Ditching Dairy: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Healthy, Dairy-Free Kids
It has become increasingly popular to follow a dairy-free diet, and you can see why. The availability of plant-based and dairy-free products is increasing year on year, and dropping dairy from your diet has never been easier. A huge 41% of households in the US purchase plant-based milk and that number is set to increase. This change has been driven by people’s growing awareness of the negative impacts of dairy farming, with people questioning the ethical and environmental implications of consuming dairy.
If you are ready to jump into a dairy-free lifestyle but don’t know where to start, read on!
Let me share with you three reasons why it is worth considering reducing your meat intake.
The Negative Impact of the Dairy Industry
The wholesome dairy farms you see on milk cartons, with cows grazing on rolling hills, are a thing of the past. These days, dairy farming is done on an industrial level with little thought or care given to the cows that prop up this industry.
Dairy farming is unsustainable and unethical. Industrial-scale farming means cramped conditions for the cows and painful procedures like tail docking are the norm. The overuse of antibiotics has led to antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which is a serious global public health crisis.
Dairy farming also has serious impacts on the environment. Dairy milk has a worse environmental impact than all plant-based milk alternatives.
By reducing your dairy intake or removing it from your and your children’s diet altogether you will be making a positive impact on the world.
Ensuring Children Get Adequate Nutrition
Transitioning to a dairy-free diet can be overwhelming, but with some careful planning and guidance, it’s 100% achievable.
Firstly, consult a health professional, such as your family doctor or dietitian. They can go through in detail what you need to ensure your children thrive without dairy. This is especially important if you have young children who are reliant on milk to get a lot of their calories and calcium.
Check out this Guide to Non-Dairy Milk for Kids if you want to start by making the switch from cow’s milk to plant alternatives. A key tip when switching from dairy milk is to aim for fortified plant milk, this ensures you and your kids still receive essential nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12. Aim for milk that has a minimum of 120 mg calcium per 100ml. Also, opt for unsweetened plant milk to avoid excess sugar intake.
If you need some meal ideas to kick-start your dairy-free diet, Yummy Toddler Food has rounded up 50 delicious and kid-friendly recipes to get you started.
The main thing to do is to research dairy-free alternatives and to eat a well-balanced diet filled with lots of calcium-rich foods to make up for what you are no longer getting from dairy.
Sources of Dairy Free Calcium
Thankfully, there are many excellent sources of calcium and healthy calories that do not involve dairy and children can still get all their required nutrients.
Some calcium-rich foods to add to your diet include:
✨ Curly Kale
✨ Plant-based yogurts and ice cream
✨ Baked beans
Some of these may not seem super kid friendly but with the right recipe, your kids are going to love it. Mix tahini in with a bowl of porridge and sneak veggies into tasty smoothies for a healthy snack.
Sources of Dairy Free B12
B12 is mainly found in dairy but you can still get it from non-dairy sources if you know where to look. B12 can be found in marmite, vegan meat, fortified cereals, and plant milks.
A delicious source of B12 is nutritional yeast. It’s the best dairy-free way of making cheesy sauces for pasta bakes and mac & cheese.
Tips for Transitioning To A Dairy Free Diet
Know the lingo – once you start trying to reduce dairy in your life you’d be amazed at how many ways dairy is snuck into your food. You’ll find dairy in foods you’d never expect to find, like potato chips and ketchup!
Dairy isn’t only milk and butter, it also includes:
These are also milk derivatives:
- Whey powder
- Milk powder
- Hydrolyzed milk protein
Top Tip: lactose-free does not mean dairy free. Lactose is a protein found in dairy, if it says lactose-free it is still the same dairy product but with the protein removed.
It doesn’t have to be all or nothing – if you aren’t ready to give up all dairy, don’t. Making small changes is a great way to start and over time you can slowly remove all dairy from your diet. Whatever you decide, every little helps.
Keep it tasty – dairy free doesn’t mean you give up all tasty dairy-filled treats. There are a huge amount of delicious alternatives. Get the kids involved with cooking delicious dairy-free desserts and hunting out delicious dairy-free alternatives in the shops.
Removing dairy from your family’s diet can seem overwhelming! However, with the right planning, a bit of recipe experimentation, and a chat with your healthcare professional you will be on your way to helping the planet and raising healthy dairy-free children.
We have two wonderful books for children which aim to help them on their journey to understand animal welfare and farming – 100% of our proceeds go towards animal rights organizations (yes, we do this for love, not money!)
The first in our trilogy of beautifully illustrated children’s books, this is a story about friendship and compassion through a calf named Gabriel and his human friend Claire.