When we first realized that my son needed to be on a dairy-free diet, my biggest fears were around adequate protein and calcium in his diet. I know from being a dietitian that specializes in family nutrition that many other parents have faced this same concern. In honour of Allergy Awareness Week, I wanted to share a few tips with you if you have a child who needs a casein-free or casein-and-egg-free diet on ways to ensure nutritional adequacy. At the end, I've also included an Oatmeal Banana Flax Muffin recipe that's a great nutrition boost for any time of day!
Add Hemp Hearts and Chia Seeds Hemp hearts and chia seeds are wonderful sources of complete protein and omega 3 fatty acids, which are important for growing bodies and brains. In our home we call them “sprinkles” and add them to baked goods, smoothies, coconut milk yogurt and sliced bananas. We sprinkle them on top of almond butter in a wrap, mashed avocado on toast, and use them as a salad topper. If your child is hesitant, try letting them add their own. Giving autonomy to a child can really break down barriers of fears around new foods. One of my favourite things to make for my kids is Chia Pudding. It's a great dairy-free alternative to yogurt and is super easy to make. Just add 3 Tbsp. of chia seeds to 1 cup of almond or coconut milk and place in the fridge for 4-24 hours. Serve on its own or with fruit.
Add Nuts and Seeds. If your child can tolerate nuts and seeds, try offering them at snack times on their own, or by making your own trail mix. Nut and seed butters also make a great fruit dip. My boys love Sunbutter with apples and almond butter on bananas (with hemp hearts too)!
Try Some Great Dairy-Free Alternatives. Go for ones that are as similar as possible to foods that your child previously enjoyed. For example, Daiya Foods offers sliced and shredded cheese that I use in wraps and sandwiches, macaroni and cheese, pizza, frozen dessert, and more. These foods provide a wonderful way for children to not feel centered out or like they are missing out.
Remember to Choose FORTIFIED Milk Alternatives. That way your child will be consuming the vitamins and minerals they need for bone, teeth, and muscle growth and development. Also, take note that many milk alternatives are lacking in complete protein and/or adequate fat for children. You can find more information on the various alternatives in a blog I wrote last year: https://mealsformeandmyminis.wordpress.com/2017/03/25/milks-are-they-all-the-same/.
Use “Flax Eggs”, Coconut Milk, and Avocado or Coconut Oil in your Baked Goods. You can make any recipe dairy-free by replacing the eggs with flax meal, milk with coconut milk, and butter with avocado or coconut oil. Flax meal is a mixture of flax and water. You can see the application of these tips in the delicious recipe below for my Oatmeal Banana Flax Muffins.
Dairy-Free Oatmeal Banana Flax Muffins
1.5 cups oats (ideally steel cut quick cooking oats)
1.5 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 cup hemp hearts
1 cup mashed bananas (about 3 large or 4 small)
1 cup coconut milk or coconut milk yogurt
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 Tbsp. avocado oil
2 Tbsp. maple syrup or honey
1 Tbsp. ground flax seed mixed with 3 Tbsp. water and let sit for 5 minutes
2 tsp. vanilla
- Mix dry ingredients together and set aside.
- Mash bananas then add flax meal, applesauce, oil, vanilla, and coconut milk/yogurt.
- Add the dry and wet mixture together and stir until moistened, but do not over-stir.
- Spoon into a muffin pan and bake at 350 degrees F for 14-17 minutes for mini muffins and 22-28 minutes for regular-sized muffins.
Makes 18 regular size muffins or 36 mini muffins.
These are great on their own or topped with any nut or seed butter and served with cheese, yogurt, or a glass of milk. Because they do not have added sugar, they will spoil faster than most muffins so best to put them into the fridge or freezer for storage beyond 24 hours.