On March 11, I will celebrate my two-year anniversary of eating a vegan/vegetarian diet. Predominately vegan, I have slipped here and there into vegetarianism in order to not offend anyone sharing baked goods, and also to include some cheese alternatives that are not completely dairy free (unknown to me until very recently). I honestly believe I have been paying the price physically for this. I have allowed some items into my diet that I believe are adversely affecting me and it’s got to stop. I’ve been a little tired, not really motivated to exercise as a few weeks ago and my stomach just won’t stop gurgling (sorry…TMI?). One of the main reasons for changing my diet two years ago was due to my reaction to dairy, so the resurgence of the gurgling is bothering me and really causing me to wonder what it’s all about.
I’ve been investigating, as best as I can, the ingredient lists of some of the items that I use that could be questionable; ones that could have dairy or dairy derivatives in their ingredients. Tons of thoughts are going through my head about this: are they just being sneaky when they say its dairy free and it’s not? Or am I uninformed and don’t really know what I’m looking for? Do I not read the ingredient lists thoroughly? Am I lazy thinking others know what they mean when they say dairy free, when the ingredients in their products are derivatives of dairy? I guess I need to remember that what is vegetarian is not vegan.
I still need to find out about my soy protein powder from Trader Joe’s but I am fully convinced that I am going to have to be very vigilant about my stance on no dairy (no baked goods that I know are not dairy free/vegan, for example). I am going to have to not have any cheese-like ‘dairy free’ products at all (despite what they say they aren’t true dairy free products) and stick to my loyal almond parmesan cheese (which isn’t really cheese, just ground up almonds, nutritional yeast, garlic powder and some coarse salt blended into a fine dust) or realize that I can only use the one dairy free cheese that I do like.
I’ve checked out a few cheese alternatives and found that while they claim to be dairy free or lactose free, they actually include an ingredient called casein which is a milk protein that helps cheese spread as it melts, and is used in other non-food products like glue. Follow these links for more info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casein and http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-casein.htm
Alternative cheeses include: almond, soy and rice…and they all have casein in them. For info: Almond Cheese/Soy Cheese/Rice Cheese by Lisanatti http://www.lisanatti.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1&Itemid=15
And another product called Veggie Shreds, found in most stores (I’ve found it in Vons, Winco, and Albertsons) and also has casein in the ingredients list. (They do carry dairy free, soy based vegan cheese and it does not list casein in the ingredients, and is found at Whole Foods and other health food stores. I have not tried this version.) http://www.galaxyfoods.com/galaxy-products/soy-cheese/veggie/veggie-shreds/
I’ve tried both the Almond Cheese and the Veggie Shreds. And, they are not vegan…vegetarian,yes, but not vegan. I’m particularly sad as I consider two restaurants that I like that offer cheese alternatives (soy cheese), and knowing what I know now, that is no longer an alternative for me. So sad…how is that Tempeh Reuben going to taste without the cheese alternative?
But all is not lost…another restaurant in town is vegan and they serve Daiya cheese! Daiya is the only cheese right now out there who can make the claim that they are dairy free. Here’s what their website says about their products: “Daiya products are free of dairy (casein, whey and lactose), soy, gluten, eggs, rice, peanuts and tree nuts (except coconut oil). We have our own production facility which eliminates the chance of cross-contamination with other pesky allergens, making our products 100% vegan.” http://www.daiyafoods.com/
I have used Daiya and have been really pleased with it because it melts beautifully. I’ve used it for my cheese for our Christmas Day Raclette dinner and it was great! The one reason why I’ve tried other brands is attempting to not spend so much on something not that entirely essential in my diet, so I wanted to try alternatives–price wise, and I’ve learned my lesson here. I have until most recently only found it at Whole Foods or at health food stores, but I learned on Daiya’s website that the Ralphs in my area carry it! And there’s a Ralph’s not too far from State Street, so the next time I’m in town, I’ll pay them a visit! Not to be the annoying customer, but I think I am going to ask the other restaurants if they would consider offering or investigating Daiya for a better alternative. It can’t hurt to try!
So you are probably wondering about my lessons learned this week. It is all my fault, not anyone else’s, that food items contain dairy, especially the products I mentioned (they don’t claim to be dairy free, except Daiya (free of dairy, soy, nuts, etc)). I just need to remind myself that I need stay away from dairy in all forms and to not bend to pressure (internal) thinking that small amounts won’t cause your body to react, because that small amount DOES cause problems. And, sadly, I won’t be able to try co-workers home-baked items that aren’t dairy free. I need to stay strong!
(Besides cheese alternatives, I’ve checked my ‘butter’ and my coffee creamer (coconut), and they do not have any dairy/dairy derivatives in them, whew!)
Now, all I need to do is go to Trader Joe’s to read the ingredients for the soy protein powder (tossed out the container it came in as I merged it into another container)…oh, please be dairy free, please, pretty please!!
Disclaimer: I have not been asked to write a review of these products or received compensation of any kind. This is all from research taken on my own initiative to figure out the maze of misconceptions of what would be considered vegan cheese.
There are other things I’m learning as well that I’ve decided not to go into…but lecithin is another product that is hidden in products…it is originally derived from eggs but is also being produced through plant sources, such as soy. But this is for another time…just a reminder to read the ingredients list and learn about the items in your food…just reading about lecithin was a little scary.