Localicious: Delectable Dairy Alternatives

These days, more and more people are searching for alternatives to dairy products. As dairy-free options become more popular, they are also getting easier to find. Whether prompted by a dairy allergy, lactose intolerance, vegan lifestyle, or other health concerns, the good news is that new options are cropping up everywhere.

Got Milk?

In American households, it has been traditional to raise children on cow’s milk. However, for some kids – even those not allergic to dairy products – this can cause gastric distress and other health problems. Dr. Robyn Barlow of Chico Naturopathic Medicine says it’s not unusual for people to be sensitive to the immunoglobulin content of another mammal’s milk, and this immune sensitivity varies greatly from person to person.

“Dairy can be a trigger for respiratory and EENT [eye/ear/nose/throat] infections in infants and toddlers,” says Barlow. “In a majority of cases we find that pulling a child off dairy products for a few months will greatly reduce these recurrent infections and often clear up chronic skin conditions such as eczema and dermatitis. Dairy can often be reintroduced later in moderation.”

Though soy and rice milk are common substitutes for dairy milk, many other plant-based alternatives are readily available. Beber Fresh Almondmilk is a Northern California creation and comes in a variety of delicious flavors. Founder Arielle Danan says, “We fill a special niche in the almond milk market for those who seek an organic, locally made and additive-free alternative.” The almonds and other key ingredients like honey and lavender are locally sourced. Beber’s product does not contain carrageenan, a common filler/stabilizer which has been linked to gastrointestinal inflammation. “We don’t use any thickeners or preservatives,” says Danan. “We use the most almonds of any brand, at nearly a half pound per quart. In short: more almonds – no nonsense.”

For strict vegans who cannot consume honey, another local option is Chico’s Live Life Juice Company’s milk line. Formulated from a blend of nuts and sweetened with dates, these 100 percent organic “super milks” are flavored with extras such as ginger, cacao and cayenne.

Local Shopping

Orchard Nutrition Center in Redding stocks many dairy-free and vegan products. These include plant-based cheeses, spreads, milks, ice cream, snacks and packaged meals like macaroni and cheese. “We carry products from allergy-friendly companies like Daiya, SoDelicious, Silk, and many others,” says supervisor Amberae Erickson, noting that some products may be less familiar to customers. “For instance Good Karma makes a wonderful creamy flaxseed milk that’s high in omega-3s.” This milk is also calcium fortified and free of major allergens.

“At Orchard Nutrition if a customer doesn’t find a specific item on the shelf it can be special ordered. This is a service provided at no extra cost to the customer,” says Erickson.

Look for these national brands in your favorite grocery store aisle:

  • Ben & Jerry’s – four flavors of almond-based non-dairy vegan-certified ice cream
  • Coconut Bliss – coconut-based dairy-free ice cream bars and pints
  • Daiya – dairy-free, soy-free cheese, cream cheese, dressings, frozen pizza and cheesecake
  • Enjoy Life Foods – allergy-friendly cookies, chips, bars and baking mixes
  • GoVeggie – shredded and sliced dairy-free cheese and cream cheese
  • Larabar – snack bars with limited ingredients free of dairy, soy and gluten
  • SoDelicious – soy-based, dairy-free yogurt, ice cream and milk

Locally created dairy-free options:

  • Cultured Kitchen (Sacramento) – nut-based vegan cheeses (New Earth Market, Chico)
  • Miyoko’s Kitchen (Fairfax) – vegan butter, cashew-based vegan and gluten-free cheeses including mozzarella (Berryvale Grocery, Mt. Shasta)
  • Beber Fresh Almondmilk (Chico) – almond-based milk varieties (Chico Natural Foods Co-op; farmers’ markets)
  • Live Life Juice Co. (Chico) – strictly vegan; nut-based, date-sweetened milks and a huge array of juices. (Downtown Chico Juice Shop; farmers’ markets)

Dining Out

For those on specialized diets eating at a restaurant can be a stressful affair. Planning ahead and talking to your server about your needs will help make the experience a positive one.

“Most restaurants have entrées that can be modified to be dairy-free and vegan,” says Jeannie Trizzino, founder of Chico Vegan. Some cuisines require very little modification. She notes that Chinese and Thai dishes are generally dairy-free (although not always vegan). “Indian food is another great option offering many excellent vegetarian dishes that are vegan or that can be modified to be dairy-free,” says Trizzino. 

  Jeannie Trizzino’s website chicovegan.wordpress.com offers tips on everything vegan in Chico. She will be offering a vegan cheesemaking class in spring. You can also find her on Facebook at Chico Vegan Meetup or email her at chicovegan@gmail.com.

For more information on going dairy-free, including recipes, snack ideas, product reviews, grocery guide and book recommendations, visit http://www.godairyfree.org.

Pumpkin Spice Almondmilk French Toast

Beat together:

  • 3/4 cup Beber Pumpkin Spice Almondmilk
  • 3 eggs

Dip slices of challah bread into mixture, one at a time.

Cook in an oiled skillet over medium heat until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Serve with almond butter, syrup, and a tall glass of almondmilk.  Makes 8 slices.

Recipe courtesy of Arielle Danan

Localicious is a monthly column celebrating food in the North State. If you would like to suggest a food-related business or organization, email us at localicious@northstateparent.com.

Ashley Talmadge
About Ashley Talmadge

​Ashley Talmadge has always shared her home with a variety of companion animals. Currently her family includes two opinionated cats and two aquatic frogs. Her two young sons like to think of themselves as "cat mind readers."

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