Before we discovered our daughter is actually dairy allergic, she was diagnosed with lactose intolerance. Unfortunately, even in metropolitan Atlanta, organic lactose-free milk is hard to find. And when do you find it, you pass out from sticker shock. So, we found a lot of frugal, healthy alternatives to purchasing lactose-free organic cow's milk.
1. Lactase Drops: Our first trip was to Amazon. We bought a bottle of lactase drops for about $20. To use this method, add about one dropperful (20 drops) per half gallon of milk and let it sit for about 24 hours before drinking. The lactase enzyme eats up the lactose and makes it easy to digest for those with lactose issues. It works the same way as fast-acting lactase tablets, but on the milk instead of in your tummy.
2. Raw Milk: While raw milk is pretty controversial, it has big benefits for those with sensitivities. The mama cow's lactase is still present in the unpasteurized milk. So that lactase eats up all the offending lactose so your baby's tummy doesn't have to do it. Many kids develop lactose intolerance after about age two, since we aren't designed to drink milk past that age. Raw milk, however, can be a more digestible option. Other benefits to raw, pastured milk include vitamins that we just don't get from unpasturized foods. Vitamin K2 is critical, but animals who eat only grain just can't produce it. It takes a grass-fed animal to make K2 for us.
[Note: Before you look into the non-dairy milks, let me tell you about additives to look out for. Carrageenan, titanium dioxide, synthetic vitamin A and D, refined sugars, soy lecithin, rancid vegetable oils, and other "natural" flavorings can all be found lurking in non-dairy milks.]
3. Coconut Milk: Make your own from fresh or dehydrated coconut or buy pure, full-fat coconut milk in BPA-free cans. It's a great milk alternative because it's nice and creamy. This is my favorite for coffee creamer for myself and cereal milk for my daughter.
4. Almond Milk: You can make your own with almond pulp and water strained through a nut milk bag. It's full of all the nutrients of almonds, including calcium, vitamins A, E, and D. Be sure not to buy sweetened versions that are high in sugar or unpure versions with carrageenan and other additives.
5. Hemp Milk: Hemp seeds can be made into milk in much the same way as almonds. Hemp milk contains more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3s (a perfect balance for humans, unless you eat a lot of refined omega-6 in vegetable oil and fried foods). It also has magnesium, calcium, potassium, iron and zinc.
6. Rice Milk: While it's high in carbs, it's a nice soothing milk for kids with very sensitive tummies. Rice milk does contain some B vitamins and minerals such as manganese and selenium, but it isn’t a great source for calcium, fat, or protein. The worst downside to rice milk, however, is that it may contain arsenic from the rice.
7. Soy Milk: This one's a doozy. Traditionally prepared soy milk was healthy and nutritious. But due to GMO contamination and the bean's own natural defenses, it can be really tough on a tiny belly. It has high amounts of phytic acid and isoflavones, or plant-based estrogens. Soy also is 90 percent genetically modified in the U.S., and it is often loaded with pesticides. Avoid this one if possible. You can make your own healthier version at home if you trust your local organic soybeans. Unfortunately, it's one of the few dairy alternatives that can be found at say, coffee shops and restaurants. Opt for juice or water for your child and black coffee or tea for yourself if this is the case.
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