Best Non-Dairy Treats

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If you, or someone you love, is lactose intolerant or allergic to cow’s milk, you may have declared your home a dairy-free zone. If so, you’re probably working on safely reconfiguring family meals, snacks, school lunches, holiday feasts, and of course, desserts.

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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. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Truth About Lactose Intolerance

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While most people are familiar with the term lactose intolerance, not everyone is sure exactly what it means. Learning more about the topic can help people who may not respond well to dairy products in their diets, without clearly understanding why.

Lactose is a type of sugar found in milk and other dairy products. In most people, the cells lining the small intestine produce an enzyme called lactase, which breaks lactose down into a form that can be absorbed by the blood. However, not everyone produces enough lactase to properly digest lactose, which means it passes through the digestive system. This can cause unpleasant symptoms such as abdominal pain and discomfort, gas, and diarrhea.

30 to 50 million Americans are lactose intolerant, with some populations disproportionately affected. For example, 75% of all African-American, Jewish, Mexican-American, and Native Americans are lactose intolerant, as well as 90% of Asian-Americans.

Lactose intolerance may also be known as lactase deficiency. Although there is no specific treatment to improve the body’s ability to produce lactase, symptoms can be reduced by minimizing or eliminating dairy products from your diet. This is far easier now than in years past, given the wide array of dairy alternatives in literally every category, from milk and cheese to sour cream and yogurt.

What if your pediatrician encourages dairy even if your child is lactose intolerant? Some physicians may do so, since the American Academy of Pediatrics revised their guidelines for treating lactose intolerance in 2006. In the past, it had been recommended that eliminating dairy products from the diet was the best way to treat lactose intolerance. However, the new guidelines support the use of dairy foods as an important source of calcium for bone growth and maintenance, as well as of other nutrients needed for development in children and adolescents─even if kids can’t tolerate lactose.

You’ll have a sense of what’s best for your children, but you can rest assured that if you do choose to relieve their discomfort by cutting out the dairy, there are many other foods rich in calcium and other essential nutrients, as well as children’s vitamin supplements to fill in gaps as needed. Here’s to feeling great, with or without the dairy!

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Dairy-Free Shopping Tips

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June is National Dairy Alternative Month, acknowledging the growing number of Americans who choose a dairy-free lifestyle. Although we’ve all heard the advertising slogan “every body needs milk,” it turns out that not every body can actually tolerate it.

According to the National Institutes of Health, between 30 and 50 million Americans are lactose intolerant─especially certain ethnic/racial populations. This includes up to 75% of all African Americans and American Indians, and 90% of Asian Americans.

If you or someone you love needs to go dairy-free, it’s easier now than ever. Dairy alternatives are widely available, particularly in upscale markets and natural food stores. Ready for a game plan?
These tips can help:

Determine what you need to replace

Some families consume more categories of dairy products than others, which should be considered when seeking alternatives. Do you want high-quality, dairy-free milk, butter, and cheese? How about yogurt, sour cream, cottage cheese, and ice cream? Whatever you and your family rely on, you’ll find a range of replacement options─many so good that you’ll never miss the dairy.

Check for hidden sources

Dairy items like milk and cheese are easy to target and replace, but we should also consider less obvious sources of dairy, as they can still create problems for people avoiding lactose or casein (milk protein). Dairy ingredients come in many different forms, which you’ll catch if you scan labels closely. Look for terms like whey, ghee, casein, rennet, lactose, lactulose, whey and casein hydrolysates, lactalbumin, and lactoglobulin.

Focus on fresh, whole foods

Scaling back on dairy can also be a golden invitation for you and your family to consume more fresh, whole foods like fruits, veggies, unrefined grains, beans and legumes, as well as nuts and seeds. Not only are these über healthy foods packed with vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, fiber, and more, but unlike many prepared and processed items, you can easily determine that they’re dairy free! Fresh produce is especially varied in the warmer months. Check out your local farmer’s market and see what’s in season now.

Assess your options

Many companies offer alternatives that make minimizing dairy deliciously easy. Earth Balance has a wide array, including soy milk, “butter” spreads and baking sticks, dressings and more, plus a new non-dairy mayonnaise. Blue Diamond has perfected the art of almond milk, including a new almond-coconut version. Other brands with dairy-free options include Van’s, Lundberg, Amy’s, Nature’s Path, Santa Cruz Organic, RW Knudsen, Pacific and more. Also, health food store employees are often quite knowledgeable about dairy alternatives.

So, here’s the suggested strategy: prioritize your replacement needs, starting with basics like milk, butter, and cheese. Check out your options at local markets and natural food stores. Scan labels carefully, especially in prepared/processed items. Incorporate more fresh whole foods. And finally, relax and enjoy! You may find that along with feeling better, you’re in for a whole new culinary adventure.

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Celiac Disease and Happy Hour: What You Need to Know

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Just when you thought you were safe with your gluten-free pantry and several local, “safe” restaurants, you’re asked out for drinks to celebrate an event. Or you’re invited to Napa for some wine tasting. Or a friend wants you to sample her perfect Margarita. Are these libations safe for someone avoiding gluten? That’s a very important question! Read the rest of this entry »

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Best Gluten-Free Cookbooks

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For individuals with gluten-intolerance or celiac disease, gluten-free cooking can become a medical necessity. Fortunately, a number of excellent gluten-free cookbooks have been published in recent years, many of which include tips on the best gluten-free flours for baking, how to convert your favorite recipes, guidance on key ingredients, and more. Here’s a rundown on some of the best: Read the rest of this entry »

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Gluten-Free Desserts

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You’ve had a great meal, you’re relaxing over coffee or an after-dinner liqueur, and the stage is set─for dessert, of course! For many of us, a little treat after a meal nourishes both body and spirit. Maybe we’re all still kids at heart. Should you lose this delicious option when you nix the gluten? By no means! Read the rest of this entry »

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Gluten-Free Entertaining

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One of the biggest challenges for people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance is lifestyle change─both on a daily basis, and for special occasions like entertaining. Many of us love inviting friends and family for casual dinners, holiday meals, BBQs and more. Can you continue to do so in a totally gluten-free mode? The answer is yes! Especially since some of the healthiest, most delicious entrées and side dishes are naturally gluten-free. You can simultaneously eat safely and collect raves with these tactics: Read the rest of this entry »

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Gluten-Free Cooking Tips

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Chefs and “foodies” consider many factors when creating their culinary art. Making food look and taste fabulous does take some effort, after all. Well, individuals with celiac disease or gluten intolerance need to add another variable: keep all those delicacies gluten-free!

However, you’ll be rewarded for your diligent efforts, as a completely gluten-free diet usually results in a healed intestine and reversal of symptoms in a matter of months—an astounding relief that more than makes up for the inconvenience of changing your diet! Read the rest of this entry »

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5 Sneaky Sources of Gluten

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If you’ve been diagnosed with celiac disease─or have a sensitivity to gluten─you’re probably making a concerted effort to avoid this ingredient. The problem is, gluten often lurks where you least expect it! If you want to root it out for good, you need to look beyond the obvious suspects. You might be surprised to learn that the following 5 items often harbor gluten: Read the rest of this entry »

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