dairy free

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Have you ever sent out birthday party invitations, with a polite little “Let us know if you have any food allergies” at the bottom, only to be faced with a wave of responses you weren’t expecting? 

Well – keep calm, and carry on. With a little know how, feeding kids with food allergies is totally manageable – and actually kind of fun! Here’s our go to guide to keep you on the right track…

Start by making a list of the kids with allergies, and those ingredients that you need to avoid. Then decide what party food you will make and buy, and match them up. At the end of your food planning, make sure there are at least one or two safe options available for each child on the list.

You can generally cater the needs of the kiddy crowd, including those with common allergies, with a few simple staples. Fruit kebabs or platters, fruit juice icy poles, fairy bread (with milk free bread and milk free margarine), plain potato chips or crips, and popcorn made with only oil, salt and or plain icing sugar are a good start. 

The main event however, the birthday cake, can be the tricky one to cater. And in this regard, cupcakes can be a lifesaver. You can substitute out different ingredients easily, and make a few different batches for different kids if need be.

If you’ve got a favourite cupcake recipe you want to use, try these modification tips:

Gluten free or wheat allergy? 

Use a premix gluten/wheat free flour (like Bob’s Red Mill, Vitarium, Schar, FG Roberts or Woolworths brand), and ensure you use pure icing sugar or a gluten free icing mixture for your topping, as many icing mixtures contain a small amount of wheat flour.

Egg allergy? 

Use Orgran egg replacer and water in place of eggs. Some people use chia or flax eggs ( with ground chia seeds and water ) but the texture of this is often better suited to a muffin recipe with chunky ingredients rather than a smooth cupcake.

Dairy free? 

Use soy milk or rice milk, and a dairy/soy free margarine, like Nuttelex. TIP:  buy a new tub of margarine for the party to avoid any contamination with things like peanut butter or toast crumbs from the family.

And… remember to read all the food labels of your usual ingredients to check for the allergens your guests need to avoid!

In Australia, the 10 most common food allergies are to milk, egg, wheat, soy, peanut, sesame, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, and lupin. The recipe below can me modified to cater for them all if need be.

Bloom allergy friendly birthday cupcakes

-makes 12 large cupcakes

Cake ingredients:

2 cups self raising flour (regular or gluten/wheat free mix)

¾ cup castor sugar

¾ cup milk (or soy or rice milk)

125g melted Nuttelex margarine 

2 eggs (or 2 tsp Orgran egg replacer + 2Tbs water)

2 tsp vanilla essence

Icing:

4 cups pure icing sugar

1 cup Nuttelex

2-3 Tbs milk (or soy or rice milk)

1 tsp vanilla essence

Optional:

Food coloring, or try a more natural colour and flavour like raspberry or strawberry powder or cocoa powder.

Sprinkles, cachous, fresh or dried berries or other favourite decorations (remember to check the ingredients!)

Method:

Preheat oven to 200 degrees C

Line 12 hole muffin pan with paper cupcake cases or reusable silicone ones.

Sift SR flour and castor sugar into a large bowl, and make a well in the centre.

Add eggs/egg replacer, vanilla, your milk choice and melted Nuttelex into the centre and gently stir to combine.

Spoon into cupcake cases, up to about ¾ full, to ensure they don’t rise too high when cooking.

Bake for about 12-15 mins, or until just cooked through.

Cool thoroughly on a wire rack before icing.

Icing:

Beat margarine and vanilla together. Sift in icing sugar, adding in a little of the milk as you go, and your colour/flavour if using. Beat until evenly combined.  Spoon into piping bag and pipe on top cupcakes. Decorate as desired!

Cupcake decorations – Keep in mind any decorations you use may contain things like milk or wheat, so check labels carefully. Major supermarkets tend to carry items like sprinkles and cake confetti that are often suitable, or consider a non edible decoration like a paper topper that matches your party theme.

Remember when cooking for a crowd to be aware of cross contamination in the kitchen. When preparing foods, clean work areas, and use separate chopping boards, utensils and serving plates. Always remember to wash hands between preparing items too.

 ***

The other way to deal with food allergies, which is also totally acceptable, is to admit if you feel unsure or overwhelmed. 

Invite the parents of kids with food allergies to stay at the party to make sure their little one is safely included.  Many parents of children with severe allergies will do this automatically- stay on and keep watch, ask you what ingredients are in a product, or bring along some food of their own, and their medicine bag just in case. 

They wont be offended, they’ll appreciate you take their little one’s allergies as seriously as they do. And you will all have a great time, safely enjoying the celebration together!

Angela @ Bloom


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Milk substitutes are rapidly gaining popularity in the modern food supply. They’re chosen for different reasons by different people  – allergies, intolerances, vegan diets, environmental concerns, and of course health benefits. Do you choose any plant based milks in your family diet?

 

Readily available plant based milks include almond, coconut, soy, oat, rice, as well as couple of other more obscure varieties like cashew, hemp seed and flax seed milks.

Home made milk substitutes are also becoming more popular, with people enjoying knowing where their food is coming from, exactly what goes into it, and the lower level of environment impact from food prepared in the home.

Like with all food selection there are lots of factors that will guide your individual choice, depending on what’s important to you –  things like taste, nutrition, health conditions, availablilty, cost, and environmental sustainability.

I’m all for the availability of dairy milk substitutes. They’ve been a great source of nutrition for many of my clients, and I’ve personally included them in my diet over the last decade since having children with food allergies. Back then the choice available was much smaller, and asking for anything more exotic than a soy latte was unheard of!

These days I actually enjoy a variety of plant based milks in my coffee or with granola for breakfast, but I also drink cow’s milk regularly and eat other milk based products like cheese. Dietary variety is a key factor in meeting nutrient requirements after all!

If you want to make sure your milk choice is helping meet your nutrition needs, there are a few key factors you should look out for.

Energy – This varies widely between the type of milk you are choosing, and is dependant on the amount of fat, carbohydrate (sugar) and protein in each milk. Low energy milks include choices like skim cows milk, rice and almond milk, and higher energy choices include full fat dairy milks, and traditionally produced coconut milk. If you’re choosing you’re milk based on its energy content, look at the nutrition panel and compare brands for their 100ml serving. But don’t just look at energy content, by doing so you may be doing your body out of lots of important nutrients below.

Protein – Again this varies widely between milk sources and brands. Items like rice milk are typically very low in protein, as is the base ingredient of rice, but surprisingly to some people, so are most nut milks, as the protein portion of the nut is mostly thrown away. Cow’s milk tends to be the highest in protein at around 3.5-4g/100ml, and soy milk is typically the highest protein plant based milk, averaging around the same . While calcium fortified soy milk is nutritionally my plant based milk of choice, its important to note that it’s not the right choice for everyone (for example some children are also allergic to soy protein, and some soy milks are not good choices on a low FODMAP diet).

Fat – Full cream cow’s milk is often rejected by people due to its higher saturated fat content when compared to skim and reduced fat choices. However fat is an important source of energy in the diet, and children under 2 years (when not drinking breastmilk or formula) are encouraged to use only full cream milks. Fat also plays a role in satiety, or how full we feel after eating and drinking, so many people prefer to use full cream milk for this reason. Coconut milk for cooking has 16 g/100ml fat, where as coconut milks designed for drinking have less (eg Sanatarium coconut milk 2.1g/100ml), but be aware most of this is saturated fat too. The source of fats in other commercial plant based milks is mostly unsaturated fats, but may also be an added fat like sunflower or canola oil, added for texture and energy content, rather than a naturally occurring fat.

Calcium – Plant based milks like rice, soy, coconut and nut milks are not naturally high in calcium. This means to meet your calcium requirements you will either need to choose a fortified commercial variety, choose enough other sources of dietary calcium, or take a calcium supplement. My personal choice is to choose a calcium fortified variety, and we recommend those that contain at least 120mg Calcium per 100ml.

Sugar – Many ( but not all) commercial plant based milks are sweetened with sugar or sugar alternatives to improve flavour. Lactose is the naturally occurring sugar in cow’s milk (and in human breast milk ), and our body usually produces the lactase enzyme from birth to be able to digest this. If you are lactose intolerant, all plant based milks are suitable, however simply swapping to a lactose free cow’s milk could be your best nutritional choice. If making plant based milks at home, keep in mind that large amounts of added sugars will add extra energy to your diet.

Iodine – Cow’s milk and dairy products are a source of dietary Iodine – an important nutrient for thyroid hormone production – especially in pregnancy and childhood. However, milk is not the high source of iodine it once was, since dairy industry stopped using iodophores to clean milk storage vats in the 1960s, and should not be relied upon as the primary source of iodine in the diet.

Plant based milks however are significantly lower in iodine, and swapping these into your diet will mean you definitely need to look for another source to boost your iodine intake.

The good news is there are other great non dairy sources in the diet like fish, shellfish and seaweed and eggs, which all contain more iodine per 100g than milk. On top of this, commercial bakers in Australia must use iodised salt in bread making, so there is an additional source of iodine readily available. As dietitians we typically advocate for using less salt in the diet, but where salt is used, choose iodised salt (unless you have a medical reason not to do so!).

B12 – Cows milk can be an important source of B12, particularly for vegetarians who don’t eat eggs. Some commercial soy milks are fortified with B12 (like Sanitarium So good Essential). If your are vegetarian, it’s worth reading your food labels to check how you can best meet your needs.

So choose your milk wisely, as it is an important source of nutrition in your day. If cow’s milk is not for you, that’s ok, but it’s not always as easy as a simple swap. If your favourite milk choice is lacking in a certain nutrient, make sure you boost your diet with other foods to cover the gaps. For the best individually tailored dietary advice, see an Accredited Practicing Dietitian, particularly if you or your family have any additional health issues.

 

Angela @ Bloom 🌿

(These tips, and other great nutrition stories, are available in our quarterly nutrition news updates. Subscribe to our nutrition newsletter on our home page to be the first to get it, straight in your inbox!)