Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Truth: Dairy "free" Cheese

Man this has been a long journey.  Lloyd couldn't take any dairy in my breast milk for over a year because it caused such severe constipation, gas, projectile vomiting, and lack of sleep--so I went dairy free.  Which was enlightening.  Then we added some hard cheese into his diet and he stopped growing for almost 6 months. Took it out, sprouted almost 3" in 2 weeks immediately after it cleared his system and started sleeping better  My sister and mom had a history of dairy sensitivity but I never did.  

I finally went to see Lloyd's specialist last Tuesday and guess what he found? He literally looked at me and said "so you're telling me your mom couldn't drink milk or eat too much dairy, your sister didn't drink milk for almost 6 years, your son cannot have any dairy or dairy proteins, but you're mysteriously immune?" Insert ashamed face here.  Damn doctors and their knowledge.

Anywho I've learned a lot, even since breastfeeding.  Not all "dairy" free options are actually dairy free, they're just milk free.  Even goat cheese sometimes uses dairy enzymes which can mess you up.  Unless it says vegan it might (and probably does) still contain milk proteins and/or milk cultures.  Which I'd forgotten about since breastfeeding.  Spending $5 on a block of cheese that tastes like crap and isn't even dairy-free starts to piss you off after a while.  So here's what we've tried and is worth the ridiculous amount of money you have to pay to not have delicious moo-cow in your food. 

Daiya Cheeses (Mozzarella and Cheddar)
Vegan, Gluten-Free, Egg-Free, Milk-Free (does not contain milk protein (Casein) or dairy-based enzymes), Soy-Free.  Decent. Melts really well, consistency is good. But has a strange, and powerful, smell--like cardboard to me or distant melting plastic baggies to my husband.  If its baked in something not so bad, and the cheddar is do-able on pizza. Not recommended if you have a sensitive preggo nose (if if your preggo nose never went away like moi).

Vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, non-gmo (does not contain milk protein or dairy-based enzymes). Totally barfariffic. Bad texture, gag in your mouth flavor. And at $5 a block, a very very pricy mistake. Horrible crumbly spongy texture that gave it away without even tasting it. I threw up in the sink.  So... yeah.

Dairy-free (does not contain milk protein (Casein) or dairy-based enzymes), Gluten-Free. So far, the best option out there for sliced cheese.  It's somehow retained the slightly greasy flavor and texture of real cheese when melted. Only one to receive the husband's seal of approval.  So that, as you know, means more than just my "well I guess if I'm forced to eat it" resignation.

Contains milk proteins (casein), and says "no gluten" but does not say "gluten-free".  Pretty decent. But don't make the same mistake we did and buy it, feed it to your kid who has a severe dairy allergy and go "hmmm this tastes really good I guess I could deal with $5 a block" then look at the back more closely and notice that it's got Casein.  That was another fun 2 weeks of him crying and not sleeping and having horrible GI issues. Major mom fail.

Milk-Free (does not contain milk protein (Casein) or dairy-based enzymes).  The Tofutti brand seems to do a pretty good job at their products.  This was pretty good, we used it in a pasta dish with a lot of herbs and veggies.  Although something we've learned: to compensate for the fake cheese flavor is you need a bit more salt and we're a family who doesn't cook with salt, so that's been an adjustment that has helped significantly. Although general rule of thumb: do not use another fake cheese (say mozzarella  in combo with it) two fake cheeses do not combine well at all. One seems fine though.  


Milk-free (does not contain milk protein (Casein) or dairy-based enzymes), Gluten-Free.  Pretty decent in dips and recipes.  I am a freak and can eat real cream cheese by the spoon, so just remember to lower your expectations of any fake cheese/dairy product and cook/mix it in something with a lot of flavor.  Us dairy lovers just have to deal with not eating slices of cheese out of the fridge for snack.  Fail.  But it made tasty dip with extra herbs and a bit of salt (sensing a theme here?).

Milk-free (does not contain milk protein (Casein) or dairy-based enzymes), GMO-free. The cream cheese from this family was absolutely inedible, even for those of us who are used to the dairy-free cheese foods.  Totally went straight in the bin.   The sliced cheese is ok. Haven't seen or tried the shreds or "parmigiana" although I've been looking.  

Milk-free (does not contain milk protein (Casein) or dairy-based enzymes), GMO-free, Gluten-Free, Soy-Free. These are decent but have a grainy texture. As long as they're hidden in a mountain of sandwich, you should be good. 

Galaxy Foods Veggie Cheeses (Cheese Slices and Shreds)
Lactose Free, Gluten-Free, Contains Milk Protein (Casein) and Milk enzymes. Pretty tasty.  Melts pretty well too.  Although please, if you are breast-feeding, do not make the mistake many of us have: this cheese contains Casein and milk enzymes.  You and your baby will be absolutely miserable and no one will sleep.  We had to figure it out the hard way that milk alternative cheeses do not mean that the major milk ingredient that causes diary intolerance sensitivity/allergy is not included in the ingredient.  It's also why they taste closer to real cheese; that milk enzyme really is yummy.  Easiest rule: look for vegan products and you know you will always be safe.  *Also, see product below.

Galaxy Foods Rice Cheeses (sandwich slices and shreds)
Contains Milk Protein (Casein), Lactose-Free, Soy-Free.  These are similar to the above ingredients.  The Jalapeno jack slices are really good, spicy and yummy.  But Lloyd paid the price for 2 weeks.  Two miserable, shamedful mommy, weeks since they contain Casein.  *Also, See Above.

I have one other brand in the fridge to try and a few goat cheese options, but these are the major brands you can find across the U.S. so I figured the most helpful.  Lloyd has always tollerated goat cheese but not all diary allergy kids and adults can eat goat cheese. It's an option for some, and we are lucky because it's pretty tasty.  I'll probably post a part two with the Trader Joe's brands since we just got one and they are popping up outside the east and west coast.  I'm hoping their shreds are edible.  

A few helpful hints for breast-feeders with diary intolerant babies:

  • Go straight vegan just for clarity when buying cheeses.  Otherwise you might, in your sleep-deprived and acid-reflux covered state, buy the wrong cheese and set yourself back another 2 weeks to get that little bit of milk protein out of your system.
  • The major brands you can even find at Kroger, are usually pretty decent.  The brands that are random at Sprouts/Whole Foods have a larger possibly of being truly inedible and making you mad you spent your money.
  • Don't give up, eventually you will stop craving so much cheese and get used to it.  The thing you usually are craving the most is something that your body usually has issues with too, studies are showing.  Plus eliminating diary will reduce your calorie content even more than you realize and your skinny pre-pregnancy jeans will be on (and probably baggy) in no time if you keep the breast-feeding up for any length of time.
  • Remember: it's two weeks out of your system and then two weeks out of your babies every time you slip up.  So a full month of acid-reflux, spit-up, crazy gas, diarrhea  and no sleep.  It's easier just to remove it and keep it removed for the duration.  Trust me.  Been there, kicked myself, cried myself to bed for the 30 minutes Lloyd would sleep at a time.  

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