Your guide to a dairy-free Easter

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Easter has rolled around again, and so have the eggs! If you’re intolerant to cow’s milk, it’s that time of year when you embark on your own personal Easter egg hunt to find that sweet treat which suits your dietary requirements.

But what about all those Creme Eggs or Mini Eggs that are lining the supermarket shelves, and along the till counters? We understand that it can be a challenge to start and stick to new eating habits, especially if celebrations like Easter tempt you back into the foods you want to avoid. It’s normal to feel self-indulgent, but this tempting time of the year can break your willpower.

Luckily, dairy-free chocolate eggs are becoming more accessible in your local supermarkets, making it easier to push the big dairy egg away and opt for one (or more) eggs that won’t bring on or aggravate any symptoms.

We’re counting down the 5 tips that will help you crack your dairy dilemma this Easter. You can do it!

Be prepared

Preparation is key when you want to see through your elimination diet, but this can be tricky when you’re eliminating cow’s milk, along with other food triggers. Don’t miss out this Easter. All major supermarkets should have a selection of alternate Easter eggs, but it’s likely they’re not going to be in bulk compared to the average dairy egg. This means they won’t be around for long!

Though there are more dairy-free options out there this year, make sure you’re not leaving it until the last minute to buy an egg. A last-minute whim might leave you disappointed, so make sure you stock up before Easter Sunday and hatch a plan to make sure those eggs are available!

See what's available

It’s easy to push your elimination diet to the side when you are not sure what alternatives are actually out there. Fear not! There’s more chocolate-y goodness in the world without Cadbury’s or Nestlé.

Most confectionary brands and chocolatiers are introducing dairy-free options to their shelves. Hotel Chocolat has a dairy-free category on their site which you can browse here. Are you a lover of Lindt? Good news, their 70%, 85%, 90% and 99% ranges do not contain milk products. There are also some great substitutes in Holland & Barrett.

Knowing where you can buy a dairy-free egg opens up a host of other options available to you. Free-from food is more cost-effective than it has been in the past, so you can rest-assured that you can buy some dairy-free Easter treats without breaking the bank.

Turn to the dark side

Did you know that dark chocolate does not often contain dairy? You can still purchase a chocolate egg without a visit to the free-from section. High-quality dark chocolate is one of the best ways to satisfy your chocolate cravings. Green & Blacks have released some great eggs this year, including this one containing 70% cocoa.

Sarah Hughes, one of our qualified nutritional therapists, says: “I’d suggest those with a dairy intolerance eat dark chocolate which will contain no milk. The bitter sweet taste can become quite addictive and going back to milk chocolate can taste very sickly”.

If you’re unsure on the bitter taste of dark chocolate, try to look for a dark chocolate egg that contains vanilla extract, as this can often counteract the bitter after taste. It’s also good to know that dark chocolate is full of antioxidants – in fact, one of the best sources on the planet. Dark chocolate is loaded with beneficial minerals, such as zinc and magnesium and it can raise good “cholesterol” which, in turn, lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease. You can rest assured that your Easter is a healthy one when you’re tucking into some dark chocolate – in moderation, of course. 

Everything in moderation

Are you thinking of reintroducing dairy? If you have eliminated cow’s milk for 12-weeks or more, you could try to reintroduce it back into your diet. Easter can be a great opportunity to see how you react after successfully seeing through the elimination process. It gives you a chance to monitor any symptoms you may have after cautiously eating your trigger food. 

Eating chocolate which contains cow’s milk after removing it for a significant period of time can make you question how much you can tolerate. Everybody has their own food fingerprint, so it can be difficult to predict how your body will react after reintroducing dairy.

Sarah Hughes advises that “after 3 months of dairy abstinence, the best way of reintroducing it into your diet again is to eat some plain yoghurt in a small bowl. Wait 3 days for symptoms to appear. If you have no symptoms, you can start eating yoghurt again in moderation. In the same way, you could re-introduce butter by using a small amount initially, then you could reintroduce milk and finally cheese, but only starting with a small amount of parmesan first.

If you remain symptom free after 3 days, you could reintroduce a small piece of hard cheese like cheddar or gouda. After this, you could then try some soft cheeses such as brie or cambozola.  Finally, if you still aren’t enjoying the taste of dark chocolate you could, at this point, reintroduce milk chocolate but keep it to 2-3 squares at a time”.

You have the willpower!

A work-colleague, friend or family member may buy you a milk or white chocolate egg, forgetting or unaware that you’ve cut out milk from your diet. We must admit, knowing a sugar-laden, milk chocolate egg is waiting to be devoured and in arms reach is enough to tempt anybody.

Before you reach out and break your new eating habit, just remember why you are on an elimination diet in the first place. Perhaps you suffer digestive distress or experience skin issues when you consume cow’s milk. Also, focus on how long you have been on your diet; it’s worthwhile to realise how far you have come and the willpower it has taken to give up something you enjoy, even if you’ve only started to give up dairy a few weeks ago. If you do receive a dairy egg and you want to avoid reintroducing dairy for the time being, place it at the back of your cupboard to resist temptation, or share it with your family or friends– it’s Easter after all!

It takes motivation, determination and willpower to remove cow’s milk from your diet, so feel proud that you’re already on the journey towards optimal health.

Most food intolerances are not lifelong, so use this time to experiment with other options you may not have considered or known about before. It’s an exciting time to try new products and experience new flavours and textures. There are more options available than ever before, so try out some dark chocolate or opt for some tasty free-from eggs to satisfy your cravings!

FAQ on dairy intolerance

Dairy intolerances and dairy allergies can be hard to cope with as they can mean cutting anything that contains milk out of your diet. This means it can be especially difficult to enjoy the fun and festivities of a time like Easter when you’re surrounded by chocolate eggs that you aren’t allowed to eat.

With this in mind, we’ve gathered together some important information on dairy intolerance alongside some useful tips for tucking into dairy-free Easter chocolate to help you make the most of the holiday.

Dairy intolerance is a digestive condition triggered by the consumption of milk produced by cows, goats, sheep and buffalo, amongst other mammals.

Cow’s milk is by far the most common trigger of dairy intolerance as it forms a significant part of the typical western diet. However, food made using milk is also classed as dairy and can still trigger the symptoms of an intolerance.

The following list of food and ingredients should be avoided if you have a dairy intolerance:

  • Milk (including whole, semi-skimmed, skimmed, UHT, condensed and powdered varieties)
  • Cream (including single, double, soured, whipping and aerosol creams)
  • Cheeses (all hard, soft and spreadable types)
  • Butter and buttermilk
  • Crème fraiche
  • Yoghurt
  • Lactoglobulin
  • Lactalbumin
  • Casein
  • Caseinate
  • Lactose

Dairy intolerance is usually the result of a delayed biological reaction to the trigger ingredient as it passes through the digestive system.

As such, the signs and symptoms of a dairy intolerance are wide-ranging and can take up to 72 hours to become apparent. This can make it difficult to single out a dairy intolerance amongst other foods we have consumed and, of course, other possible health issues.

Common symptoms of dairy intolerance include, but are not limited to:

  • Bloating
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Eczema
  • Headaches
  • Weight gain
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Fatigue
  • Joint pain
  • Respiratory problems

It is a common misunderstanding that dairy intolerances and dairy allergies are the same thing. Whilst an intolerance to dairy can take up to 72 hours to appear, allergic reactions can be immediate and potentially life-threatening.

The signs of dairy allergies, which affect around two per cent of the population in the UK, can include:

  • Respiratory problems
  • Chest tightness
  • Swollen lips or tongue
  • Itchy, watering eyes
  • Rashes
  • Nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea

Take a look at our blog post about the difference between allergies and intolerance for more information.

The difference between dairy intolerance and dairy allergies is further complicated by lactose intolerance.

Whilst dairy intolerance and allergies are a reaction to the proteins in dairy products, lactose intolerance is a reaction to the natural sugars in milk and dairy products.

A lactose intolerance will produce similar symptoms to a dairy intolerance and can also take days to become apparent. However, whilst dairy intolerances can be outgrown, lactose intolerance and dairy allergies are for life.

For more in-depth information on dairy and lactose intolerances and allergies, see our dairy intolerance advice blog.

The good news is that all major supermarkets should have a selection of dairy-free Easter eggs these days, but it’s unlikely that they’ll have many. So, although there are more and more dairy-free options available every year, make sure you’re not leaving it until the last minute to stock up.

The hardest part of finding your dairy-free chocolate is knowing what to look for. Keep your eyes peeled for high-quality, dark chocolate eggs as, depending on the percentage of cocoa used, they often contain no dairy products whatsoever.

It’s also worth remembering that vegan Easter eggs contain no dairy products and will make a perfectly edible holiday treat for anyone suffering from an intolerance or allergy.

Pinpointing a dairy intolerance or allergy will always be difficult because of the wide variety of symptoms and the time they can take to develop.

By far the most effective and efficient way to establish whether your body is having an adverse reaction to the dairy in your diet is a food-specific test.

The IgG antibody test has been specially developed by YorkTest to identify the foods to which your body is reacting.

The test takes place under the supervision of an experienced YorkTest nutritional therapist and involves a simple finger-prick blood test you can do at home. We’ll provide professional nutritional advice and support for you, too.

The results of the test help you highlight and eliminate the problem foods in your diet and replace them with nutritional alternatives, which will ensure that you still receive all the necessary nutritional requirements for your health and fitness.

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