-vegan cheese
Dairy-free recipes you should introduce to your family
Cooking for a kid with a food allergy or sensitivities is a real challenge. Some noteworthy points to keep in mind while meal planning and cooking for allergic and lactose intolerant kids include:
- Dairy is the primary source of essential nutrients in a child’s meal. It provides calcium, protein, fat, and vitamins A and B, etc. So you have to make sure to replace dairy with substitutes that also tick off these nutrition boxes.
- Most of the recipes here are effortless and dairy-free versions of our favorite recipes that kids love. As kids usually prefer food with more straightforward and uncomplicated flavors and textures, these meals have fewer ingredients and some tweaks to make it kid-palate friendly.
- Most of the recipes can be made ahead in a bigger batch and stored in the freezer to use later.
- Some of the meals include ingredients that may consist of food allergens from other food categories like soy, nuts, or seafood like prawns. If you or your child has an allergy to any of these food categories, remove it or replace it faccordingly.
- Switching to non-dairy products generally needs some effort from the kid’s side too. Dairy substitutes have a different taste, and although it is not unpleasant, it needs some time to get used to the taste. If your baby/toddler is used to the taste of milk, cheese, or yogurt, it will take some time to get familiar with the new taste and texture.
- To help with that, most of the dairy-free recipes come with a flavor (like fruit, berries, or nuts) that you can change and adjust to your child’s liking and preferences to make the transition smoother and tastier.
So here are some dairy-free recipes for kids to make this challenge a little easier for you.