Are You Dairy-Free? Watch Out Dairy May Be Hiding in Your Holiday Meal

If you or a loved one is dairy-free, allergic to dairy or vegan, some of your favorite Thanksgiving foods may be hazardous to your health. Many Americans are allergic to milk rather than intolerant. If you are one of them, don’t ignore the products that can cause long-term problems to your mind and body. it is possible to be dairy-free this holiday season.

If you're  dairy-free, allergic to dairy or vegan, some of your favorite Thanksgiving foods may be hazardous to your health. Here's where dairy is hiding:A dairy allergy oftentimes comes from the milk proteins such as whey and casein. Casein is found in milk and all dairy products. Even if you remove dairy products, the casein protein may remain. Many packed foods contain lactose, dairy and casein. Casein, more than than whey or lactose, is harder to detect. Even lactose-free products may contain large amounts of casein. Foods that say “natural ingredients” on their list of ingredients may indicate dairy products too.

Dairy is Hiding in These Foods

- Seasoning: Because lactose has no flavor and is less sweet, it’s commonly used as a filler in seasoning mix such as instant soups. Because it is such an excellent carrier of flavors and seasoning, you could find lactose in many of your foods.
- Caramel coloring: You wouldn’t expect it, but caramel coloring relies heavily on dairy products. Before reaching for any of the dinner sweets, make sure there is no caramel coloring included. Many kinds of caramel coloring actually contain lactose to help get that rich color.
- Whey. All products with whey have dairy derivatives. Watch out.
- Potatoes: Many thanksgiving potatoes may contain butter, milk, cream, margarine or marshmallows.
- Gravies: Most gravies are made with large amount of cream and other dairy products.
- Canned foods: Even these traditional aspects of Thanksgiving dinner aren’t safe. Many canned foods contain levels of milk to give them their color and taste. Canned tuna almost always contains casein (the milk protein).
- Sausages
- Breads and breadcrumbs. Yeah, that buttery bread and even the one that looks like it was made with limited milk products can contain a lot more milk derivatives than you think.

If you or a loved one is dairy-free, allergic to dairy or vegan, some of your favorite Thanksgiving foods may be hazardous to your health.
- Salad dressing: Not only ranch and other thicker salad dressings, but even some vinaigrette may contain dairy derivatives.
- The Turkey: Sure, it’s the centerpiece of the meal, but that self-basting turkey is probably injected with butter and other milk products to give it that moisture and taste. It can include soy, what and dairy. Whole fresh poultry may be infused (injected with) lactose to keep it fresher. Instead, look for a “natural turkey,” which by law only contains water and nothing else.
- Stuffing: watch out; stuffing can include milk products and derivatives such as bread on top of other allergens such as nuts and soybeans.
- Food cooked with vinegar. Many of the dinner’s products cooked with vinegar contain milk-derived ingredients. This also goes for pre-packaged foods that contain vinegar such as vinegar flavored potato chips.
- Butter/Margarine: Sometimes, low-fat butters contain even more lactose than regular butter due to the skim-milk powder added. If your body can manager small levels of lactose, choose regular dairy products instead of low-fat alternatives. Artificial butter flavor contains large levels of milk derivatives. While better, watch out for margarine for your Thanksgiving meal.
- Dried vegetables: The dried vegetables contain milk products in order to reduce sweetness and prevent discoloration. Dried vegetables with 3% or more lactose had better appearance and color after re-hydration.

If you're  dairy-free, allergic to dairy or vegan, some of your favorite Thanksgiving foods may be hazardous to your health. Here's where dairy is hiding:

- Packaged foods: Low-fat foods use milk as fat replacement. They rely on lactose and milk proteins to give extra taste and protein to “low-fat” foods.
- Skim milk powder: Skim milk in baked produced such as thanksgiving muffins and biscuits contain a lot more lactose than regular milk (sometimes 3 to 5 times as much). Skim-milk powder, on average, contains 52% lactose. Therefore, low-fat ice cream, yogurt, and cottage cheese contain even more lactose in them so NOT dairy-free! This goes for all dried milk products.
- Coconut milk powder (dried, not the canned liquid form): Much like with powdered skim milk, coconut milk powder contain large quantities of casein, milk or cream.
- Deli meats: That dinner ham may contain high levels of milk derivatives for flavor. Dairy products are added to processed and deli meats to add flavor. Instead, look for kosher meats which will be dairy-free.
- Vegetarian “meat” products: Too add additional protein, many vegetarian products contain casein or whey protein. Look for vegan or “casein-free” products instead.
- Granola: As granola is prepared through a mixture of grains, dried fruits, nuts and seeds tossed in butter, oil or a sweetener.
- Soy cheeses: Any food, even those that you might think do not include dairy, can contain dairy proteins in them for flavoring.
- Sour Cream
- Creamy soup: Unless its been made by you or says vegan or dairy-free and casein-free on the label stay away! These soups are made thick by dairy products including milk and butter.
- Non-dairy or vegetarian cheeses such as soy cheese: Any food, even those that you might think do not include dairy, can contain dairy proteins in them for flavoring. While you might assume that soy, nut, or rice-based cheese are non-dairy, they oftentimes use casein or whey protein. These cheese may have large amounts of lactose in them as well. For truly dairy-free cheese, find products that are labeled as vegan or dairy-free instead.
- Cakes and cookies: This might be obvious, even though targeted as dairy-free may contain small levels of milk or casein, found in soy milks. Shiny bakery sweets may contain butter as well.
- Candy: Even candy that do not appear to have a lot of dairy in them can have large levels of milk derivatives in them.
- Protein or “high energy” foods: The added protein in these foods are mostly milk proteins such as casein AKA whey. This also goes for cereal bars, which contain dairy, butter far, casein, lactose, whey or milk powder. These bars are not dairy-free. Even soy protein bars contain milk proteins and derivatives.
- Pumpkin pie: pumpkin pie is normally cooked with milk products. Even those without lactose can include milk derivative products such as casein.

Alcoholic Drinks Can Contain Dairy

- Wine: This might surprise you, but that wine you have with your dinner can contain milk derivatives. Casein is one of the six substances they use to clarify wine. Many also use egg white. You may check to see if casein is used in the fining process.
- Sour Mix: Looking for something stronger than wine after dinner? Many sour mixes for drinks such as margaritas or sour candies are derived from milk.

Medications May Not Be Dairy-Free

Done with dinner and need some digestive relief? Unfortunately, those aren’t always dairy-free either.

- Medication: Medications now rely on a very large amount of lactose. Even inhalers and sprays contain lactose powder. Many white pills use lactose powder and other dairy derivatives to make the pills stick together. Look at the ingredients and ask your pharmacist.
- Fruit flavored Tums: A large number of Americans suffer from heartburn, especially after Thanksgiving feasts. Before reaching for that fruit flavored Tums, reach for the original white Tums instead. Fruit flavored tums contains undisclosed dairy.

Sure, it might look like there isn’t much you can eat for Thanksgiving at first, but there are always natural alternatives without dairy derivatives in them. Don’t cheat your health this Thanksgiving, a small slip up doesn’t get ignored by your body, it can have lasting effects that are frustrating and far from comfortable. Instead look for dairy-free, vegan, and kosher products instead.

Have a Happy and Healthy Thanksgiving.


Emily Roberts MA, LPC and The Neurogistics Staff


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