One of the most exhausting aspects of being dairy free is reading labels. Your 30 minute trip to the grocery story easily turns into an hour plus venture. These quick tips can help cut down on label reading if you are in a hurry or just tired of spending half of your already hungry day inside a grocery store pouring over items you aren’t even sure you can eat.
1. Vegan is always a safe bet
Any food labeled vegan or in the vegan section of the grocery story is safe (but you should still apply the number one rule of going dairy-free: ALWAYS read the label). By definition vegan means that the product was made without any use of animals or animal products. So you are not at risk of consuming any cow’s milk protein when eating vegan foods or at vegan restaurants.
2. Look for the Kosher Symbol
This labeling was obviously created for religious reasons but can be a handy tool for the dairy-free mama. Beware that the OU-D kosher symbol signifies the product does contain dairy. All other Kosher symbols on products designate that the food item is completely free of dairy or meat and their derivatives.
3. Non-Dairy Does Not Mean Dairy-Free
Food items that are labeled Non-Dairy can, and in many cases do, contain cow milk protein, usually in the form of whey, casein or other derivatives. You can read more about why the food industry started using the term Non-Dairy on items containing cow’s milk protein here.
4. May Contain is OK (unless you or your baby is severely allergic)
If the allergen statement says “may contain” or “may contain trace…” then it is probably ok for you to eat. UNLESS you or your child is severely allergic to dairy. This should be discussed with your healthcare provider. The “may contain” statement is just a cross contamination warning and is actually voluntary not required.
5. Apply the rule of K.I.S.S.
What is K.I.S.S.? Keep It Simple Silly. Whole foods (fruits and vegetables) will always be dairy free. That is the ones you find in the produce aisle, not necessarily the frozen food or canned good section. These are always safe. When you start to read labels you will see items that you might have thought were actually country names – hello Azodicarbonamide. So a good rule to follow when reading labels, if you come across an ingredient that you don’t recognize and are not sure if it is dairy free or not. Ask yourself if you know what the ingredient looks like. If you don’t know then you probably shouldn’t eat it anyway.