Eliminating Dairy -- Suggestions for Non-dairy Substitutes

Updated on July 13, 2013
A.C. asks from Wichita, KS
19 answers

My 3 yr old daughter has been having a heck of a time with eczema for the past 7 or 8 months. We took her to see an allergist, who did some testing about a month ago. We have been switching to 'free and clear' soaps, shampoos, etc. and have done food/weather/activity logs for the past 4 weeks to see if we can find a pattern of certain foods that may be triggering the eczema.

We were back to see the allergist today where, upon looking over the logs, she decided that we need to try eliminating ALL DAIRY for 21 days AND all tomato products for 7 days. We will be doing food logs again, and slowly re-introducing tomato products after day 7 and slowly re-introducing dairy products after 21 days. She thinks that there is a pattern of major flare ups after days where our daughter has had more dairy/tomato products AND been playing outside. We know from the testing a month ago that our daughter does have the start to some allergies to different types of grass and trees. Right now, the allergist is trying to see if we can pinpoint/eliminate possible triggers. We'll see the allergist again in another month to do more testing and look at the new logs.

So, the allergist talked me through a lot of things and gave me a list of *some* non-dairy products to use as replacement (rice milk, stuff like that). She did say that there are lots of products out there, and to make sure to check the labels. However, when I went to our local small town grocery store today, I could not find ANY of the items on the list. I will be driving into the small neighboring city tomorrow to see if their Wal-Mart store has anything (And I can only presume and hope that they will have something).

Here's my question(s): If any of you are familiar with these types of products (Non-Dairy...NOT imitation dairy), could you please give me some name brands to look for? Where on earth are these items located in a store? I seriously looked through every isle to try to find things (once again, small store, so it's very possible that they don't carry anything). I am a little nervous about all of this, because my little girl LOVES dairy (milk, cheese, ice cream, etc.) and tomato products (ketchup, spaghetti, pizza, salsa, cherry tomatoes, etc.). Obviously, *if* these foods are causing her eczema to flare, then we want to know that...it's just pretty challenging right now to find substitutes and keep up her good eating habits!

What is a good substitute for drinking milk? What about for replacing the milk that goes in her morning cereal? I know there are some Non-Dairy cheeses, but do they taste decent or even remotely like the 'real' thing? Her doc said something about being able to find flavored Non-Dairy milk (vanilla, chocolate, strawberry).

Please remember that I actually live in a really small city and Wal-Mart is the closest option (outside of a several hour drive). Thanks so much for the help, and GOD Bless those of you who have been dealing with these things with yourself/your family. It's easy to take certain foods for granted! :)

ADD: Rice Milk -- Is there a certain BRAND to look for? Can you remember the types of other things in that aisle, I know that numbers will be different at every store...is it in the isle with the baking goods? Thanks so much for the tips!

Another Add: Sorry...I'm still really new to this. I need to mention that the doc asked that we not try almond milk right now, because she is afraid of introducing another item that could contribute towards the eczema (meaning nuts). I did see some almond milk at the store! :) If we end up needing to do this long term, then we will definitely try the almond milk! :)

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So What Happened?

Okay, so I have made a list and will be heading to the next town over to hit Wal-Mart later on today. I am excited to go there armed with more specific ideas. :)

As I said before, the doc did give us some ideas, but she travels to this area for a half of a day, twice a month....Her main office is located in a MUCH larger city, where there are a lot more stores. The city I live in has less than 3000 people in it (ah, small town!). The next city over has about 16,000 people....to my knowledge there are no health food stores and definitely not some of the specialty stores. There is a Wal-Mart and a Dillons store, some fast food restaurants, and that's pretty much it. :) The closest 'big' city that might have specialty stores or health food stores is about a 2 hr, 10 min trip one way. We go on occasion, but not nearly often enough to really do this justice for now. If we see major improvement in my daughter's skin and end up doing this long term, then I will try to hit some of the specialty stores many of you mentioned and stock up (of course I'll watch expiration dates when doing this!).

Thank you all SO much for your helpful words of advice, suggestions, and positive thinking. It helps SO much! :)

Featured Answers



answers from Chicago on

Rice milk is okay, it's a little watery but it's okay. You can try coconut milk. You can sometimes find it canned in the Asian aisle. You can also make ice cream and whipped cream from coconut milk!

Definitely look in the cooking section.

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answers from Sacramento on

My mom likes Rice Dream rice milk in vanilla for cereal, etc., or chocolate if she's drinking it. It's in the baking section. I also have a friend that really likes a product called nomato that she uses in place of tomato. it's at www.nomato.com I've never had it, but she really likes it.

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answers from Boston on

Wal-mart has a ton of non-dairy milks. As Everley mentioned, they're not refrigerated. I usually find them in the baking aisle at the grocery store, where you would find condensed milk and evaporated milk. My favorite non-dairy milk is almond and I usually get Almond Breeze. It's great in a smoothie with some fruit and ice, which is where I usually use it, but my kids drink it straight and use it with their cereal.

Fake cheese is disgusting so don't bother.

Other than subbing milk in cereal, recipes and to drink you shouldn't have to really substitute anything else, just plan your menu to include foods other than dairy and tomato. It'll take some thinking about things and reading labels carefully at first and then it won't be that big a deal once you get your menu down. Good luck!

ETA: Rice Dream and Silk are good rice milks. There is also hemp milk, coconut milk, oat milk, etc. It's all shelf stable so while you're at Wal-Mart, you can buy a box of everything and see what you she likes best. My grocery store also sells small cartons of some of these milks, so you don't have to get a whole quart in case you end up not liking it. I would avoid soy milk as soy is not a healthy food and there are plenty of other options available that are healthy, dairy-free and good for you. For coconut milk, I like Coconut Dream. Coconut Dream is not like the canned coconut milk that you would get to make Thai food or tropical cocktails. It's thinner and has only a faint coconut flavor. It's mildly sweet and bland.

If you need to also avoid butter, coconut oil is a great substitute as you can keep some in the fridge and it's solid like butter or let it warm up and then it's like melted butter or oil. I use spectrum organics coconut oil (it comes in a jar) and it doesn't taste like coconut at all. Another alternative to butter is ghee, which is simply butter that has been clarified so that the dairy proteins are removed. Butter is only about 1% protein so many people who are dairy-free are fine with butter but if the doctor recommended no butter, there are good alternatives out there for that too.

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answers from New York on

My son has been dairy-free for all of his 7 years. For breakfast he has cereal with Rice Dream. We often make our own pizzas using Daiya cheese -- he loves it. For dessert he usually has fruit, but I allow sorbet or tofutti on rare occasions. I also make baked goods with soy milk and Mother's brand soy butter. He usually has a fruit smoothie with spinach (very high in calcium) for an after-school snack. On days when that doesn't come together, I give him a children's calcium supplement. He's a much, much healthier kid than he would be otherwise, thanks to this.

Honestly, this is doable. Just get in the habit of reading ingredients on packages. Dairy (like all allergens) is listed in boldface at the bottom of the list, so you don't have to read through "sorbital, xanthum gum, blah blah blah" searching for mention of milk.

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answers from New York on

I've also been dealing with eczema for a few years. I've been to a million dermatologist appointments and now am seeing a holistic chiropractor, who still hasn't solved the problem but at least it's greatly improved. I've been off dairy and nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, peppers) for about 6 months now. These two food groups are typically the worst for people with skin problems. I'm surprised your doctor didn't have you cut out the potatoes, peppers and eggplant along with the tomatoes. Otherwise it's like eliminating milk but not cheese, ya know?

It looks like other posters have you covered in the alternative milk category - lots of options there! I'll just add a note to try to look for the "Unsweetened" version of whichever kind you buy - the "Original" usually has quite a bit of sugar added, and so does Vanilla. Occasionally I can get lucky and find "Unsweetened Vanilla" Tempt brand hemp milk. That's my favorite.

For cheese, Daiya brand is the only brand I've found that is actually good. It's made out of pea protein, not soy. Best to melt it though - it has a distinct "not-cheese" texture/flavor when it's cold (not bad, just not cheese). If I make a grilled cheese sandwich with it, I can *almost* convince myself that's it's real cheese.

Good luck!

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answers from Las Vegas on

Rice milk is the mildest of the substitutes and the least likely to cause any kind of reaction or problem. Your Dr. is right; stay away from other milk substitutes that contain any kind of nut. At this point you don't know if your child has any nut allergies, so please do not give anything containing nuts to her before her Dr. rules out any nut allergies.

Also, some kids--not all, but some--who are allergic to dairy are also allergic to soy, so avoid soy milk as well.

With my son, I used Rice milk, and the first brand I used is called Rice Dream. It can be found at most major supermarkets, including Walmart. After a while, I started buying Trader Joe's brand, and now, that's the only kind he'll drink.

Although my son has now outgrown his dairy allergy, he still drinks his rice milk. It's just what he's used to and likes.

He is 8 now, but we've been dealing with allergies for a very long time, so I know how you feel.

A great resource to learn about food allergies is the Food Allergy Research Education website at www.foodallergy.org. You'll find excellent information and resources to help you and your child manage her food allergies.

Wishing the best for you and your little girl,

J. F.

ETA: I just googled Rice Dream and found you can get it at Walmart. You can even order it online and get free shipping if you order enough. If your store is far away, this might be helpful to you as the product is shelf-stable.

Also, if your daughter is a milk lover, she may notice a difference in the consistency of rice milk. To get her used to it, first put it on her cereal instead of giving it to her straight from the glass. Or, you could try making a smoothie with it. They also make a vanilla flavored version. That's the only kind my niece with allergies will drink.

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answers from Madison on

We are a gluten-free, dairy-free family. Luckily, we live in Madison, WI, which has a ton of big grocery stores that carry allergen-free products, like Whole Foods, COSTCO, Woodman's (warehouse), HyVee, Willy Street Co-Op, Jennifer Street Market, Trader Joe's, Sentry, etc. Even Copps--a regular Roundy's supermarket--carries a few allergen-free items.

For milk/dairy alternatives, look for rice, almond, coconut, hazelnut, almond/coconut (new), hemp, oat, etc. We prefer almond over rice for the taste and texture (thicker rather than thin) as well as there's more nutrients. But a child might not like the flavor of almond, so it would probably be a better idea to start her out with rice.

You can order online and have delivered to your door--alternative milk products are shelf stable--you buy them on the shelf, not in the cooler (unless you want the milk already cold).

Vitacost.com has a vast array of allergen-free food products; look up each item separately: rice milk. Almond milk. Coconut milk. You'll see what different brands they carry.

There is a cheese--the brand is called Daiya--that is made with various different oils. We just tried it this weekend. It's good in stuff (like on pizza, or in a cheese sandwich), but I didn't care for it much all by itself. It has a sweeter taste/flavor. It must be/remain refrigerated, so therefore, Vitacost.com doesn't carry it.

Earth Balance has a good margarine spread. It's good for cooking, as are coconut oil and olive oil (instead of butter).

And be very careful and very watchful on all food ingredients you read, as milk can be in/part of different products. Whey and casein are milk products. Do some Internet searching to find a list of all the different "names" milk can fall under.

Chocolate is out (esp milk chocolate). She can eat chocolate, but it must be very dark chocolate. Usually the dark chocolate found at grocery stores still has milk in it. Brands that are good: Equal Exchange, Theo, Chocolove, Endangered Species, Lily's, Green & Black's 70% organic, Newman's Own Organics 70%, Justin's dark chocolate peanut butter cup (you can find some of these on Vitacost.com).

Enjoy Life makes rice chocolate bars without milk that are very tasty; in fact, they also have chocolate chips and cookies and a whole bunch of other very tasty stuff. I love their products!

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answers from Norfolk on

Give her Popsicles or Italian ice instead of ice cream.
You can make your own with fruit juice.
For 3 weeks, I'd give her something else for breakfast instead of cereal in a bowl with milk.
Eggs (you don't have to use milk to scramble them, hard boiled, soft boiled), oatmeal (just use water), toast/bagels with peanut butter, fruit, bacon, sausage, etc.

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answers from Albuquerque on

Just my experience... but there are quite a few non-dairy "milks" you can use for cereal. My kids really like rice milk, and I prefer hemp milk. The vanilla flavor tastes really good in cereal. If you can get to a Trader Joe's, they carry many choices. Walmart should have some too - not sure which aisle, though (sorry). They're not refrigerated, so don't look in the dairy case.

I have not found a single fake cheese that is worth it. They're all pretty awful. It takes some time to learn to cook without cheese, but you can do it. I use a lot of olive oil now to moisten things that used to be covered in cheese.

A typical day's worth of meals for us (adults and six year old kids) would be cereal and rice milk plus fruit for breakfast. Pistachios and vegetables for snack (nuts are a great way to get protein if your child can't have dairy). Turkey and lettuce sandwich with mayo for lunch. Afternoon snack might be a cereal bar or hummus and chips. Hummus is great for the creamy consistancy she'll miss if she gives up dairy and tomatoes, and even if you personally don't like it, most kids do. Then for dinner you could have meat, rice, and veggies. Just plan for meals that don't typically have dairy like pizza or quesadillas and it's easier. Good luck!

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answers from Kansas City on

I've been non-dairy for almost 2 years now, and keep in mind in the long run, you can try a few things. I tolerate butter (just the milk fat, not the proteins) and just about any other kind of milk (goat, buffalo, sheep). For now you are eliminating, so not trying new stuff, but it may get better!

The only thing I wanted to add to all the responses is that I really think that especially at the beginning avoiding the things that she likes that have dairy and tomato in them will be easier than replacing stuff with substitutes (cheaper too). Sure she loves those things you mentioned, but does she like stew? Soup? pb&J? Roll ups? Work around it for now so she's still getting things you would normally make without milk/cheese/tomato. It takes time to figure out the good substitutes that she will like, and it's not worth the money if they aren't a problem for her! Also, for me, I use refried beans and avocado as cheese substitutes in some things, they give me the creamy-ness I crave. If it really ends up being a problem and is going to be a long term thing, it might be a good thing to go to a bigger city and stock up every 6 months or so, there are some options that are great and can last a long time.

One more thing... I have started making more things myself so I can have what I want without the dairy. Milk substitutes do wonderfully in just about any baked good and in many things coconut oil is a pretty good sub for butter.

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answers from Washington DC on

it's a pity you can't use almond milk. it's delicious.
but coconut milk is also awfully good. i like it much better than rice milk, and a gazillion times better than blicky soy. hemp and flax milks are very healthy, not not too bad tasting, although not as good as coconut or almond.
i find that cheese is the hardest thing to sub into a vegan diet (i'm not vegan, but often eliminate all animal products for a while to give my system a break) is cheese. there are non-dairy cheeses and they're not all horrible, but they're really nothing like cheese. if you use them on their own merit in recipes they have a place, but don't set your daughter up for disappointment by telling her it's 'like' cheese.
sherbets and coconut (and almond, of course) based 'ice creams' are terrific.
there are coconut yogurts on the market now. i don't care much for 'em, but they're better than soy.
as for the tomato products, try balsamic vinaigrettes, hummus, pesto, that sort of thing.
good luck!

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answers from Houston on

ETA: I want to also mention the Paleo/Primal diet for grain free/Dairy free recipes. Eat Like A Dinosaur is a great recipe book for kids.
Are there any farms near you that you could possibly buy Sheeps milk or goat milk from? Usually even Cows milk is not bothersome for eczema if the milk is raw and from pastured/grass fed cows who are healthy. I've never tried Sheeps milk, but I've heard it's wonderful. Also I've heard goats milk is really good, but only if its raw. You're a fantastic mom for doing this for your daughters health! Also, maybe ask your doctor that suggested these items if she has bought them in your town. Maybe try ordering from Azure Standard or starting a group. Or even Amazon?
Also, wheat is a major contributor to eczema. Try reading the book The Eczema Cure.

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answers from Chicago on

i don't have a suggestion for milk to drink but I can tell you that when my husband had to emiminate dairy we used non dairy dry creamer to make a milky substance and used that for recipes that called for milk. (mac and cheese, casseroles, cake mixes etc) that might help in the cooking portion of your day. rice milk is good and if she can stomach it soy milk is good. both found in either the milk section of the store cold or in the organic section of the store in those boxes that liquid comes in like chicken broth. good luck.

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answers from Los Angeles on

For butter, we primarily use Earth's Balance. It's available at many stores by us (though I have A LOT more stores than you do) and the taste is pretty good. SOME versions of Smart Balance are also dairy free. Fleischman's definitely makes a stick butter that is non-dairy. I *think* it is their unsalted variety, but double check the label.

"So Delicious" is a brand of ice cream that people like. It comes in both soy and coconut varieties. I think they also make yogurt. Tofutti is another brand of ice cream, and "tofutti cuties" are tasty ice cream sandwiches (about half the size of a normal one)

Tofutti also makes imitation sour cream and cream cheese.

"Daiya" is a great brand of shredded cheese that actually melts (most dairy free cheeses do not melt). It comes in mozzarella and cheddar flavors and both are pretty good.

When buying cheese, make absolutely sure that it is truly dairy free. A LOT of soy cheeses actually still contain dairy (usually casein). I think we buy tofutti brand sliced cheese as well.

Amy's brand makes a pretty good pizza. Look for the one that says Rice Crust Non-Dairy Cheeze (yes, with a z). Their soy "cheeze" pizza still contains dairy. they also make one that has no cheese at all, just veggies, and may not have sauce (since you're avoiding tomato).

At our main supermarket (Ralph's, aka Kroger in some parts), some of the items are found mixed in with everything else, whereas others are separated into special sections. You just have to look really carefully through everything, read all the labels, and see what you can find.

One last thing to consider - a lot of gluten free products also tend to be dairy free. My son can eat gluten, but we still end up with stuff because of dairy. Glutino makes a cereal bar that he likes.

Enjoy Life is a brand that is 100% dairy free (and the other top 7 allergens as well). NONE of their products contain dairy. Target is starting to carry a lot more of their stuff, so maybe Wal-Mart will too (I never go to WM, so I don't know).

Forgot to address the milk: rice milk is good for cereal. It's a little watery but doesn't have a very strong taste so it might not seem too different from what she's used to. For drinking, my son drinks soy milk. I know people will say that soy is horrible, but I disagree and so do his allergist, pediatrician, and nutritionist. Silk is a really good brand. He's allergic to nuts too, so almond isn't a choice for us.

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answers from Cleveland on

If there seems to be allergies to grass and trees its probably an allergic reaction to those if she plays hard and heavy outside. But rice/soy milk is in the refrigeration section by the rest of the milks

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answers from Pittsburgh on

My daughter uses Rice Dreams rice milk. At our Walmart it can be found at the end of the cereal aisle. They also carry the soy, coconut, and almond milk there as well. They typically carry some in the refrigerated section as well down towards the creamers.

When I eliminated dairy for a short period, I tried a rice, coconut, and almond milk and did not find any to be a suitable replacement for cow's milk. They were all too sweet or flavored for me.

For margarine we use either Earth Balance or UNSALTED Fleishmann's. Walmart has carried the Earth Balance on again, off again (currently on). I have to go to a more expensive grocery store for the Unsalted Fleishmann's because Walmart only carries salted.

As for fake cheese...I once read that mozzarella is the 'least offensive' tasting flavor. My daughter sometimes likes the Tofutti slices (similar to Kraft singles). I can only buy those at a health food store. When it comes to pizza, we buy shredded cheese called Daiya. That is found at the larger expensive grocery store where the regular shredded cheese is. We have also been buying the Daiya cheddar flavor for salads, nachos, and grilled cheese. She does not like the Tofutti slices melted on pizza or grilled cheese.

My daughter has always been allergic to milk so she did not have the taste for real cheese. I am not sure I could eat the substitute cheese if I had to give it up. Just the smell of it turns my stomach.

As for ice cream, she likes the soy ice creams such as So Delicious and Tofutti. She also like the Coconut Dreams versions that can be found in the Walmart ice cream case. The Tofutti and So Delicious can only be bought at the larger grocery store.

Did your allergist do skin testing? That might be the most accurate way to find out what is really bothering your daughter.

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answers from Oklahoma City on

My friend eliminated dairy and she used soy milk from Walmart in her morning cereal. She found it was so much better than cow's milk she switched to it completely for all milk needs.

I have heard that sherbet has no dairy but I imagine you'd have to read the label nowadays.

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answers from San Francisco on

We really like almond milk. Silk is a good brand as is blue diamond. These you would find in the fridge section near the milk. I have found that my daughter hates all non dairy cheeses. They don't taste the real thing. For us we just eat very differently than we would if we had dairy. Make sure to get margarine, I buy earth balance brand. So you don't have a wealth food store anywhere near you? Whole foods has everything, also some things you could possibly order rice milk on amazon because it is sold in a pack not in the fridge.
Make sure to read all labels though. There is dairy in so many products that you normally buy. Casein (milk protein) is in a lot if things hat say they are lactose free. Even things like salami have dairy in it and bread usually has eggs.

Good luck. It takes a bit to get used to and a lot of time reading but its doable.

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answers from Portland on

Almond milk( silk brand) in natural foods section, also coconut milk, soy milk, hemp milk. all in natural foods section, if you are watching tomato acids, remember, tomatos, strawberrys, and and citric fruit/ veg will cause the same issue

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