Lactose allergy is one of the most common food allergies affecting children. According to Food Allergy Research & Education, about 2.5-percent of children under the age of three are allergic to lactose. If you’re reading this now, chances are you or a loved one (most probably your child) are suffering from symptoms of lactose allergy. Since milk and dairy products are now restricted from your child’s diet, it’s important that you make the necessary changes to ensure that he or she doesn’t exhibit some of the same symptoms again.
In this blog post, we’re going to discuss in great detail the foods you can use as substitutes for the wide variety of dairy products your child is restricted from eating.
But first, let’s briefly discuss what lactose allergy is and which symptoms are typical for those who are afflicted with it.
What is a milk allergy?
Lactose allergy, by strict definition, is an abnormal response by the body’s immune system to lactose or milk sugar. Cow’s milk is the usual culprit, but milk from other animals can also cause an allergic reaction.
The symptoms of milk allergy can manifest within minutes to a few hours following the consumption of the food containing the lactose allergen. Warning signs can range from mild to severe, and may lead to anaphylaxis, a reaction that could lead to death if left untreated.
Milk allergy symptoms:
- Loose stools, which may contain blood
- Abdominal cramps
- Coughing or wheezing
- Runny nose
- Watery eyes
- Itchy skin rash, often around the mouth
- Colic, in babies
It also bears noting that lactose allergy is different from lactose intolerance. Unlike lactose allergy, lactose intolerance is caused by the lack of an enzyme called lactase. The most important distinction perhaps is that milk intolerance is rarely serious.
Substitute food for children with allergies
It goes without saying that those who suffer from lactose allergy should avoid milk and dairy products altogether. It’s not a fun prospect, I know, but thankfully, there are many delicious alternatives that can make the diet transition more bearable for your child.
Described as “America’s favorite plant-based milk,” almond milk is fortified with vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin E. It’s comprised of ground almonds ,water, and sometimes, a sweetener. Like dairy milk, it has a creamy texture, which partly makes it a good milk alternative when used in ice creams and other items.
Milk and dairy products are good sources of protein and restricting them from your child’s diet may cause a deficiency that will be harmful to her health. It’s a good thing dried beans more than compensate for the lack of dairy products in your child’s diet. Point in fact: dried beans have four times more protein than green beans. Moreover, dried beans are packed with vitamin B, potassium, and fiber, all of which are good for digestive health.
And here’s another bonus: dried beans can be easily sneaked into a wide range of meals your child will adore. Don’t believe me? Then check out these 11 delicious dried bean recipes collected by Babble.
Tofu, otherwise known as bean curd, is another rich non-dairy alternative that is high in protein. It also contains many of the nutrients one usually gets from dairy products, including carbohydrates, fat, and calcium. What’s more, it comes with 70 total calories, making it comparable to milk in terms of density in nutrients.
Do you want to give your child a tofu meal she will absolutely love? Easy-peasy. Here’s a list of tofu recipes by Momtastic to get you started.
Babies and toddlers need calcium in their regular diet for their developing bones, and a milk-free diet will hinder their physical development. But fret not, for collard greens are an excellent source of calcium. In fact, a study made by Care2Health proclaimed that collard greens contain more calcium than milk. The Harvard School of Public Health attests to this, claiming that 1 cup of collard greens contains 357 mg of calcium compared to 306 mg of calcium in dairy milk.
I know what you’re thinking: Kids hate greens. Fortunately, Easy Baby Meals were kind enough to provide a list of kid-friendly recipes using collard greens as the main ingredient.
Kale is another good alternative to milk if you want your kid to have the nutrients needed to develop their bones. Like collards, kale is fortified with calcium, so much so that one serving of it has more of the nutrient than one small carton of milk. To top it off, kale has the nutrient density to make up for a dairy-restrictive diet.
Additionally, kale is a popular ingredient for smoothies. As most parents already know, children can’t get enough of smoothies. That said, this kale smoothie recipe by In Sonnet’s Kitchen will likely satisfy your child’s taste buds.
Calcium-fortified orange juice and soy milk
Not many children can resist a glass of orange juice. So if your child’s immune system is reacting negatively to milk, you can easily remedy this by serving him a calcium-fortified orange juice. This pasteurized drink is also fortified with vitamin D, another nutrient that children can get from regular milk.
To ensure that your child is getting enough calories and protein, you can serve him soy milk. Unlike cow’s milk, soy milk contains no lactose and as such won’t trigger abnormal immune responses from your kid.
Fatty fish like salmon, trout, tuna, and mackerel contains a high amount of fat-based nutrients, especially vitamin D, a nutrient that is contained in milk. According to the National Institutes of Health, one 3-ounce serving of fatty fish can provide you with 447 international units of vitamin D.
Eggs are often mistaken as a dairy product, but they are considered lactose-free. If your child is allergic to lactose, there’s no risk involved in letting her eat eggs. An egg yolk is packed with protein and vitamin D, making it a good non-dairy alternative.
Please note, however, that egg allergy is also very common so make sure to remove it from your child’s diet if she starts showing allergy symptoms after eating one.
Beef liver is a good source of protein, with each 3-ounce service containing 17 grams of the nutrient. By feeding your child meals packed with beef liver, you are giving him the nutrients that can support his muscle growth.
For kid-friendly recipes containing beef liver, Homemade Mommy has provided us a great list.
If your child is showing symptoms of lactose allergy, bring her to a doctor immediately. Make sure to talk with her about how you can be sure that your child is eating right even with a dairy-restricted diet.