The most obvious foods to avoid include milk, cheese, yogurt, butter, sour cream, and ice cream. The difficulty with dairy allergy is that dairy products or the components of milk are found in many foods that you might not think of. Even foods that are labeled as “dairy-free” may contain a dairy component. Casein or casein protein are common ingredients in many processed foods. Be wary of chocolate, salad dressings, soups, deli meats, and canned tuna. Also watch out for snack foods with butter or cheese flavoring. These ingredients may contain dairy even if they say they are “artificially flavored”.
There are many dairy substitutes available at the grocery store and in health food stores. Read the labels carefully as some of these also contain small amounts of dairy products. Soy milk, rice milk, and nut milk are just a few of the substitutes available. The flavors and textures (creamy or thin) of these products tend to vary greatly by brand. You may want to sample different substitutes for different uses, such as using soy milk to make pancakes and rice or oat milk for lighter baked goods or to pour over cereal.
It is very important that you learn to recognize dairy products and their derivatives on product labels. Because milk or dairy is one of the top eight allergens in the United States, the Food and Drug Administration requires producers to clearly label all foods that contain dairy products. When purchasing dairy-free items you should also consider possible sources of cross-contamination. This can occur in the kitchen of a restaurant if the same utensils are used to prepare a food with dairy and one without. Cross-contamination happens in food processing plants if dairy-free foods are prepared using the same manufacturing equipment as foods containing dairy. It can also occur at the deli counter if the same slicer is used to cut meats and cheeses.
Some products that are derived from milk are considered safe foods for dairy allergy. Lactoferrin and Tagatose (Naturlose) are generally considered safe. Check with your doctor to make sure this is true for you before you use these products.