Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Dairy-free Mom

I've been {almost} dairy-free for over a month now.  (More on the almost later in this post.) I went dairy-free in an effort to reduce the symptoms of Macie's silent reflux. You can read the details of our story here, but the short version is that she rarely spit up so she went un-diagnosed for weeks, but we finally put all the pieces together (inconsolable crying for hours every day, nasal congestion when waking, frequent hiccups) and realized she was suffering from reflux.  Initially medication helped, but I found that eliminating dairy was even more effective.  We weaned her off the medication before determining that a combination of my dairy-free diet and her medication gave her the best relief.  She is essentially weaning herself off of the medication again, though, since her dosage is not changing even as she goes through a rapid growth spurt.

I have received a handful of questions about going dairy-free, both personally and online, and I thought it may be helpful to address them here.

What exactly does it mean to be dairy-free?
It means not eating dairy products like milk, yogurt, sour cream, cheese, ice cream, and butter.  It also means avoiding whey and casein.  I've found, though, that Macie can tolerate if I eat small amounts of butter. Chocolate is usually okay, too.  To be safe, I buy Ghiradelli semi-sweet chocolate chips which are dairy-free.  (They do contain soy which I would prefer to avoid for other reasons, but I'm choosing to pick my battles!)

Do you think it is helping? I do. At first I was convinced it was the sole answer to our problem.  Then Macie had another week of increased irritability, not as severe as in the beginning but not "normal."  We decided to begin her medication again and the combination of the altered diet and the meds seems to be the answer.  Before going dairy-free, we could barely make it until the next dose, but now there are times when I  miss giving her a dose and she is fine.  Reflux typically peaks at four months so she may be beginning to outgrow it anyway, but there was such a dramatic change when I stopped eating dairy, that we have no doubt it is playing a part in her recovery.

How long will you avoid dairy products? 
Dairy sensitivity in babies is usually short-term.  Often by the time their immune systems are mature enough to tolerate solid foods (around six months), their tummies are capable of digesting milk protein again. I plan to avoid dairy through the summer.  By September, Macie will be eight months old and I will try adding dairy back into my diet.  I've read that a gentle way to do that is to eat a small portion of dairy one day, wait two days before eating a bit more, and then gradually increase the amount and the frequency.  In other words, no matter how much I may crave pizza, it would not be the way to begin!

Does your family eat dairy-free also?
When I plan dinner, I only choose to prepare dairy-free dishes or ones that allow the cheese, sour cream, etc. to be added by the individual. I do not keep a dairy-free house so everyone is welcome to prepare and eat what they want for breakfast and lunch.

Every Sunday, I'm sharing our menu for the coming week on my blog Facebook page.  It's dairy-free and can be done without turning on the oven!  For more details, click here, and then go on over to Facebook Sunday evening to see the menu for the week.  (This week's menu is already there.)

Do you find it hard to eat this way?
Telling myself this is temporary helps. I think it would be harder if I thought I needed to make a permanent change.  Finding things to eat has not been difficult.  I read labels and have to avoid some packaged foods, but sticking primarily to whole foods-- veggies, fruit, meat-- takes the guess work out of the process.

What do you miss?
I have never been a milk drinker, but I do love ice cream and butter.  I also ate a fair amount of Greek yogurt for snacks before I made the change.  The thing I miss most, though, is pizza.  I have one child who prefers pizza without cheese so one night in April when we needed to order out at the last minute, he and I shared a cheese-less pizza, his half plain, my half with chicken and spinach.  It was good, but I greatly missed the cheese!

So what do you eat for breakfast and lunch?
I'm eating a lot of steel-cut oatmeal, because I love it and because it is good for nursing moms.  I use this method which can be prepared one-handed.  Plus it only takes a minute of hands-on (or hand-on) work and the grains are soaked to perfection. Scrambled eggs or hard-boiled eggs are good, seasoned with salt and pepper.  I am also eating copious amounts of natural peanut butter.  For lunch, my favorite thing to prepare when there are no leftovers is a skillet dish of chicken, diced red potato, and broccoli.  I cook it with a little olive oil and salt and pepper, and it is delicious.  I also make a similar dish with chicken, sweet potato, and quinoa. 

Can you eat lactose-free treats?
In our case, lactose isn't the problem.  Babies with milk sensitives are usually bothered by the milk protein.

Are there dairy substitutes you can eat?
I keep a container of almond milk in the refrigerator for cereal, baking, or the occasional cup of hot chocolate. I also discovered that Ben and Jerry's makes several vegan "ice cream" flavors with almond milk.  I was skeptical, but the one I tried was a great treat. 

Wouldn't it be easier to switch Macie to formula?  
Actually, no.  Even if eating dairy-free was difficult for me, giving her infant formula would not be a simple option.  Because of her milk sensitivity, she would need to be on a more-expensive hypoallergenic formula.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

A Month of Meals

When I shared my plan for meals during the summer, someone mentioned that they would like to see my menu to get inspiration for their own household. I've decided to share one week at a time on the blog Facebook page.  A few things you should know:

1) I'll post a weekly list on Sunday evenings for the next four weeks.  

2) Links to specific recipes will be in the comments. 

3) I'm only planning five dinners per week.  One night we eat out and on Sundays we eat a shared meal with family.

4) The meals we are eating are dairy-free because of my temporary dietary restrictions, but you can incorporate milk, butter, cheese, sour cream, etc. if you wish!  

5)  Some meals are very similar.  For example, we are doing Mexican every Tuesday night.  My family agreed to sacrifice variety for simplicity during the summer. 

Next week, I want to do a separate post here on some of the questions I've been asked about going dairy-free.  If there is anything you would like to know, I'll include your question, too!

Happy weekend to you all!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Meal Planning For the Summer

We finished school today and it feels good.  There are moments of sadness, too, when I think of how Gavin will be in high school next year.  (How did he get to be so old?!)  But all of us are more than a little excited to have finished the school year well and to take a break from the formal stuff.  We always sneak a little academics into the summer, but we don't call it school and everyone is happy.

the oldest and the youngest

The past few weeks have been a roller coaster.  We all passed around a cold.  Brian ended up with a sinus infection and pink eye on top of that...so now we're taking turns with his pink eye germs.  At first I had visions of being stuck in the house with goopy-eyed people all summer while it slowly took us out one. by. one.  But I've calmed down from that now. Aside from having to randomly quarantine a new person from the rest of the world for 24 hours every few days, it's not a big deal.  No one feels sick and no one is uncomfortable.

Macie is finally settling into a happy routine.  She is not your stereotypical "easy" baby, but she is a napping rock star and her reflux is under control.  Most days she is pleasant and smiling. She has started giggling and can hold her back and neck straight to practice sitting alone.  We're praying the out-of-control fussy days are behind us. 

We finished our school year today and now I'm experimenting with a new way to meal plan.  We tried a  super-easy system  after Macie was born and that is still working, but I wanted something even simpler for summer.  We have several restrictions. First, our house gets sticky, hot when I turn the oven  on, and secondly, I need to eat a dairy- free diet to manage Macie's reflux. 

I decided to make a 1-month meal plan.  I plugged in all the things we eat that use the griddle, slow cooker, or stove top, and I chose only items that don't contain dairy products (milk, butter, cheese) or that can have those ingredients added at the table by the individual. We'll simply repeat the same menu each month until the weather cools down.  

Most of the menu consists of old favorites like tacos, blackberry chicken, and tangy meatballs.  I sprinkled in easy meals like BLTs and salads.  I added one or two new recipes like root beer pulled pork.  I even included some side dishes my kids love but I never serve, like baked beans and Jello (separately, not together!). 

I'm hoping this plan will serve us well through the busy... and sunny... days ahead. 

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