“Allergic to dairy and eggs,” the mail-order allergy test said. How could that be? I’d grown up drinking milk three times a day and hailed from the “Dairy State”, Wisconsin. Yet, after mourning the loss of my favorite afternoon snack, cheese, and my favorite breakfast and dinner meal, scrambled eggs, I started to do some research.
It turned out that avoiding egg and dairy products would prove to be much more complicated than just trading cow’s milk for almond milk. Instead, I found a staggering amount of unsuspecting food products carry traces of casein, the milk protein most people are allergic to, and eggs.
If you’re avoiding dairy and eggs, watch out for these foods:
Alcohol: Now that the world is aware of fish bladders, or isinglass, floating in Guinness, it may not be as much of a surprise that many beers and wines contain egg whites or casein. Like isinglass, these are typically used as fining agents. In the United States, alcohol manufacturers are not required by the FDA (Food & Drug Administration) to label their products with nutritional information, such as ingredients. If you’re looking for dairy, egg, or even fish- free alcohol, Barnivore.com is a helpful resource.
Tea: I’d always assumed tea was vegan and of course, quite good for you. Yet, when I gave up dairy and eggs, I discovered certain teas left me feeling terrible. When I read the label, I discovered the likely culprit: “natural flavors”. “Natural flavors” can mean almost anything, including products derived from dairy and eggs. Even fake cheese often contains casein, which provides the realistic flavoring. If you’re unsure about any “natural flavors” label, you can call the manufacturer and ask what it means.
Fried Food: This one might be more obvious but something you don’t instinctively think about. Fried food is often dipped in an egg batter before it’s fried. So next time you’re forced to eat bar food, think twice about ordering fried chicken and opt for the hummus plate instead.
Deli Meat: Surprisingly, casein is often used as a preservative for poultry such as turkey and chicken. Avoid deli meat and do a quick check online of a restaurant’s allergen menu before deciding which protein to order.
Carbs: You’ll think about this but your friends won’t. Cakes and cookies obviously contain milk and eggs but so do waffles, pancakes, some pasta and a lot of breads. Simply check the packaging or, if you’re making your own, find recipes that don’t call for eggs or dairy in their ingredient list. At a restaurant, avoid eating sandwiches unless you know for sure the bread is vegan.
Gum: Yes, chewing gum. Certain types of Trident, for example, contain a derivative of casein. So instead of doing the “gum trick” on dates, I suggest carrying a tiny bottle of Listerine in your purse or back pocket for those moments when you regret having ordered the onions.
Once I started avoiding these foods, in addition to milk, cheese and ice cream, I started feeling a lot better! U.S. food is a full of more questionable ingredients than most people care to investigate. As Michael Pollan advised, eat only foods with ingredients you understand. Especially if you have food allergies.