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Some tips on going dairy-free sugar-specific

My oldest son recently got diagnosed as being dairy intolerant.  He also was found to have an over-active adrenal gland and some of his mineral levels are severely out of the normal range.  Due to these findings, he is on a very specific diet.  He cannot have anything diary or anything derived from dairy products.  He cannot have any casein, ghee, or whey products.  Because of his adrenal gland, he also cannot have any fruit sugar or anything derived from a fruit sugar within 4 hours of having a cane or refined sugar or anything derived from a cane or refined sugar.

I’ve found that it is difficult to find meal examples that follow his dietary needs, so after a lot of research and label reading and taste testing, we’ve finally been able to come up with our own meal plan that works for him.  This is how I did it and what it looks like.

An example of what a meal looks like on a fruit-sugar day

When our son was first diagnosed, I went to one of our local natural grocery stores and asked for some assistance in finding things that would fit into his diet.  I had four pages of information and dietary guidelines to follow (I now have 15 pages!), and found that not many items that fell into the specific categories were anything that I thought he would like.  Lucky for me, the store I went to has a return policy, that anything you buy that cannot be consumed whether because of taste or other reasons, can be returned as long as you have your receipt!  This quickly became my go-to store while we were taste testing and in the learning stages!!!

I realized a few things rather quickly.

  1. Research item labels online before going to the store.
    This became a must for me since I have little kids who go grocery shopping with me, which makes label reading very difficult.  Especially in the learning stages of his dietary needs when I wasn’t sure what category all the big words for ingredients fell into.  Luckily, we live in a time where most information is shared online.  I start by doing an online search for the product I need, and then looking at the ingredient lists for the brands I know my stores carry.  An example for this is Almond Milk.  I looked at 5 different ingredient lists for different types and brands of Almond Milk before I found one that meets my sons sugar restrictions.
  2. Brands matter
    Normally, I am not brand specific on anything but my pasta.  However, I quickly found out that different brands include different ingredients.  It took reading the labels of 3 different brands of pickles before I found one that didn’t contain dyes and fell into his sugar restrictions.  Once I find a brand that works, I stick with it.
  3. Be mindful of spices and oils
    While spices are a great way to give natural flavoring to your foods, they also include ingredients which affect what sugar category they fall into.  Most spices contain cane sugar to enhance the flavoring.  Also be mindful that some seasonings, such as lemon or lemon-pepper, are naturally categorized as fruit.  Oils are also something to take into consideration when preparing your foods.  We use high-heat sunflower oil for almost everything since it is considered ‘sugar-neutral’.  Olive oil and coconut oil are considered fruit sugar, so make sure to take that into consideration when using them.
  4. Just because it says ‘dairy-free’ doesn’t mean it is necessarily dairy-free
    Dairy-free is a tricky one.  Just because something is lactose-free doesn’t mean it is dairy-free.  We were told by our doctor that it is the dairy protein that our sons digestive system wasn’t digesting correctly, so we had to go completely dairy-free.  No whey, lactid starters, casein, ghee, etc.  I realized pretty quickly that if things are dairy-free, they usually are made with nuts or soy.  Since soy contains hormones that can be especially harmful to a growing young boy, we were told to try to make sure to avoid soy products as well.  As far as dairy-free milk products, it took me quite awhile to find two that were really dairy-free and also followed our sugar restrictions.  Silk brand Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk and Silk brand Unsweetened Coconut Milk are the two I purchase.  My son doesn’t like either of them to drink or with his cereal, but if I am making a recipe that calls for milk, I use one of these instead, and my recipe then automatically falls into the fruit sugar category.
  5. Vitamins and supplements
    In order to bring my sons mineral levels back into range and to help his adrenal gland to work properly, he is on a myriad of vitamins and supplements.  I realized quickly that the gummy vitamins contain double sugars and weren’t going to be an option for him.  Our doctor also was quick to point out that dairy-free probiotics are sometimes just rinsed and then labeled ‘diary-free’.  Speak to your doctor before starting any vitamins or supplements and be sure to discuss if you are following a specific diet.
  6. Download a recipe app on your phone
    I found that this has been a life saver while grocery shopping.  The app I use is called Recipe Keeper and I use it while cooking/baking and grocery shopping.  It has an option for Meal Planning, Shopping Lists, and Recipes.  I bought the upgraded app so that I could use it on my phone and my computer, and I often use both and then sync them so they are both updated.  I use the Shopping List option to keep the ingredient restrictions in so if I am questioning if an ingredient falls into a certain sugar category or if it is considered dairy I can quickly look it up.
  7. Become friends with vendors
    The ingredient restrictions that were given to us by our doctor are quite extensive.  Honey is an example of an item where I need to know how it was produced.  Honey is considered sugar-neutral, depending upon what the bees pollinated off of to produce the honey.  If they pollinated off of a fruit, it becomes a fruit sugar.  I haven’t found a honey label that specifies what the bees pollinated off of to make the honey, so this is an example of where you need to become friendly with the vendors who supply the stores with their product.
  8. Making your own is sometimes easier, and usually healthier
    I quickly realized how much non-food items are put into our food and labeled as ‘food’.  I also found with the convenience of the internet and pinterest, it is sometimes easier or even necessary for me to make my own of something.  I now make our bread and tortilla’s, amongst other things.  A nice perk to making your own is that you can almost completely control the ingredients, and sometimes you can even hide nutritional foods in your recipes!  My recipe for Sugar-neutral honey bread can be found in another post on my blog.
  9. Pick one sugar for the day, and stick with it.
    Keeping the sugars separate was the most difficult for me to do for our son.  In order to keep your blood sugar balanced it is recommended you eat a balanced amount of a protein, a healthy fat, and a carbohydrate every 3 hours.  In order to keep his adrenal gland and metabolism working as it should, he has to keep his sugars separate for 4 hours.  Since I consider both of these guidelines to be of equal importance, we pick one type of sugar, and stick with it for the day.
  10. Once you get the hang of it, make lists!
    I quickly found that having to deal with food so in depth sucked the love of food right out of me.  Once we implemented the dietary restrictions for our son, I essentially became his sole source of food.  I was the one who learned the restrictions, and how to categorize foods, how to prepare foods so they met the sugar category he was in for the day, etc.  Eventually I found it much easier to make a list each food that he likes and eats and separate it by sugar category so that someone else can refer to it if need be.  I’ve made a list of ‘Fruit Sugar’ items, ‘Cane Sugar’ items, and ‘Sugar Neutral’ items.  This helps him see what his options are and be in control of his meals a little more, which helps immensely!  It also helps so that other people such as my husband and grandparents can help him stay on track if I’m gone for the day.
    **I will share my food lists and meal ideas in another post that I’m currently working on.  This post will be updated with the name of that post once it is published.

Disclaimer:  I am not a professional nutritionist, dietician, or doctor.  The information shared in this post is from my families personal experience.  My son was professionally diagnosed with his medical condition and all the information shared is from my own personal research and information shared with me from our doctors office.  Check with your personal doctor before starting any new diet or food restrictions.

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