Hey friends! I have a little bit of a different post today. I’m going to share all the tips/tricks/products I can think of that helped me survive the elimination of soy/dairy from my diet due to breastfeeding with Quinn’s cow’s milk protein/milk soy protein intolerance (CMPI/MSPI). I didn’t see much in the way of resources out there, so I hope this little post can be an extra knowledge nugget for those looking for it. When Quinn was diagnosed with cow’s milk protein intolerance 9 months ago, I had quite the journey ahead with navigating how to eliminate both allergens from my diet. I have been vegan in the past, which may have helped a little with the dairy elimination, but soy was another bear! When I say soy is in everything ….(!). Of note, I entirely eliminated soy from my diet (some opt to keep soy lecithin/refined soybean oil in the diet, but it depends on the baby- talk to your provider about that!).
I hope this helps any other moms that are out there feeling overwhelmed because the learning curve can be tremendous. But it is possible to continue breastfeeding! (However, if you ultimately decided to go the formula route- there is absolutely no shame in it!). I also want to have this post written in case we have to navigate this again in the future with another baby, because, wheeew, I’d hate to forget all this!
I don’t want to get too graphic/medical- that’s not the intention of this post. But I will say it took a solid three weeks for Quinn’s symptoms to show marked improvement. Around week two I thought why am I doing this if it’s not working?, but the pediatric gastroenterologist encouraged me to give it time, and she was right! When I started seeing the improvement in Quinn’s symptoms, it was the motivation I needed to keep going. If you do want more details about what lead to the diagnosis, we can definitely chat in the comments or feel free to send a message.
A couple quick disclaimers: I’m not writing this as a medical professional/to give any medical advice, I’m simply writing friend to friend! Please check with your provider regarding these products and soy/dairy elimination if you have any questions. Additionally, this post is not comprehensive. There are a lot of really great products/resources out there, and I’m discovering new ones all the time! If I missed something you love, please let me know so I can include it ☺️. Further, this post is not sponsored in any way. I just genuinely want to share products that have worked for me (and some that haven’t). Lastly, products can change, so while I hope this entirely accurate, please double check labels :).
Any who!! Let’s get into it, shall we?!
First things first- I learned it’s important to read every label. Many restaurants have allergen sheets online where you can quickly tell if there is dairy or soy in an item. Below is the chart I used to familiarize myself with what to look for specifically on labels. Here is the link for the graph below reproduced from McMaster Children’s Hospital.
It can seem overwhelming looking for all these ingredients, but it is helpful that most labels write “contains: *insert allergen*” under the ingredient list. I still read the whole label though because I have seen soy in the ingredient list when it’s not listed as an allergen.
Some sneaky culprits of these allergens that surprised me were lunch meats/certain processed meats (casein), dressings/marinades, breads and candies/chocolate. When going out to eat, most places can check if something contains soy/dairy. Just specify you cannot have butter too, because I discovered many people don’t automatically think of butter as dairy. Also you can request your meal is cooked with olive oil- that way you can be more confident butter or vegetable oil (which usually contains soy) won’t be used. Also, just because something is vegan does not mean it’s soy free!
Now let’s talk the good stuff- what’s not off limits!! I tried to stock our fridge with whole foods to serve as the base of my diet. Think- vegetables, fruit, meats, seafood, eggs and grains (oats/rice/quinoa/farro). The trick here is to be cautious buying “quick” variations of these items. For example, many of the instant rice packages have soy added. When cooking with just these basics listed, you add so much flavor to your meal with lemon, lime, herbs and other spices. (Also double check spice/seasoning labels because dairy/soy can hide in there too!).
In addition to my “base”, below are the products I’ve explored/used. The biggest bummer- some of these specialty items can be pricy, but it’s good to know these are available if you want a suitable alternative. I substitute with these products in recipes too, and usually the meal turns out well!
Milk: There are so many options out there for this! I usually opt for Silk’s unsweetened cashew or almond for less creamy milk or Planet Oat Oatmilk if I want creamier. You have many options depending what you prefer- coconut, oat, flax, pea protein for example. There are extra creamy/sweetened/flavored/chocolate options too! I totally avoided anything hemp based though. If ordering a latte or milk based drink at a coffee shop, I suggest ordering oat milk as it will usually be creamier and frothier than almond or cashew. Here’s a fun roundup of some of the best.
Coffee Creamers: My favorite are the nut pods. They aren’t necessarily as creamy as real creamer, but I’ve enjoyed trying the different creative flavors. Califia has a line of coffee creamers that sound delicious, I just haven’t got around to trying them yet!
Yogurt: My favorites are either the unsweetened So Delicious coconut, True Goodness plain coconut (creamier than the So Delicious) or oat based yogurt. Another option for almond based is Kite Hill unsweetened Almond, although the flavor is a little ~different~. If you venture into the sweetened route, there is a lot out there! I just have found the sweetened yogurts tend to have a lot of added sugar, so I’d rather sweeten mine more subtly/naturally with honey/fruit. I personally don’t enjoy the Nancy or Forager yogurt as much, but they have oat and cashew based ones, respectively. I have never tried Culina, but that’s another soy/dairy free coconut based alternative. Also! Plain unsweetened yogurts can double as sour cream. I always top tacos with it and
a little a lot of hot sauce 😋.
Butter: I LOVE the Earth Balance soy free butter! I haven’t tried anything else, but I’m sure there is more out there.
Breads: My favorites- Dave’s Killer Breads, Atoria’s Lavash Wraps . Other brands to look for: Udi’s, Bfree. For tortillas- Siete Chickpea or Cassava tortillas are my faves! I heat them up in a frying pan with a little soy/dairy free butter until golden and make tacos with them.
Lunch Meats: Here is a helpful link that shares common lunch meats that are dairy/soy free. My go-to used to be Applegate’s Turkey Breast, but recently it’s become kind of dry and flaky! Now I use Hormel’s Natural Turkey breast. I also tried to avoid nitrites/nitrates/preservatives in general.
Cheese: My two favorite dairy and soy free cheese brands are Violife and Follow Your Heart. I love the Violife Colby Jack shreds (they melt great) and Follow Your Heart smoked gouda slices particularly! Violife has a great parmesan cheese block too. Daiya is another solid option, I just prefer the other two more. Although I do love Daiya’s jalapeño havarti cheese block!
Pizza: This category is trickier to find good alternatives I’d say. Daiya has some options- I don’t love all of them, but their meatless meat lovers is probably my favorite. I think the best is the Vegan Harvest Flatbread. Amy’s vegan margherita is also tasty! (Amy’s also has some good soy/dairy free burrito options (and general other prepackaged options too!).
Protein bars: Some dairy/soy free protein bars have sugar alcohols, so be cautious if you’re avoiding those. My go-to soy/dairy/sugar alcohol free were Good! Snacks Bars, Go Macro, and Rx Bars. If you’re ok with sugar alcohols, No Cow, Orgain and Lenny and Larry have options. Other general options: Aloha & Larabar. Some of these have good protein powder options too. In order to add a boost of protein to my day, I make a “Greek yogurt” with a dairy/soy free yogurt, 2 scoops of collagen powder, peanut butter or chocolate pb2 (makes it more of a chocolate mousse), berries & honey! That collagen powder is a great protein boost you can mix into coffee, soups, yogurt, etc.
Peanut Butter: There are many options here, just watch for the soybean oil! My favorite is MaraNatha Creamy or Crunchy peanut spread. Smucker’s Natural, Justin’s, or Once Again Nut Butter are other solid options.
Ice Cream: There are some good options out there you will see listed as “frozen dessert”. Most use a coconut, almond or cashew base. So Delicious has delicious options (double check for soy though). My favorites are the cookie dough, salted caramel cluster, oatmilk S’Mores, vanilla bean sandwiches, mocha almond fudge bars & dipped double chocolate delight bars. Clearly I’ve made the rounds in the ice cream department! I have a harder time finding Oatly products, but I think the coffee flavor frozen dessert is so delicious and creamy!!! They have some great other flavors too. Some other brands that have specific dairy/soy free products: NadaMoo!, Halo Top (contains sugar alcohols), Cado Avocado, Favorite Day, Jeni’s (Texas Sheet Cake is a winner!), & Talenti sorbettos.
Chocolate/Sweets: Hu chocolate is my favorite (the salty dark chocolate is my weakness), but it can be pricy. Another great option is any of the Enjoy Life products (I really enjoy the brownie bites and chocolate chip cookies. They have good baking product alternatives too!). Also, you can keep out an eye for plant based alter ego chocolate bars. Another way I satisfy my chocolate sweet tooth is with these Veggies Made Great Chocolate Muffins. I put a little ice cream on top of a warm one of these for a dessert, and oh my goodness- heaven! It reminds me of a molten lava cake. For a quick overall healthier brownie alternative, I enjoy Nature’s Bakery Double Chocolate Brownie Bars. Oh and I cannot forget the PNW Cookies!!! Of what I’ve tried, I most love their Chocolate Chip cookie & Molasses cookie. Yum!
Snacks: I have to have my salty snacks. My favorites include Hippeas Snacks (white cheddar particularly) Harvest Snaps Green Pea Snacks (original lightly salted), Popcorners, Hu Grain Free Crackers, Angie’s BOOM CHICKA POP popcorn (kettle corn is my go-to) & Simple Mills Sea Salt Crackers. Oh and Siete also has a slew of great chip options! There’s actually a whole lot out there in the way of snacks, just have to read the labels!
Dressings/Oils/Marinades: I keep it overall pretty simple. I tend to use balsamic, olive oil, mustard and Fattoush Salad dressing for my day-to-day. Noble Made has some fun options- some I still haven’t tried but want to! Most of their products are vegan (except the garlic parmesan wing sauce), but I can’t confirm all products are soy free, so please double check! Saucy lips has excellent choices too- and I believe they are entirely soy and dairy free! Primal Kitchen is another brand for dairy/soy free options. I tried the garlic Alfredo sauce, and it was fine; it did grow on me. However, they have other great options to explore!
Further resources: I came across this master list as well! This list is nice because it highlights dairy free only foods as well if you are ok with soy. I don’t use an app, but it may be a convenient way to look up food choices! Here is a list of some to consider.
I actually have felt so good eating dairy/soy free. I think the biggest difference I’ve noticed is I feel overall less inflamed and oddly energized. It’ll be interesting to see if there is a difference when I add these back into my diet.
I sincerely hope this was helpful for someone out there! Please let me know if I’m mistaken on any of this information or you have products I can add :). You’ve got this!!