It’s no fun being a kid with lactose intolerance. While other kids are enjoying delicious confections, like chocolate, ice cream, milkshakes, pudding cups, grilled cheese sandwiches, macaroni and cheese, and a variety of other childhood favorites, your child is sidelined due to allergies.
Your child’s symptoms of lactose intolerance can range from loose stools, flatulence, stomach bloating, nausea, cramping and abdominal pain. These are certainly not fun symptoms for anyone to have, let alone kids who want to play, be active and have fun.
The key is to find suitable substitutions that allow your child to have enjoyable foods without the stomach and other pains of an allergic lactase reaction to milk to deal with.
Become a careful label reader when parenting a child who is lactose intolerant. You must read all labels, because even foods you believe to be dairy-free, like sausage, hot dogs, etc. could be processed on lines containing milk, says Stanford Children’s Health.
Also, food labels that proclaim nondairy indicate that there is no butter, cream, or milk in the product. It does not, unfortunately, mean there aren’t any ingredients that contain milk, cream, or butter.
You must even be careful with things like frozen vegetables and canned fruit to make sure no milk products were added for flavor.
Much of a child’s calcium each day comes from consuming dairy products your child can’t have. Because the body better absorbs calcium delivered through food sources better than supplements, consider adding the following types of foods to your child’s diet to boost calcium:
- Calcium-fortified cereals (consider soy-based milk products)
- Calcium-fortified orange juice (be careful to avoid too much sugar, however)
- Sesame seeds
Other foods, if you can get your child to eat them, that are outstanding sources of calcium include:
- Canned white tuna
- Leafy green vegetables (the darker the leaves the better)
- Canned salmon
Dairy products, while rich in calcium, are not the only way to ensure your child gets plenty in his or her diet. Try making new foods an adventure for your child and avoid pushing him to eat foods he doesn’t like just so he can get the calcium. Just keep offering new choices so you can create a rotation of calcium-rich foods and treats to your child, through trial and error, over time.
Finding Hidden Culprits
If you’ve eliminated all the obvious food choices for your lactose intolerant child and he or she is still experiencing the bloating, cramping, stomach pain, and flatulence you associate with his lactose intolerance, it’s time to explore a few hidden sources of lactose that might be the cause of the discomfort.
Breads and baked goods are notorious for having hidden lactose among their ingredients. It’s not an intentional thing, just the way the food labels read. For instance, foods that contain the following ingredients, are often hidden sources of lactose:
- Milk by-products
- Non-fat dry milk powder
- Dry milk solids
- Half and half
Rooting out these hidden culprits can help you feed your child a diet that is better suited to his needs. The difficult part for many parents is identifying a diet that will be satisfying and that your child wants without giving your child the things that will make him sick.
Stanford’s Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital recommends offering your child a variety of foods that are tasty and healthy, like eggs made without milk, peanut butter made without milk solids, kosher margarine, graham crackers, rice wafers, French bread, fruit drinks, soy-based milk products (there is even lactose free ice cream), broth-based soups, fresh vegetables, fresh fruit, and similar foods.
The key is to find foods that are milk, cheese, and butter free and that are made without powdered milk or whey.
Don’t forget to experiment. There are many recipes you can find online specifically for lactose intolerant children, including recipes for things like cakes, cookies, and treats that children love but are often unable to have when lactose intolerant.
You can find a nice variety of recipes that are great for your child’s health as well as portable making them great snacks to pack in lunch boxes or take on the go when you know they will be with other kids who have access to snacks your child can’t have. You can find everything from peanut butter protein balls to trail mix cereal bars, meatloaf muffins, and baked falafel pitas.
It may take a little time to figure out what works best for your child, not to mention what your child will like. Once you have a few basics, it becomes easier to ensure your child’s nutritional needs are met without triggering an allergic reaction.