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OP-ED: Discovering dairy alternatives

A long-asked question of which came first, the chicken or the egg can give one the idea of the confusion of suddenly discovering dairy must be removed completely from one’s diet.

First, when you mention you cannot have milk, people assume it is because you are lactose intolerant. No, it is because I prefer to breath.

If you take anything away from this column, let it be that mayonnaise is not a dairy product. It is eggs whites and oil whipped together to create the creamy emulsion you spread upon your sandwich.

A few years ago, if you were allergic to dairy, that was it, you did without. There were very few options available and I must say, I am grateful to the Vegan market for creating more options in today’s market.

If it was not for this group of people asking for more options, I would not have the option of plant-based butter. It was bad enough that I had to give up options such as sour cream, cheese, bacon or ranch dressing on a baked potato but to have to give up butter too? I tried a baked spud with just a dash of salt and pepper. Creamy is not the word I would use to describe the experience.

Discovering plant-based butter has made cooking much easier. However, I have yet to discover a recipe for fake macaroni and cheese.

I have tried a couple and have decided those who found them “tasty” and “a good alternative to the real thing” have never actually eaten mac and cheese.

One unexpected benefit of giving up milk was the difference in calories.

One cup of oat milk has nearly as many calories as one cup of whole milk, as the American Society for Nutrition (ASN) notes that the former checks in at 130 calories compared to the 148 calories in one cup of whole milk. The online medical resource Healthline notes the difference in calories is more significant among other popular milk alternatives. For example, one cup of unsweetened almond milk contains just 40 calories, while unsweetened soy milk contains about 80 calories.

Not surprisingly, the fat content in many milk alternatives is considerably lower than it is in whole milk. The ANS reports that most milk alternatives contain anywhere from 25 to 63 percent of the fat of cow’s milk. For example, one cup of unsweetened rice milk contains just 2 grams of fat compared to the 8 grams found in a single cup of whole milk.

I have noticed some tend to like the one alternative milk over another because, to them, it tastes more like what they recall cow’s milk tasting like. In my case, I went for the one that did not have added cane sugar in the list of ingredients.

With options such as soybean, pea, flaxseed, almond, oat or coconut milk there are many persons who would not be able to enjoy an occasional bowl of cereal.

While I do not condone or condemn the vegan lifestyle, I am grateful for those who insisted they too have options. Their differences in lifestyle allow me to enjoy some of the dishes I like to prepare despite allergies getting in the way.

Dawn Burleigh is general manager and editor of The Orange Leader. She can be reached at dawn.burleigh@orangeleader.com