Dairy Free Eating for Your Kids
Dairy is the base of many kids’ meals. Whether it’s their favorite meal or something you chose to whip up for them, milk seems to be the base or star ingredient in many. Just to name a few:
Mac + cheese
Several baked goods
Cheese + crackers
A glass of milk
Pancakes, and of course,
All the processed snacks that contain yogurt, milk or cheese.
While the debate is always on for giving your kids cow’s milk or not [a whole separate discussion], with the rising knowledge of modern day dairy, especially cow’s milk - being so pasteurized, overproduced, and chemically altered [aka the good bacteria is lost, and milk causes inflammation in many humans] as well as certain allergies - that parents are always on the lookout on how to avoid dairy… but it's not easy, because it has often been a staple along with bread and eggs [shall we say those staples are. or should, be changing now! [aka lower on the dairy, animal products, and gluten ;) ]. These items were the staples many households could not go a day without, and were the first things to get restocked.
Whether you are reducing the amount of dairy in kids meals, or eliminating it altogether, we discuss some habit changes and fun alternatives.
The Vitamins + Nutrients
Milk is known for mainly these three nutritional benefits.
non dairy sources of calcium:
Many non-dairy based sources of calcium (plant based) are also high in oxalates. Oxalates are a plants way to reserve calcium for baby plants, and protect predators from taking it away. In our bodies, it binds to the calcium and excretes out, therefore our body is not absorbing most of the calcium actually available in the plant, AKA you have to up your intake of those, or find more bioavailable sources.
Seeds - poppy, sesame, celery, sunflower + chia seeds.
Sardines - packed with nutrients
Almonds - soaked! Almonds are high in calcium, but are bioavailable through soaking/sprouting.
Activated or sprouted nuts are better for you in general - lower percentage of fat, heightens their nutrient value and easier on digestion. They are also high in fat, so you want to make the most of their nutrients, by having them absorbed.
Beans + Lentils - mostly white beans + navy beans, and winged beans [not so easily available everywhere]
Dark Leafy Greens - kale, collard greens, mustard greens, spinach
High in Oxalates - spinach [above leafy greens are more bioavailable]
Prunes, Raisins, Dried Figs
Amaranth Grain - soak and cook them
Yoghurt - If your kids are sensitive to milk, but don’t mind yogurt, Greek, Icelandic, labneh, or Indian style yogurts are creamy and enjoyable.
Non Dairy Sources of Phosphorus
Chicken + Turkey - one serving per day is just enough.
Seeds - soaked! focus on sunflower and pumpkin seeds.
Brazil nuts - known to be incredibly nutritious, soaked/sprouted Brazil nuts, or pili nuts, is a great source of phosphorus
Whole Grains - soaked, to make more bioavailable, lower the phytic acid, and the outer layer of whole grains contain the higher phosphorous amounts.
Amaranth + Quinoa - always soaked!
Non Dairy sources of Potassium
Potatoes - not always looked at as a healthy food choice, but roasted or baked, potato is a vegetable, and one thing its definitely beneficial for is potassium levels. Of course, sweet potatoes are amazing for potassium as well, and with high levels of Vitamin A too.
Coconut Water - high in elecrotlytes and hydrating, one of those being potassium!
Avocados - popular one here, no convincing needed. Creamy and great addition to breakfast, lunch or dinner. Healthy dessert alternative too!
Spinach - while spinach’s bioavailability for calcium is not very high, its other nutrients are still very beneficial, one of those being potassium!
Bananas - commonly known for their potassium content. Yes, it is there, but the rest of the list will gain you higher amounts of potassium than banana.
Needed for absorption of calcium. Helps get calcium from what you ingest and break it down. Get it from food high in Vitamin D and Vitamin D supplements [most, if not all humans are difficient in vitamin D]. Magnesium helps keep the calcium in the bones and out of your tissue.
Elevating The Habit
A way to transition from dairy meals to non dairy meals, is to start incorporating all the alternative ingredients (above) and meals and snacks. The hope and method is to love these other foods and dishes that you forget and/or do not miss the diary based options.
Whitney Eye, MS RDN, recommends “offering dairy alternatives - there are so many great brands out there that have the same taste and mouthfeel as real dairy” for kids dairy meal dishes.
Coconut, hemp, nuts, and nutritional yeast are all great sources of dairy free alternatives for your favorite dairy based products.
Cream cheese, cheese, milks, yogurts, ice creams, etc.
things to be mindful of when buying dairy free alternatives
To buy dairy free alternatives blindly, is like being vegan and eating French fries all day.. it’s a label and branding issue. Dairy free, nuts, plant based, all words that might allude you to think the products are great.
Look for ingredients that are minimal and that you can pronounce.
Try to make dairy alternatives at home.
Avoid synthetically fortified alternatives.
Coconut and nuts can be high in fat, be aware of your kids’ intake amounts.
Dairy alternatives should not keep kids full to a point that they are missing out on other nutritional food sources.
Dairy alternative milks often can have a lot of carrageenan and gums, even canola oil - avoid these ingredients.
A Few Recipes + Ideas Your Kids Might Enjoy
breakfast / Snacks
Chia Seed Pudding [1/2 cup chia seeds, 1 1/2 cups dairy free milk, vanilla/agave, any other flavoring [cocoa powder, pumpkin puree, berry powder] mixed + set overnight in jars, top with fruits in the AM]
Oatmeal/Granola with honey fruits + coconut
Smoothies [berries + bananas, OR greens + banana + mango, OR banana + cocoa powder + honey + peanut better are all popular combinations].
Bagels + vegan cream cheese
Coconut yogurt with berries, mint, nuts, honey, granola
Smoothie bowls [açai, green smoothies] topped with fruit, granola, + more
Rolled oats + bananas for pancakes.
Dairy free pancakes
Fajita’s or tacos minus the cheese
Beans mixed in pesto OR in Spanish rice OR Taco mix OR sandwiches
Rice with red daal
Noodles with stir fried veggies
Pureed mangos frozen in popsicle sticks
Any smoothie, green, berry based, any can be frozen to mini popsicles too
Van Leewan vegan ice cream
Nice cream - freeze peeled bananas, mix with frozen berries, or any fruit of choice