Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
"Who knew this had milk?" and "Why the heck does this have dairy in it?" are rhetorical questions everyone going dairy free declares. Getting dairy out of my diet was life-changing. Getting there was tricky. This guide will show you how to avoid dairy on a plant-based diet.
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Nondairy and Dairy Free
You would think these terms mean the same thing, but the FDA doesn't think so.
They do not consider those words to be interchangeable or equivalent. Dairy-free is used when a product is absent of all dairy ingredients. However, nondairy, the slightly different unattractive fraternal twin, refers to products that may be 0.5% or less milk by weight of casein (aka milk protein).
To muddle things further, nondairy does not automatically mean it contains casein. Some manufacturers use the term interchangeably with dairy free because of fears of liability; some argue that nondairy is a less intimidating word for consumers.
But don't worry. Suppose a manufacturer uses the term nondairy, which contains casein. In that case, they must disclose it on the ingredients list, e.g., sodium caseinate (milk). Alternatively, it can be listed on the "contains" statement at the bottom of the ingredients., e.g., "Contains: milk."
Milk-free means the same as dairy free. The product should not contain any milk-based ingredients.
Lactose is the sugar in milk. Lactose is either removed in products by adding the enzyme lactase to milk or by using an ultrafiltration technique. Lactose removal does not mean the product is free of other milk-based ingredients.
Vegan products do not have animal products, including dairy.
This does not always mean vegan. Plant-based products can be made with mostly plants but not entirely without animal products.
Kosher Pareve / Parve
Pareve in kosher food contains no meat or dairy but can contain eggs or fish. For more information on Pareve, go to Chabad.org.
None of the labels above are regulated by the FDA, so do your due diligence when avoiding dairy.
Learn to read ingredient lists to avoid dairy
Remember to bring your monocle or bifocals to the store for this one. I know, not fun. But once you decode the secrets to the words food scientists made up while drunk, you'll take to it like a fish to water.
Some well-known ingredients like butter, cream, and yogurt; others will help you win your next Scrabble game. Look for these common ingredients:
Sure, here's how this information could be formatted into a table:
|Sweetener derived from lactose
|Also known as whey protein
|Additive in some gums and toothpastes
These are all ingredients derived from milk or dairy. If you're avoiding dairy, look out for these on ingredient lists.
Look at the food allergen labeling
The food allergen label, the "Contains:" statement, can be found within the ingredients or in a statement immediately following the ingredients - usually in bold, so you may not need those bifocals. (see pictures below)
Even with a food allergen label, you should always look at the ingredients list to check for accuracy. Also, this label only covers ingredients, not processes; if you have a dairy allergy, you will want to contact the company and inquire about their processing methods.
The voluntary "may contain", "made in a facility with", or "produced in a facility" statements on labels only refer to possible cross-contamination of ingredients (not included ingredients ).
Many products containing allergens, like dairy, are produced on the same machines or in the same factory as other products, so manufacturers add a precautionary statement to warn consumers with severe allergies and protect themselves from lawsuits.
Most vegans or plant-based consumers see the product as perfectly suitable for consumption since dairy is not an added ingredient but a statement of the potentiality of cross-contamination.
Undercover dairy in otherwise plant-based food
Below are a few foods that contain hidden dairy that may be surprising when trying to avoid dairy. Check labels before purchasing.
|Dairy Containing Ingredient
|Fresh Bread / Processed Bread
|May contain milk, butter, or egg wash for shine.
|Panko or corn flake crumbs are dairy-free, or make your own.
|Some Non-Dairy Creamers
|May contain casein (the protein in milk).
|Cereals / Granola
|Some contain whey and butter.
|Can contain butter or nonfat milk.
|May contain milk derivatives.
|Some contain dairy or egg.
|Many have butter or powdered milk.
|Hint of Lime Flavored Tortilla Chips (Tostitos) & Other Snacks
|Often contain dairy due to artificial flavors.
|Salad Dressings / Dips
|Yes, even vinaigrettes.
|Some brands contain whey to mimic butter flavor.
|Sometimes, they have added whey or milk powder.
|Vegetarian "Meat" Products
|Some contain casein or whey protein isolates. If they are dairy-free, they will be labeled vegan.
|Some manufacturers use milk or milk derivatives in production. Check with manufacturers first.
Remember, always read labels and check with the manufacturer when in doubt.
This article is for informational purposes only. If you have a dairy allergy or are intolerant, always use due diligence and check with manufacturers first.