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I have finally (!) convinced DH that maybe kids can survive without dairy products after all. My son has eczema that isn’t responding to anything, so DH has agreed that we will all go dairy-free for at least 2-3 weeks and see if the eczema improves at all. I am honestly expecting huge improvements for all of us since we are all prone to nasal congestion (which we have previously blamed on the poor air quality).

Anyway, to make this successful, I need some tips.

1) My son LOVES his milk. I cannot expect him to just go from 4-5 glasses of milk per day to only water. DH does not want to substitute soy for cow milk for my son because of the concerns about high soy consumption in males. So rice milk is the obvious choice. My son has tried it once or twice and didn’t seem too bothered, but should I mix it with cow milk in decreasing proportions and gradually eliminate the cow milk, or just do rice milk cold-turkey?

2) I have been kidding myself, thinking that I wasn’t too hooked on dairy since I never drink milk. Then I realized that in our meals, we are going through at least 2 lbs of cheese a week. How do I completely cut out cheese? I have tried almost all the milk alternatives, but have never tried cheese alternatives. Are there any good fake cheeses that don’t contain casein? (I want to do this right) Or am I better off just trying to go completely cheeseless altogether?

3) What do I do about cooking when recipes call for milk? This seems like it might be especially tough when baking, which I do A LOT of.

Any recipes are appreciated too (I’m also going to check out the recipes posted in our attic). I feel like I’m at a disadvantage because I don’t like Asian or middle-eastern foods generally, and it seems like those are the only vegan recipes I see.

THE RESPONSES:

  • If your son will drink the rice milk, I say just do it cold turkey. I would only phase it out if I was trying to adjust him to the taste.

Cutting out cheese is very difficult. I think cheese is as addicting as sugar in some respects. I have not found, to date, a reasonable tasting cheese alternative that DOES NOT have casein in it. We use almond-rella which does have casein in it but it does melt and can be substituted for cheese in all receipes I’ve tried so far. I don’t worry about the casein too much. If you are going to go casein free, I believe, your only option is vegan-rella which in my opinion tastes funky and doesn’t melt. I can tell you, however, that in the beginning regardless of how you do it, going without cheese is a transition – all cheese alternatives will taste funky at first and then you’ll begin to adjust to it.

I use soy milk in my baking and have only noticed that if it requires the milk to “stand” or “thicken” that I have to either add a little more flour or add some time to the cooking.

As for the recipes, try looking in some good vegan cookbooks.

  • We aren’t dairy-free. My son drinks some goat’s milk. He goes through 2 litres a week – mainly on breakfast cereal.

    I’d suggest going cold turkey with the drinking milk and substitute in rice milk. The best way to do it (from dh’s experience – he was a milkoholic before he got Crohns) is to keep it in the freezer so it’s icy cold and for some reason being really cold makes the mouth feel more like milk.

    As far as the cheese goes it’s kinda labour intensive but you can make fabulous vegan “cheese” yourself. Look for the book The Uncheese Cookbook. This book has great recipes – cheddar sauce for making mac and cheese, or over steamed veggies – this stuff even browns on thick pieces of toast under the broiler! I even made it with some beer for welsh rarebit once. Dh grew up in the suburbs and needs his old time comfort foods. 😉

    The problem with going completely cold turkey is if you use a dairy product like cheese as an anchor in a bunch of favorite recipes then you will really crave it because you have lost a bunch of your standby dishes. That is hard and it’s when substitutes come in handy. If you just “eat” cheese (I am addicted to Norwegian Brown Cheese as an example) it’s easier to stop and just not have it in the house, because no substitute in the world will taste right to you, you can’t make a vegan version of a nice firm goats milk whey cheese – can’t be done!

    Replacing milk in recipes is easy – use water, or ricemilk. In baking your product will be a bit stiffer than with milk but thats all, and you can remedy that by adding a tiny bit more oil.

  • The only thing I’ve found so far that doesn’t work with rice milk is a white sauce (flour, milk and butter). Otherwise in cooking, rice milk works wonderfully. As for cheese, I would just look in the fridge and say, “oh, I’m sorry – we don’t have any”. Once you decide if it is dairy then you can talk to him about cheese. The substitues all suck. IMO. I am usually dairy free (cheese sucks me in sometimes, I’m recovering right now from a cheese binge) and rice milk works really well for me.

  • Well today was Day One of no dairy. So far, so good. My son asked for much less milk, but still drank some. I see this as good because I thought he drank way too much anyway. I don’t feel any better or worse – and I didn’t expect to for at least a week. We also went on a huge dairy binge yesterday to get rid of a lot of what we still had – especially cheese and ice cream – rather than throwing it out, and I will at least say that I can *definitely* tell that dairy does not agree with me…yuck!

    • Expect to get a cold while your system is detoxing especially after a binge then fast of the substance.

      • Thanks for the heads up. We are all kind of stuffy-nosed (and my son has it worst) – I thought it was allergies.

  • We went off dairy 1 1/2 years ago to resolve my daughter’s eczema. (We noticed an immediate improvement, but it was small. It took 6 months for the eczema to totally clear up.) We also found that my daughter was allergic to soy as well, and we were told that 60% of kids who are allergic to dairy are allergic to soy as well. Just another reason to avoid that soy milk. We use rice milk in cooking/baking and on granola.

    I would suggest getting some vegan recipe books from the library. We had to TOTALLY change everything we ate. My favorite cookbook to date is “The American Vegetarian” by Marilyn Diamond.

    • Thanks for the info. We seem to be adapting a little better – the first couple days were definitely the worst. Now if I could just stop craving cream cheese and milk chocolate! I’m planning a trip to the library next week, so I will look for some vegan cookbooks and specifically the one you mentioned.

      My son is doing fine on the rice milk and seems to like it well enough. I’m lucky he’s an adaptable kid! It’s a little soon to tell if the eczema is clearing up, but I can definitely see that he is going through a detox process.

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