My journey into dairy-free eating was not a one-step process. I didn’t find out that I had a problem digesting lactose until I was a freshman in college (which made a lot of sense after I looked back on how I felt during high school after eating dairy).
Avoiding lactose solved the problem for a while, but over the next year, I also become unable to digest whey, casein, and other milk proteins and ingredients deriving from milk.
One thing I’ve learned over the years – read labels. Even if you think you know what the labels say, read labels. Ingredients sometimes change in foods, and sometimes milk ingredients sneak in where you least suspect them.
Here are a few foods that can contain dairy that might surprise you:
Not really non-dairy. This contains milk protein so if you just have problems with lactose, this might be alright for you. Otherwise, steer clear and just get Silk creamer (I love French Vanilla).
Yes, lunch meats. I found this one out the hard way after feeling awful from eating a turkey bagel sandwich from Brueggers. I guess it’s added to some lunch meat for flavor, so just watch your back.
It’s obvious that breads like brioche or croissants have butter in them, but depending on what kind of bread you buy, you’ve got a chance that they added some milk or milk powder, in some cases. If I’m at a restaurant, I find that I’m usually in the clear if I order french bread or sourdough, or even something like multi-grain. Most of the bread we eat comes from Wild Flour bakery, and all of their breads are vegan (except for the cheese breads, of course).
Potato chips (and Pop Chips)
Even though I know I shouldn’t eat them, I’m a sucker for Baked Lays. Imagine my surprise and disappointment when Baked Lays changed their recipe of their Barbecue chips to include milk a few months ago. Even some of your favorite foods can change recipes from time to time, so don’t worry about looking paranoid for checking labels often – that stuff happens. Pop Chips were a total surprise to me (something else I ate before reading the label), but oftentimes a lot of “health food” junk food adds milk to fill you up for less calories, I think? Keep away from everything Special K related, it’s all got milk in it for the same reason.
Yes, beer. I once got fooled by a delicious (but unsettling) creme brulee stout. If the beer is a milk stout and you are sensitive to more than lactose, you shouldn’t entertain the notion of drinking these beers.
Perhaps an obvious one, but a lot of people think since margarine is fake butter that it doesn’t contain dairy in it. Stick to Earth Balance (or select varieties of Smart Balance if you can’t get it) for your phony butter needs.
I grew up on and live for Nature Valley Crunchy Peanut Butter bars, and am happy to report you can eat them without worry, for they are dairy-free! Most of your run-of-the-mill granola bars, however, contain dairy.
Not sure what milk ingredients might be lurking in foods? GoDairyFree has a great ingredient list that can help you understand how to efficiently read labels.