Making Dairy-Free Doable
Since so many who avoid gluten also need to avoid dairy (I’ve seen figures up to 50%), I thought we’d all benefit from a chat with Alisa Fleming, author of “Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living” and host of the websites Go Dairy Free and Alisa Cooks.
About 1/3 of the book is a detailed look at dairy, what dairy can do, debunking the myth that dairy is essential for calcium (since some parts of the world don’t eat dairy so this must not be true), and help for living dairy-free. The Go Dairy Free blog has many recipes, not all but many gluten-free. Alisa Cooks has a tab for Gluten-Free Recipes.
Q & A:
Many people who need to eat gluten-free also need to be dairy-free (myself included). For someone who is wondering if they need to take that step, what symptoms could dairy be causing?
This question is answered fairly well in my book, “Go Dairy Free,” and would be a hard one to touch on in a short answer. It also depends on what in dairy is causing ailment. Symptoms could be digestive (upset, irritable bowel, gas, diarrhea, even vomiting), immune (rashes, hives, swelling, skin disorders, asthma), or what seem like everyday issues (headaches, migraines, acne, weight gain). The list goes on.
With a gluten-free diet, none is allowed. Does someone have to remove all dairy from their diet to see benefits?
I am not a physician and can’t advise on if someone should remove all dairy or just some. In general, if you have any dairy, then the cravings for dairy will persist. Like any food, cutting it out completely is the best way to get over the hump of cravings. I find that people are much, much less successful when they have some dairy because their cravings persist and in some cases their symptoms persist. We are all different, but most doctors advise elimination of a food (not reduction) when testing to see if it is causing a reaction. If it is, then they usually advise avoidance.
To avoid feeling a sense of loss when removing dairy (I should say a sense of loss again for those who are already gluten-free), can you give us some ideas for meals that are dairy-free?
Whatever you do, do not focus on what you can’t have! Sit down, and make a list of what you can have … and include everything (vegetables, fruits, condiments, grains, etc.). Some great, easy options include corn tortilla tacos w/ guacamole and salsa instead of sour cream and cheese, chili, stir fries (use wheat-free tamari to keep them gluten-free!), pad thai with rice noodles, and of course a regular grilled meat or fish entrée with roasted vegetables. In my opinion, roasted vegetables of any kind make every meal great! The list goes on, I’m just scratching the surface with these ideas. Also, for many dishes it’s as simple as leave out the cheese, but add a little extra salt or some chopped olives. Our culture has gotten so used to adding cheese to everything that people often forget there is real food under there!
Eating dairy-free in restaurants often seems to offer fewer (or less flavorful) choices than eating gluten-free does. I have watched my husband eat the sides that came with his gluten-free meal, a Caesar salad without croutons and a loaded baked potato, while I ate a plain salad and plain baked potato. Do you have suggestions for getting tasty dairy-free (but still gluten-free) meals out?
This question put a big smile on my face as my husband and I had a similar poor experience at a restaurant. He is strictly gluten-free, I am strictly dairy-free, but we both find benefit in eating dairy-free and gluten-free together (to note, he has been dairy-free with me for all of these years, but when he went gluten-free at first, he accommodated a small amount of dairy at restaurants as he adjusted).
We were at a restaurant that had a full gluten-free menu and they said “no problem” on accommodating dairy-free too. Well, what we both ended up with were $25 entrees where the main dish was completely unseasoned (it seemed the normal seasoning had gluten and they just didn’t bother to season with anything else!) and accompanied by a dry baked potato and dry green beans. It was one of the worst meals I had ever had! The crux of the problem was that our waitress communicated poorly and the kitchen obviously had no real culinary skills. She simply said “no problem” but didn’t tell us how that would affect what they served us. Rather than rice pilaf they simply subbed dry baked potatoes without even asking us. A good restaurant would have seasoned the beans with salt, pepper and olive oil to ensure flavor. What it did teach me though is one, don’t go back to that restaurant! But two, make sure we know in advance exactly what they will be serving me.
If there is risk of something like a dry baked potato, I ask questions like … do you have a guacamole that is dairy-free, a flavorful salsa, a salad dressing that would go nicely, or another sauce like a sun-dried tomato or pure basil pesto that would add richness and flavor? You’d be surprised how many ways there are to dress up a potato without dairy! For salads, I ask if they can sub the cheese with some good olives. Most restaurants will accommodate. If they don’t have a salad dressing that will work, then I ask for balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and pepper to make my own flavor topping.
My husband loves all things coconut so I made this especially for him. He enjoyed it but, with his super sweet tooth, thought it could use a bit of sweetener. If we use it alone again (see what I did below to make it sweeter), we’ll sprinkle on some Truvia (a brand of powdered stevia.)
The recipe for Coconut Butter is both online and in the book. I used the oven method mentioned in the book and toasted the coconut at 300 degrees until golden then processed it in the food processor until smooth, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides. This takes a while, don’t give up. Tip: Don’t put your finished coconut butter in the fridge. It’s becomes hard. Update: It can be scooped out at room temperature but it’s still solid. I put some in the microwave for a very short time (15 seconds in mine) to make it spreadable again.
Oh my, these are so good! Maple and cinnamon cover the pecans. These taste like they were complicated to make but they’re easy. I hadn’t realized that pralines usually had a dairy product such as cream or butter in them. We put these on a strawberry turkey salad for lunch. Delicious. After dinner, I thought, hmm, how would the pralines be on the coconut butter? I smoothed some coconut butter on a slice of gluten-free toast (Rudi’s) and topped it with the pralines. My husband loved it – with a glass of milk.
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