Hidden Dairy

As part of preparing for The Kid, I have gone dairy-free. (I will talk about why in more detail tomorrow.) So for the time being, I’m avoiding any and all milk products and derivatives.

In grad school, I had a couple of friends who were vegan, so I knew a tad more about looking for dairy than I otherwise might have.

There are obvious things that would now be on the no-no list: milk (duh), cheese, ice cream, yogurt.

There are other things that you might not know have milk in them or might not think about: sherbet, creamy dressings.

And then there are things that you would assume are dairy-free but aren’t (or aren’t in many/most cases): soy cheese, non-dairy creamer.

I read an old post at No Meat Athlete on foods you think are vegetarian but aren’t. I had read it when it was originally posted, but it popped up in my Facebook feed and I read it again. But I also read all the comments. That’s where I was tipped off to soy cheese.

Now, in my opinion, soy cheese is borderline nasty. I would rather just do without cheese than eat the fake stuff, mainly because the places I primarily enjoy cheese are in places where it’s melted and somewhat gooey (pizza, grilled cheese sandwich) and fake cheese just doesn’t get the job done. Because of that, it’s not something I was looking into buying anyway, but since I had noted the comment, I checked out some packages.

The Big Man and I were at Trader Joe’s over the weekend, and they have three different types of soy cheese. Upon reading the labels, I saw that all three had milk protein in them.

My biggest question is: who eats soy cheese who can/will eat milk or milk derivatives?


It is interesting — and frustrating — to read labels looking for milk. I’ve been a label-reader for a long time, looking for other chemicals that I want to avoid, so looking at labels is not new to me. But there are milk products in so many things!

Didn’t think to look at the label for bread until after we were home. Yup, milk in the bread.

If you’re curious, take a look at the labels of whatever you have handy. Look not only for milk, cream, butter, cheese, yogurt (obvious choices) but also for whey, casein, and almost all ingredients starting with lacto-. This website has a good list of dairy, often dairy, rarely dairy, and dairy-free ingredients.

Fortunately, labels on products nowadays typically will have allergen information. Since dairy is a top allergen, most processed foods that contain dairy will contain a warning as well that the product contains dairy. Convenient.

Are there foods with ingredients that have surprised or frustrated you?


6 responses to this post.

  1. Dairy is difficult, especially because casein is the main protein they are allergic to! The daiya brand cheese is actually pretty good, and has no dairy. As for difficult… try removing corn from your diet! It is in everything! Xanathan gum, your typical Gluten free friend… made from corn. Chicken, turkey, and eggs… all have traces of corn from the feed. Fructose… corn.. natural flavor… corn. Smoke flavor… corn. It is really ridiculous. Confectioner sugar… corn. Made some amazing Gluten free vegan cupcakes the other day and they rocked!
    All the crap they put in everything? No good. Just eat whole foods as much as possible. Better for ya and easier than reading all those labels!

    Shall I go on with plastic? (our other allergy difficult to eradicate)?

    • I’m just going without cheese. When I went vegetarian, I didn’t expect or need veggie burgers to have the taste and consistency of a “real” burger — just to have a tasty burger-sandwich. But with cheese, I want it to be just like cheese, which is setting up the scene for disappointment. I’m good without it, at least so far…

      A friend in grad school made the best vegan cupcakes. Far better than any regular cupcakes I’ve ever had. Don’t know about their gluten content.

  2. Posted by Shawn on 29 September 2011 at 06:32

    My guess on soy cheese – people who are lactose intolerant? They’re allergic to the sugar, not the protein.

  3. Posted by Michelle on 29 September 2011 at 07:00

    We’ve also used Daiya, which is probably the least-awful. Still not great. Jules can’t have the casein (for her Aspergers), so the lactose isn’t an issue for us, making us an exception to the rule, I think. Maybe not. 🙂

    I know when we started paying more attention, I realized that there are a *lot* of things that have casein as a filler/thickener, so we’ve had to avoid them. And, other items that parents don’t realize have dairy in them, which seem obvious to me? Cheez-Its and Goldfish crackers. For some reason, ppl just don’t think that products with cheese flavoring (or cheese in the name….) have dairy in them. *sigh* Education can be painful.

    I’m interested to see your next post – wondering what prompted you to go dairy-free. I think I have an idea, but I’m curious. I’ve gone pretty much dairy-free (or at least cut it out of a lot of our diet) and I’ve seen an improvement.

    • It is interesting to learn people’s assumptions. Some of them are kind of wacky.

      Reading labels is always a learning experience! Especially when on the lookout for something new/different.

      By the time I’m replying here, my post re: why dairy-free has been posted. I’m guessing, based on your comment, that my reason wasn’t the one you were thinking? I’ve heard from several people that greatly reducing or giving up dairy helped them feel a lot better. I’m curious to see what my body feels like when it’s actually mine again, without the dairy.

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