Changing to a dairy free diet
Finding out, or deciding, you can’t eat dairy any more can seem daunting at first, but changing to a dairy free diet is not as difficult as you might imagine. There are various foods that can be substituted for dairy products and most recipes can be adapted to make them suitable for those looking to avoid dairy. Soy milk is a very versatile ingredient that can be substituted for cow’s milk in most recipes as well as being enjoyed as a refreshing drink in its own right. Although soy milk is often simply used as a dairy substitute, there are also other benefits to it too. You should always check labels however as some soy brands do contain dairy ingredients.
How soy milk is made
The basic ingredients of soy milk are soya beans and water, but it is not that straight forward as certain things need to be removed and today’s process is a little more complicated than this. The beans are steamed and the hulls removed before they are cooked to remove a certain enzyme that is indigestible to humans and can cause problems if not treated properly. They are then ground to the required consistency and any impurities removed. There are various other steps in the process before a finished product is produced and flavours are usually added. Finished soy milk is available in a plain variety and in various flavours for different uses. Soy milk, unlike cow’s milk, is naturally low in calcium, so most commercial preparations are fortified with calcium and sometimes vitamins. Checking the packaging will let you know exactly what your soy milk contains.
Using soy milk
Always shake the carton before you pour out your soy milk. This ensures that all the added ingredients are dispersed evenly throughout the milk. A variety of delicious shakes can be made with soy milk. Try blending some fresh ripe mango with soy milk until smooth and then adding raspberries and a few toasted coconut flakes before pulsing a few more times and pouring into chilled glasses. Any soft fruit or combination of fruits can be used for shakes, or you can simply buy soy drinks in flavours such as chocolate or coffee.
For cooking, use basic unsweetened soy milk and treat it as you would cow’s milk. If you are heating soy milk in a pan be careful not to let it overheat or it will burn. Soy milk can be used in both savoury and sweet recipes. Pasta sauces, vegetable gratins and pancakes are all quick supper dishes that can be made with soy milk, or you could use it for poaching fish. It is equally suitable for desserts such as rice pudding, sago, custards and even ice cream.
According to the BBC Good Food website many ready meals and convenience foods contain dairy products. If you need to eliminate these from your diet you will need to cook more of your meals from basic ingredients, but this will be easier than you think if you make a habit of reading labels and create a “safe food” list that you can refer to when shopping.
If in any doubt over the suitability of soy for your diet always refer to a health specialist or doctor