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How I Went Dairy & Soy-Free For A Year While Breastfeeding & A Ton Of Recipes & Resources!

August 31, 2016

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I can’t believe it’s been a year that I’ve been living a restricted, dairy and soy free diet. When Piper was a tiny baby she had so many G.I. issues that were eventually resolved as reflux and an intolerance to dairy and possibly soy. This wasn’t just her frequent & abundant spit ups (that came with each and every feed and resulted in loads of laundry every day) but blood in her stools and then in her spit up as well. As a brand new mom it’s pretty scary to see in real  life the scenarios unfold that all of your pamphlets and baby books tell you require immediate medical attention. After too many trips to the doctor to count and so much anxiety it was a relief once I eliminated dairy and soy and we saw some improvement. Piper was eventually put on medication for her reflux which I resisted for far too long – as soon as we started it her spit ups diminished as did the blood.

I get so many questions all the time about how I went dairy and soy-free for so long. A lot of people also don’t understand  that to go completely dairy & soy-free means you can’t have any soy protein, soy lechicin or any form of whey. Most of these are listed in the ingredients for any pre-made or processed item at the grocery store. We were shocked to discover soy in literally every item on our normal grocery list – it’s also kind of scary. A lot of people think ‘oh just don’t drink milk or eat soy sauce‘ — ha it’s so much more! Most food at restaurants is fried in soybean oil.  Forget eating out – I pretty much gave it up since it wasn’t worth it to me to order the most bland, boring items on the menu. I’d rather just cook at home. Piper’s intolerance was so strong that if I had any bit of dairy or soy in a dish I didn’t prepare or when eating out we’d know it the very next day and she’d have blood in her stools, so I had to be so very careful with everything I ate.

Starting this diet was a huge and challenging change for me – I love food (especially cheese) and cooking with a newborn presents its own set of new challenges as it is, let alone searching for new meals to make that fit within the dairy and soy-free parameters. I would day dream about being able to order a pizza or just get carry out in my state of exhaustion. It seems like such a small thing to get so disrupted by – and I’m so grateful that Piper was and is OK and that this was the least of our worries but it was still really hard on me, none the less. Today I’m hoping to share resources and meal ideas for other new moms who may be going through this same issue.

Food allergies and intolerances are all too common these days — why? I can’t seem to get a straight answer. Is it the GMO’s I’ve been consuming for years and while I was pregnant? Are our doctors more observant and pro-active in treating and discovering food allergies (many claim that in previous years these intolerances just went unnoticed) today? Is it a medical trend? When did dropping off diapers at your pediatrician’s office to be tested become the norm? It definietly has me thinking a lot more about what we eat and especially what we cook for Piper. One of my good friends experienced similar issues with her daughter and was on this diet with me for a few months which was such a great support to have.

I’m happy to say that I’ve begun to eat dairy and soy (when Piper was 12 months) and Piper’s responded well — and eating both dairy and soy on her own now. She does have an allergy to fish.

So onto my tips and resources for dairy & soy-free eating! I thought I’d break this up into a few categories. If you have any further questions please feel free to send me an email stylewithinreachblog@gmail.com and I’d be happy to help however I can!

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Grocery shopping tips: I generally found that shopping at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods for most of my groceries was the best option – yes you’ll spend more but they have so many more options for you. You can probably find some of these items at your regular grocery store but for things like bread and crackers I just gave up and only got them at Trader Joe’s because I knew I could count on them without having to spend 10 minutes reading labels.

Be careful because a lot of products with the vegan label contain soy — though its a good place to start when narrowing down your options!

Items relied on at Trader Joe’s: They have sliced bread large loaves labeled “Tuscan Pane” in whole wheat and regular white flour that are OK to have (I could not find bread at the regular grocery store that didn’t contain soy). I also got their stoned wheat crackers and their version of wheat thins. I also discovered in my last month on the diet their mini sandwich crackers with peanut butter were OK and a nice “treat”. What I survived off of working so many weddings and just in general as a snack are their peanut butter filled pretzels. I can’t tell you how many bags of them I went through the past year. They are filling and tasty. Both their regular hummus & organic hummus are dairy & soy-free (FYI -Sabra brand is NOT).  Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk & cans of coconut milk were a standby in the pantry. I also loaded up on bags of avocados, hard boiled eggs and boxes of frozen quinoa and brown rice.

Daiya makes some great dairy & soy-free options — I didn’t love their cheese alternative but did always have a frozen pizza on stock (especially good when you top it with your own veggies) and indulged in their boxed ‘mac & cheese’ several times!

So Delicious makes a ton of different dairy & soy-free ice creams which we ate far too much of in the past year!

Just Mayo doesn’t contain soy and I used it as a base for many salad dressing recipes.

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Go-to dairy & soy-free breakfasts: 

Green Smoothies – Spinach, kale, almond milk, banana and frozen mango is my routine morning smoothie.
Toast or rice cakes with almond butter.
Avocado toast with sliced hard boiled egg.
Overnight oatmeal.
Puffins brand cereal with almond milk.

Go-to dairy & soy free snacks: 

Peanut butter filled pretzels
Veggies and hummus
Apple slices with almond butter
Guilty pleasure: potato chips

Go-to dairy & soy free lunch and dinners: 

Ground turkey empenadas (Pillsbury pre-made crusts are dairy & soy-free)
Coconut shrimp noodles (we continue to make this dish we loved it so much)
Homemade burgers & fries (Whole Foods has soy-free hamburger buns and I often splurged on frozen fries)
Salads with grilled chicken, avocado, eggs.  Brianna’s brand salad dressing is SOY free and I also made a lot of my own salad dressings.
I made cashew cream every few week to use in replace of cheese in creamy pasta recipes and with pesto!
Homemade pesto pasta with peas and chicken. I’d just use basil, garlic, salt, pepper, olive oil, cashew cream in the pesto and couldn’t tell a huge difference!
Cauliflower Soup
Turkey Chili
One Pan Spanish Chicken & Potatoes
I frequently made my own pizza dough and did a riff off of my favorite potato & leek pizza ( recipe HERE )– substituting all of the various cheeses for the “cashew ricotta” and drizzled extra olive oil on top so it didn’t dry out. It was SO good!
Fish tacos (use Just Mayo, lime juice, cilantro + cabbage to make a really good slaw!)

Comfort food: I think the hardest part about eating on this diet is the restriction of cozy, comforting food. 
At home hamburger helper – this meal was SO tasty and comforting I made it all winter long, simply swapped the dairy for full fat coconut milk and you can’t even tell!
Chicken Pot Pie
Butternut Mac 

Baking tips:
In general I would swap out butter in recipes for Soy-Free Earth Balance and milk/cream for coconut milk or almond milk – just keep in mind if the recipe requires a “fatty” milk,  that you should use a full fat coconut milk. It’s a trial and error process for sure but I found I was able to make plenty of muffins, breads, donuts by playing around with these swaps.

Enjoy Life has dairy & soy-free chocolate chips and pre-made cookies that are actually really thin, crispy and GOOD! I would  buy these at Whole Foods or Amazon.

Pillsbury crusts are also dairy & soy-free and I found some puff pastry that I could eat.

Great dairy-free chocolate chips cookie recipe and I shared my recipe for dairy-free sugar cookies here.

Eating out tips:
Always ask what type of oil they use to fry in before you look at the menu so your options are more clear. Typically I’d never order fried food when I eat out but while on this diet it was frequently the only option — think fish & chips, salads with a side of french fries, burgers sans bun. 

I love Thai food and was very excited to discover Pad Thai is made without soy-sauce. It became my go-to when I wanted to eat out.

Items I always have on hand in my dairy & soy-free kitchen: 

Almond milk
Coconut milk
Chicken broth (be sure to look at label carefully, some brands have soy)
Earth Balance Soy-Free butter spread & sticks
Almond butter
Popcorn
Hummus
Olive Oil + Coconut Oil
Eggs
Avocados
Raw cashews

Resources for finding dairy & soy-free recipes: 

Generally many paleo options work so I found myself searching for them online though I needed to add carbs to keep myself full and my calories up while nursing.

Love & Lemons has a ton of great options!

Both of Gwyneth Paltrow’s cookbooks  (It’s All Good & It’s All Easy) are wonderful and I have used them before and after this diet but they were really helpful when I was eating this way

Images by Abby Jiu 

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  1. Jessica says:

    THANK YOU!! I just had my 4th baby and like her 3 older siblings, she has a dairy and soy allergy. Only hers is much more severe. My mushy mommy brain has forgotten how to eat dairy and soy free, so it is extremely helpful to see it in writing!

  2. Julie says:

    My newborn’s pediatrician just took me off dairy and soy for my son’s allergy and finding this post is a Godsend! I’m a first time mom and I’ve been at a loss as to knowing what I can and cannot eat, so I haven’t been eating much of anything but cereal and almond milk. Thanks for all the helpful tips, links and ideas!

  3. […] Piper, was born, she developed G.I protein allergies, which meant that I had to go an entire year without eating any dairy or soy while I breastfed her. When I was pregnant with my second baby, I joked about the chances of having […]

  4. […] Piper, was born, she developed G.I protein allergies, which meant that I had to go an entire year without eating any dairy or soy while I breastfed her. When I was pregnant with my second baby, I joked about the chances of having […]

  5. Richel says:

    This is amazing! Thank you so much for the tips. As a first time mom, it is daunting to adjust to newborn life and then add dairy and soy intolerances on top of it! This is super helpful and am very appreciative of your insight.

  6. Joanna says:

    Very helpful. Thank you! Currently only cutting out milk which is proving harder than I thought. Next is to try cutting soy.

  7. Sidney says:

    I just found out my baby has a dairy and soy allergy. It’s been such an eye opener finding out how many product have soy in them! I’ve made changes and it’s been an adjustment. I accidentally had pasta yesterday that said ‘may contain soy’. My baby hasn’t been feeling well since then. Just shows how important it is not to assume what will or will not have dairy and soy. It’s helpful to know products you’ve used and get that support.

  8. Steph says:

    Thank you! I was just told today at her 8 week check up to do this diet due to her numerous GI issues for which I have repeatedly taken her to doctor and ER sbdva specialist for. She has been on reflux meds and gasX drops for a while with no avail in her symptoms. I’m a first time mom, single, exclusively pumping, cloth diapering, and going to nursing school, so the idea of this diet (I’m from the dairy state…) was a huge deal for me. I went shopping the other day and looked at the food labels of stuff in my cart and put over half of it back. I was so overwhelmed I only left with Gatorade and potatoes chips. The pediatrician gave me a list of ingredients to watch out for one of which was flavorings added (which the brand of gas drops I hace include strawberry flavor added…) can I drink water when I add flavors like Mio to it? I have bookmarked this page too for quick reference, so thanks again!

  9. Abby Smith says:

    I have been crying all day trying to figure out how I am going to make this new diet work so I can keep nursing. I can’t even tell you how grateful I am that you shared this and how much better after reading through all of your recipients and tips. It also just feels good to know I am not alone in this!! Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I will make sure to share your page with anyone else I meet that happens to be going through this struggle as well.

  10. Klaudia says:

    Unfortunately I just found this amazingly helpful resource when my daughter finally got better. She had the same GI issues (constant crying, bloody stools, loose stools 12 times a day, sever reflux it was so severe I had to do Heimlich maneuver on her because she was choking on her own spit ups when she was three months old. Thankfully my nursing background saved her from choking to death. She was on meds but nothing helped her. We took her to a ped GI specialist every week. They put me on a everything eliminations diet like NO dairy, gluten, eggs, soy, legumes, shellfish, nuts. Even after that her stools were still positive for blood. I was so exhausted and depressed. I was so depressed because I dis the same thing like checked all the lables, I cooked carefully only organic and the nest ingredients. Her doctor advised me to stop breastfeeding her and give her formula but I knew it will take time to clear up pur systems. I stopped taking her there when she was so nasty saying I’m the one who is making her uncomfortable because I don’t want to stop breastfeeding her and I should take her to colonoscopy. At age six months??? I knew I have to keep fighting and be patient and she will het better soon. I’m happy to say that when she was about 10 months old jer reflux stopped suddenly. No more spit ups, no more than every day laundry. Her stool drom loos diarrhea changed to one a day type of ball. I was crying when I saw that stool because I was so happy. But the worse happened. I took her to another gi ped doc where he said usually children outgrow dairy sensitivity bu age one, and I should try dairy. I was so stupid and I did. We were back to square one. Crying, bloating, loose blood stools for two months. After 4/6 weeks her system cleared out and she is okay now thankfully. I won’t try dairy agin for sure. I gave her little bit of gluten and eggs and she was fine. I’m going to try to give her almond milk to see if she is okay with that. All I want to say is please never give up. You are not alone!!! I know how hard and tough to eat like this but breastfeeding is the best thing for your baby. I lost almost 20 pounds following this diet just to make her feel better. She is a hally and healthy baby now! If i was able to do without having my family (they are in Europe) ot my friends, and after two late pregnancy losses. You can do it too!!!!!!!!! Everything for our little babies. Just listen to your instincts. Not all babies our the same and not all doctors will tell you the right thing! Thank you for listening!!

  11. Klaudia says:

    Sorry for the typos 🙄 she is constantly trying to take my phone away.

  12. Julie says:

    This post is amazing and exactly the help I was looking for!! THANK YOU!! I am breastfeeding and dealing with the same issues so I’m starting the journey to completely kick soy and dairy out. Your approach is so realistic and I love it!