If it feels like there are more kids with food allergies now than ever before, it’s not in your head. Between 1997 and 2007, the rate of allergies in children increased 18 percent and has continued to increase steadily over the last decade. Peanut-free school mandates and and allergy-friendly birthday cakes are not just a symptom of modern helicopter parenting. In the short time frame between 2001 and 2006, emergency room visits for food allergies doubled.
Dairy is listed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a one of the top eight foods responsible for 90 percent of allergic reactions. Because of this, more families are turning to dairy substitutes and non-dairy milk as an important staple in their kitchen.
Not all dairy milk alternatives are created equally, though. While swapping options for butter, cheese, and various other dairy-based products is usually relatively easy, the vast amount of non-dairy beverages available on the market today can make things a bit more confusing.
It is important to pay attention to ingredients when choosing a pre-made dairy-free beverage. First you need to decide if soy, oat, hemp or nut based milk is best for your family. Then you will want to choose organic whenever possible.
Next you'll need to make a decision to go with sweetened or unsweetened varieties. Lastly, watch out for ingredients like carrageenan or xantham gum which are used as stabilizers and thickeners, as the verdict is still out on carrageenan and xantham gum is often dairy based.
Another alternative is to make your own nut milk at home. It's much easier than it sounds, can be done quickly, is often more affordable than pre-made but milks, and will not contain any questionable ingredients.
Here is an easy step-by-step guide to making your own nut milk at home.
What you will need:
1 cup of organic raw almonds or cashews
5 cups filtered water
1 tsp. organic vanilla extract
Optional: 1/2 tsp. sweetener
Cheesecloth, a kitchen towel or a nut milk bag
Step 1: Soak the raw nuts overnight in clean filtered water.
Step 2: Add nuts, water and flavoring (if desired) to your blender and blend for 3-5 minutes.
Step 3: Place cheesecloth or towel over a mixing bowl and pour mixture into cloth.
Step 4: Gather the edges of the cloth together and squeeze until as much of the liquid is collected as possible.
Step 5: Transfer into a bottle or jar with lid and keep in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.