This is a question I was faced with when I was told, rather unceremoniously by my neurologist, that I should cut milk products, gluten, legumes and eggs out of my life. I’ll admit, it wasn’t the FIRST question I had in my head or that day, but it was a big one once I was standing in the Whole Foods, mildly freaking the fuck out.
I TOTALLY didn’t do my research that day. I’d been to Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s plenty of times, since I’d been on a mission pre-MS-diagnosis to be über healthy after our mother’s passing in 2004. I knew that there were Gluten Free cookbooks in the book section, and I actually thought that I could just roll in, grab that cook book and walk around the store with it, trying to find the things I needed.
I hadn’t done the research. I didn’t bother to look online, except to get a definition of what, exactly gluten was and what it was in. The simple answer is “everything bread-related”. Ultimately, the girl with mostly Italian roots was just told that she could no longer eat normal pasta, Focaccia bread or mozzarella cheese. Thankfully, sushi was still allowed as long as I got GF soy sauce. Minus that whole ‘soy’ (legume) thing. I don’t use enough of it to make a difference.
I was standing in the aisles at Whole Foods, looking around, and it felt like I couldn’t eat a thing in the store. I tried to hold it together, but I kind of had a mini breakdown, bent over my empty cart in the cereal aisle. WHAT WAS I GOING TO DO FOR BREAKFAST NOW?!?!
Thankfully, the people who work at Whole Foods know about this stuff. A very nice worker stopped and asked me if I was ok, and like I was a therapy appointment, I kind of just unloaded everything onto this poor guy who was probably just trying to help the mildly attractive crying girl before she scared away the customers: I have MS, I appear to have a gluten and dairy intolerance (this was majorly true back in the US… for another post), I have to go gluten and dairy free NOW and I have NO IDEA how to find out what is gluten and dairy free! And I’m hungry, and I need to buy food.
So the guy actually became my personal shopper, as he had celiac’s disease, and walked me through the entire store helping me shop and showing me what to look for. This was when I learned about GF labeling, and learned that I could buy just about any milk product that called itself ‘vegan’ (easy way out).
When we got to the milk aisle (because they can be dry stored until you open them) I was floored: how many different types of not-milk were there? Plenty, it appears. More options than actual milk. And many more of them much healthier.
He gave me the run-down: No soy milk for you (of course), Rice milk is pretty watery, almond milk is naturally sweet and a little thicker, oat milk MIGHT have gluten in it unless there’s a label stating otherwise, hemp milk is the shit! I just asked him what he preferred to drink, and took that. He chose the hemp milk, and after I tried it, I could see why: the consistency of soy milk, but silkier and WAY more tasty. Thanks to this guy, I became addicted to chocolate hemp milk. Which is not available here in Germany, OF COURSE. No hemp products are, actually, and if I want them, I have to order them from the UK.
That being said, I might have found out about all of the different types of milk if I’d known where to look online. I went into that store with a blindfold on that day, and I don’t want anyone else to do the same.
Here’s an article from Blisstree which compares all of the different types of non-dairy milks and their benefits for you!
If you’re interested in going dairy-free for any reason that is NOT an intolerance, I can tell you this: it cooks and bakes just the same as real milk, and I have never had a problem using it as a substitute for ‘real milk’ when a recipe requires it. You should always talk to a doctor about vegan substitutions. If you’re going dairy-free, your body will require calcium and vitamin D supplements to make up for the lack of it due to the lack of milk in your life!
Be safe and choose well!