How to Raise Kids Dairy-Free

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Does milk “do a body good?” Maybe not, if one is lactose intolerant. This is a major issue for many people─especially those from certain ethic/racial groups such as African-American, Jewish, Native Indian, and Asian-American.

As you may know by now, lactose intolerance is a condition in which the body can’t digest lactose, the milk sugar present in dairy products. The side effects that may occur if dairy is consumed include stomach pain, gas, and diarrhea─all of which can be especially troubling for children.

Once you realize that your child is lactose intolerant, what should you do? The logical choice might be simply to remove the cause of the problem─dairy products. Sounds easy, but is it really? Not for some parents, who may find it rather tricky to delete a food group that most Americans consume on a daily basis, and which dieticians and pediatricians tend to believe is an important part of a child’s daily menu.

In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics revised their guidelines for treating lactose intolerance in 2006, and now encourages dairy even for lactose-intolerant kids, leaving many parents confused as to the right course of action. Needless to say, it’s up to you to decide what’s best for your child.

If you do choose to eliminate dairy, the first step is reconfiguring home dining, ideally with entrées that work for everyone, so you don’t need to create multiple dishes for each meal. Fortunately, this can be easier than you think, as terrific alternatives can be found in every category─from milk and butter, to cheese and ice cream.

Ready for your next challenge? Restaurants! It seems that most kids’ menus invariably feature pizza and grilled cheese sandwiches as primary choices. Since many families enjoy dining out, it’s a question of strategy. One tactic is to split a healthy, dairy-free adult entrée or appetizer between kids. Another is to frequent restaurants with cuisine that minimizes dairy, like Chinese, Japanese, and Thai.

Schools also tend to promote cow’s milk, but you can easily circumvent that by packing your child’s lunch with soy or almond milk, along with nut butter sandwiches, fruit and veggies, soy yogurt, organic raisins, peanuts, almonds, low-sugar juice boxes, etc.

Every problem has a solution right? This one is well worth solving, so that your children can enjoy tasty, nutritious foods in comfort, allowing them to productively work, play, and thrive. Here’s to happy, healthy kids!

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