Allergy Shmallergy

Simplifying life for families with food allergies.

Dairy-Free Substitutes April 30, 2012

A few friends of mine recently found out they were lactose intolerant and others have discovered their children are allergic to dairy.  In response, I sent them my dairy-free cheat sheet so they could eat without problems.

 

If you find yourself in the same position or know someone who is, here’s a list of some dairy-free substitutes to help you out:

 

Margarine (also use for baking, etc):  

Earth’s Balance Buttery Spread (or Sticks) or

Smart Balance Organic (the vegan kind seen here:  

Both taste exactly the same as margarine and work well in baked goods.

 

Ice Cream:

We sub sorbet for ice cream as it is nearly always milk-free.  We buy either Haagen Dazs or Ben and Jerry’s variety, although there are probably others that work.  There are also many places to find sorbet (restaurants, ice cream shops, etc) in our area and elsewhere (see  https://shmallergy.wordpress.com/tag/sorbet/).

 

Cream Cheese:  

Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese (tastes almost exactly like regular cream cheese).  Tofutti also makes dairy-free sour cream which mimics regular sour cream and dairy-free cheese pizza (found in the frozen food section).

 
 

Chocolate Chips:  

A great way to satisfy that chocolate craving is with Chocolate Dream chocolate chips which are dairy-free.  So are Guittard Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips.

 

Frosting:

Pillsbury’s Cream Supreme frosting is amazingly dairy-free.  So, if you’re not interested in making it from scratch, here’s a great off-the-shelf option.

 

There are a few things that are surprisingly dairy-free “naturally” (using that VERY loosely), like Oreos (all sugar! no milk!) and Nabisco Sugar Wafers.  You may be surprised at what contains and doesn’t contain milk, so I would start reading the backs of everything without assumptions!

 

Best of all, I have found all of the above products in our local Safeway, Giant and Whole Foods!  Convenient and dairy-free!

 

Now here’s where you help me:  We’ve tried tons of soy yogurts but still haven’t found one that tastes similar to its dairy counterpart.  Let me know if you all come across one!  Also, looking for a decent tasting dairy-free cheese.  Would love to hear if anyone has had any luck with that?

 
 
 
 
 
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Food Allergies and Food Labels: What You Need to Know January 31, 2012

If you or someone you know has just been diagnosed with a food allergy, navigating the supermarket has probably begun to feel like learning a foreign language.  But, learning to read food labels isn’t so bad, as long as you understand what you’re looking for.  So, grab your reading glasses:  let’s get started!

 

1.  Since 2006, it has been much easier for those with food allergies to avoid their trigger allergens thanks in part to the FDA’s Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act.  That Act requires companies to label for the top 8 allergens, which are:  milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soybean.

 

2.  The above Act requires companies to label not only for the top 8 allergens but any ingredients made with proteins derived from those allergens.

 

3.  This law gives manufacturers a choice of how they can label the food source allergen.  They can either:

a.  List the allergen in the ingredient list, such as “whey (milk), lecithin (soy), flour (wheat)….”; or

b.  Use a “Contains” statement, for example “Contains tree nuts, eggs and shellfish.”

So when reading a label, I first look for a “Contains” statement.  If you spot your allergen, stop and put back the item – there’s no point in reading further.  If you there’s no “Contains” statement, you will need to go on to carefully read the ingredients list.  I often read it twice.

 

4.  If, like us, you need to avoid a protein outside of the top 8 allergens, you need to be extra diligent when reading labels.  For us, sesame seeds falls outside of the top 8 allergens.  So, we have learned other names for sesame seeds in labeling, such as “tahini” (which is sesame paste and found in hummus).  And when we read labels we again begin with the “Contains” statement to rule out any of my son’s other multiple food allergies.  Next, we move on to the ingredients list and scour the list (twice) for other allergens that we need to avoid.

 

5.  As the FDA itself points out, “Contains” and “May contain” have two very different meanings…. with possibly the same outcome.

Manufacturers are required to identify the top 8 allergens in either the ingredients list or “Contains” statement as described above.  But, a manufacturer might use the same equipment to produce two different products, upping the potential for cross-contamination of ingredients.  In that case, if the manufacturer feels there is a chance an allergen may be present in their product, they can voluntarily put a “May Contains” statement on the label.  You may be reading a soy milk label which states, “May contain tree nuts”  since it was produced on the same lines as the company’s almond milk.  Speak to your allergist about “May Contain” statements and what they mean for your particular allergy.

 

6.  Manufacturers change their ingredients and production methods all the time and without warning.  So, it’s important to read the labels every time you purchase an item.  And, yes, this gets tedious. But, if you read my post about Silk Soy Milk, you’ll see it happens all the time.

 

7.  Save your grocery receipts for a little bit.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read the ingredients list at the store (while also minding the kids or the time) and gotten home only to notice an ingredient or a “May Contain” statement that doesn’t gel with our food allergies.

 

8.  Now that you have your labeling skills honed and your groceries packed, you may wish to consider sorting the safe and unsafe foods at home using a labeling system.  By labeling your food at home, you’ll cut down a little on how many times you re-read an ingredients list while keeping everyone at home safe!

 

Look What I Found at the Market: Dare Foods – Peanut-free and Progressive! January 11, 2012

I am forever on the look-out for a Marshmallow cookie that is not only nut but also dairy-free.  I grabbed every box in the aisle and while I didn’t find a milk-free Mallomar, I stumbled upon these cookies.

 

As it turns out: Dare cookies, as well as many of their other products (such as crackers, etc) are made in a peanut-free facility. Yay!  And, they seem to label for, or the potential cross contamination of, sesame seeds and sulphites (which is not required by U.S. law – Thank you, Dare Foods!).

 
 

I plan to familiarize myself with their family of products.  Taking peanuts out of the picture?  Well, that’s certainly one less thing for us to think about!

 
 

http://www.darefoods.com

Chocolate Chip

 

Grocery Update and General Reminders January 14, 2011

I’ve just been alerted that Silk Soy Milk has begun adding a disclaimer noting that their milk “May contain Almond and Coconut.”   Well, isn’t that special.

 

Don’t freak out!  If you’ve given your child Silk and he/she hasn’t reacted, everything is still okay.

 

Moving forward, there’s no need to despair either!  There are many brands which are widely available that don’t contain tree nuts.  Store bought brands are usually a safe bet.  And my allergist’s nurse recommended Costco’s brand Kirkland, noting that it’s delicious and creamy like regular milk (apparently, Silk has a kind of gritty texture to it).  Kirkland comes in Vanilla flavor for those who prefer it.

 

***This serves as a great reminder that we should regularly review the ingredient list of even our go-to safe foods BEFORE we put it in our carts.  Also, remember to register with FAAN to get allergy recall updates via email.***

http://www.foodallergy.org/section/alerts