Friday, 19 August 2016

A cake eaters joy at the perils of living with lactose intolerance.

You don't need a run down of the symptoms, you've already spent countless hours feeling like an orchestra is constantly tuning up inside your stomach. Rather than bore you senseless with yet another list of reasons why you may or may not have lactose intolerance, I take a rather helpful look at what it's really like living without lactose.

How many hours have you wasted looking online at ingredient listings, and restaurant recommendations only to find a pitiful mere selection of treats that you can actually enjoy in comfort?! We've all been there, finding out that your stomach no longer loves lactose can be a complete nightmare, but that mournful loss of cheese in your diet will soon pass, and you'll find yourself getting used to a new, lactose free diet.

It's not a straight forward change when you find out that your lactose intolerant, you'll be surprised at how many food items contain traces of dairy as part of their ingredients, it will involve for some, a complete lifestyle change, but it's one that will leave your stomach feeling much happier afterwards!

The obvious changes are easy to make, and aren't as painful as you may expect, if like me you've developed a severe aversion to drinking soya milk (that lovely chalky after-taste will stay with you for hours..), you'll be relieved to know that lactose free milk does exist, it's a little sweeter than ordinary milk, and a little pricier, but if you live with milk day to day like I do, with my tea drinking addiction, sorry habit.., then you'll be beside yourself with glee at discovering lactose free milk. Lactofree is the main lactose free milk brand that you'll find in most major supermarkets here in the UK, but you'll also be pleased to know that M & S also do their own brand lactose free milk too, personally I prefer the taste of this one for a little treat every now and then!

Basic dairy items like margarine and cheese can also be found in lactose free form, with a lovely selection of spreads and cream cheeses from Lactofree (you really can't tell the difference between their cream cheese to Philadelphia!), with M & S also offering a great lactose free spread too. If you prefer a more dairy free alternative, you can find a great range of soya, coconut, rice and almond milks in most supermarkets, Alpro offer a great mix of soya and coconut milk blends, alongside their range of spreads and dairy free desserts.

Try for yourself to see which you prefer, I live by lactose free milk most days, with the occasional bit of coconut milk, which is great for coffees. It's not just supermarkets either, these days you can opt for a soya latte at most chain store coffee shops and cafes, from Costa to Starbucks and Pret, with Starbucks also offering coconut milk, try it in one of their lattes for a lovely light drink!

For day to day food items, you'll be surprised at what items include milk, items like pastries are a given with their buttery content, but you'll need to check those ingredients over on items ranging from cereals to sausages. Lactofree has a great lactose detector list on their site, listing food items that are at risk of containing milk to help you plan your diet.

One countless culprit I've faced when shopping is Whey, you'll unfortunately find this as bulk ingredient used in many products, from instant soups to stock cubes and even crisps (even those of the non cheese based variety!), it may seem a pain at first, but learn to read those ingredient listings on items as you do your food shop, you may even want to look online at supermarket websites, with most listing ingredients on items as you shop online, to save time when shopping. You'll come to learn what items and brands to avoid, with some using whey and milk proteins more than others.

But it's not all bad news, you'll find a great selection of free from items in most supermarkets, with frozen and cupboard staples in designated 'Free From' sections. It will vary from place to place, I find my larger local Tesco for instance has a better selection than the nearest city branch, with a better selection at a smaller Sainsburys than the largest nearer store! Most have a great range of own branded products, with items varying from chain to chain.

You'll find a great selection of staple items, such as breads, pastries and yes, cakes, with a good dairy free range available. Of course, the sweet treats are mostly what we're all interested in as keen cake fanciers, so you'll be pleased to know that a fair few supermarkets and health food shops offer some great sweet treats that are dairy free.

Sainsburys, Tesco and Asda have a great bakery selection of treats from cherry bakewell tarts, to chocolate brownies and cake slices in their own branded Free From range, with most also stocking treats by Genius, Mrs Crimble's and Lazy Days, from rocky road slices to cupcakes, so you can over indulge without having to bake!

It's not just cake either, over indulge on some yummy chocolate and biscuits, with most supermarkets offering a dairy free chocolate range,Sainsburys chocolate orange bar is worth snapping up as a great dairy free alternative to 'ahem' Terry's chocolate orange, alongside the yummy range by Moo Free which you'll find at Sainsburys and Holland & Barrett.

Sadly when it comes to eating out, most dairy free options tend to fizzle out in most chain shops and restaurants, independent cafes do exist thankfully where dairy free alternatives are more freely found, I could be here all day recommending a few, but that's where a future post may pop up! You can find a few mere options for dairy free treats, but lunch options are few and far between sadly, but thanks to the recent EU legislation, by law all restaurants should be able to provide you with allergy listings for all of their meals when asked, Costa and Cafe Nero are great at showing allergens on their site so you can plan in advance what's safe to eat.

As for those food options, you'll find a sole option at most places, Cafe Nero do a lovely (thankfully wrapped) gluten and dairy free raspberry and coconut slice, with some tasty (wrapped again) gluten and dairy free cherry bakewell tarts at Costa. So far, this is all I've found that's completely safe to eat, which does often leave you a little sad when eyeing up all of those delicious baked treats, so it's best to keep a dairy free treat or two stashed in your bag on the go. I've been swearing by Eat Natural bars ever since I found out I was lactose intolerant, with most of their bars (bar the yogurt coated ones of course) being dairy free, yes, even the dark chocolate ones! It's also worth noting that Lactofree have a selection of long life milk pouches that are great to pop in your bag on the go, so you can grab a cup of tea anywhere knowing that you have some lactose free milk to hand!

You'll get used to constantly looking online for allergy advice at most cafes and restaurants, you'll also be mortified at how many places have a cheese heavy menu as you scroll through those options. With some guides it's worth noting that the risk of cross contamination is often tied in with the use of milk as part of the ingredients with some menu listings, so use your best judgement here. Non-cake related places I've visited like Eds easy diner, Wagamama and La Tasca have a great allergy menu and the staff have been incredibly helpful when ordering alternatives and swapping meal options around.

With everything it's a case of trying it out and seeing what you prefer, some items I've tried, tested and really disagreed with myself, but you may find yourself adoring them. Explore the Free From aisle at your local supermarket, if you can't find it flag down a member of staff and ask, most have even a small selection lurking in the corner with some options available.

Eating out will be the biggest brunt of all, I still loathe finding little lunch options available, but you'll come to build up a list of foods and places where you can safely eat, the free from options may even not seem obvious at first, so take a good look around online and explore the allergy info at your favourite places.

There are times when you may just want to risk it, and you'll get used to those gurgling, rumbling sounds after eating, besides, sometimes you just want to dive into a cream cake! Plan your meals out, and eat plenty of lactose free meals around those lactose treats, and your stomach will at least be a bit happier with you afterwards.

Whilst you may feel a little sad at first having to cut so much dairy out of your diet, you can at least find some wonderful alternatives that will make life a little easier! As a side note, do always consult any changes to your diet with your doctor, I'm NOT a trained professional, just a keen cake eater whose recently become lactose intolerant.