This is my latest column for Chic Vegan.
I am in need of your expertise. I am considering taking dairy out of my kid’s diet to look more like me & my husband’s diet, but I am finding the right cheese replacement to be the hardest part. They really like the soy cheese, but I don’t want them to have that much soy. They also like the rice and/or almond cheese but they both contain casein, which is in dairy and not exactly healthy for you! All the ones at Whole Foods that say Vegan have soy and all the Rice Cheese have casein. Can’t decide which is worse…Help…any suggestions? Do you make nut cheeses for your kids?
I love to hear that parents are considering taking dairy out of their children’s diet. My children do not consume dairy and are thriving! That being said, it can be a tough battle to remove something from a child’s diet if they really have a fondness for it. I removed dairy from my children’s diet about 3 years ago and some items were harder to remove than others. There was some kicking and screaming with regards to the removal of string cheese. The milk was easier to remove because I slowly changed their milk without them even realizing it. My method involved slowly diluting their milk with almond milk. On day one I replaced about 1/6th of their milk with almond milk and the next week it went to ¼ of their milk, the next week 1/3, then ½, ¾, until it was all almond milk. I personally think that the milk transition would have been even easier if at the time I had access to So Delicious’s Unsweetened Coconut Milk.
Now, onto cheese. People have a true addiction to cheese. In PCRM’s (Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine) research studies, “When we take people off meat, dairy products, and other unhealthy fare, we often find that the desire for cheese, in particular, lingers on much more strongly than for other foods. While they might like ice cream or yogurt, they describe their feelings for cheese as a deep-seated craving.” It has been found that cow’s milk and human milk both have trace amounts of morphine in them. It is theorized that this helps babies bond with their mothers when breast feeding. According toVegSource.com, “[C]ows actually produce it within their bodies, just as poppies do. Traces of morphine, along with codeine and other opiates, are apparently produced in cows’ livers and can end up in their milk. Cow’s milk-or the milk of any other species, for that matter-contains a protein, called casein, that breaks apart during digestion to release a whole host of opiates, called casomorphins. A cup of cow’s milk contains about six grams of casein. Skim milk contains a bit more, and casein is concentrated in the production of cheese.”
As long as you understand that the removal of cheese will be difficult and you make the decision to stay the course, you will survive the transition and be glad you stuck it out. In my opinion, there is no direct replacement for dairy cheese in the vegan world. As for substitutes, different vegan cheeses serve different purposes. You are right that a lot of the vegan cheese substitutes out there do contain casein as well as soy. Perhaps these cheese substitutes can help your children with their transition away from dairy cheese. One thing is for certain, they are more healthful than dairy cheese. Daiya has been a great substitute for me. I do not use it all the time due to its high fat content, but it makes wonderful grilled “cheese” sandwiches and macaroni and cheese (click here for my recipe). I do make nut cheeses on occasion and find that they work really well in my lasagna recipes or as ricotta substitutes. If I make the nut cheese on its own (i.e. to eat with crackers), I find that I like it more than my children do, but my nephew loved it the last time he tried it. Mostly I have made peace with the fact that I don’t NEED a replacement for cheese. For example, pizza tastes great without cheese as does garlic bread and pesto can be made with nutritional yeast. I think we all need to change the way we think about cheese.
Congratulations on making the decision to improve your children’s health.
**Do you have a questions for Grettie? She is here to answer any of your health and nutrition related questions! Email her firstname.lastname@example.org .**