MSPI, A Nutrition Mystery Solved – Part III

MSPI | Ann Dunaway Teh | Registered Dietitian

[This is a 3 part series discussing MSPI. Read Part I and Part II for more information on what is MSPI and my personal story.]

So what on earth do I eat that doesn’t contain soy or dairy? Well, there are actually many more choices than people realize. And there are certainly many more options today than even three years ago. You do have to be quite the nutrition detective though in reading labels thoroughly, questioning servers and chefs when eating out, as well as paying attention to reactions in your baby for just how sensitive he/she really is to soy and dairy.

Of course fruits and vegetables are naturally dairy and soy free as are many legumes, whole grains, meat and fish. I love fruit and vegetables anyway, so just another reason to eat more of them. Once food starts getting processed and more “convenient” that is where the trouble begins. Soy is in a great many packaged foods, usually in the form of soy lecithin, which is an emulsifier (i.e., holds food together) favored by food manufacturers, or soybean oil. Technically speaking, both are primarily fat and should not contain any soy protein but I have found that my daughter still has a reaction to products containing these ingredients. Some babies may not be that sensitive however.

Here is what I do for the following main food categories:

Bread – Most commercially baked goods contain soy lecithin and sometimes even soybean oil. I bake most of my own bread, which really isn’t all that time consuming since I have a bread machine. I can assemble the ingredients in less than 10 minutes and then the machine does all the work. Plus, it leaves my house smelling wonderful and I know exactly what goes in my bread! I do keep corn tortillas around as well as these rarely contain soy ingredients. I’ve had a hard time finding soy-free flour tortillas, though Trader Joe’s has one brand.

Milk – Three years ago there weren’t nearly as many dairy alternatives to milk as there are now. Back then I used rice milk out of a shelf stable carton. Now the “dairy” shelves are filled with not only rice milk but almond milk and coconut milk as well. I use almond milk almost exclusively for cereal, oatmeal and baking. I tried drinking coconut milk initially but I just found that I preferred almond milk. Canned coconut milk does work great in recipes as well though.

Yogurt – To get my yogurt fix, I buy coconut milk yogurt. I have only seen it available in the So Delicious brand, and it is certainly that! But it is quite pricey. I usually wait for it to go on sale, which it does regularly at my local grocery store, and then I stock up. Do not make the mistake, however, of buying the “plain” and really expecting it to be like plain yogurt. It is still sweetened and I was in for a rude awakening when I tried to use it in a recipe! I have no idea why the manufacturer does that.

Ice CreamSo Delicious also makes a line of ice cream and ice cream products that are also very good. I plan to experiment more this summer with making my own ice creams and sorbets since I have an ice cream machine collecting dust (I just need more freezer space for  -the canister!). This recipe for Coconut Lime Sorbet is just plain awesome – the whole family loves it.

Cheese – I will say that I probably miss cheese the most right now. I really do love cheese and I can’t wait to eat it again. I did find a brand of cheese shreds that is dairy and soy free called Daiya. The cheddar flavor is the best as I did not care for the mozzarella, though I haven’t tried the pepperjack. It isn’t quite the same as real cheese, obviously, but it isn’t bad melted on top of homemade pizza or other foods. And it does melt, sort of. Another alternative to mix into dishes is nutritional yeast. I buy it in bulk from Whole Foods and use it in pesto, meatballs and meatloaf, etc.

Butter – I was so excited to find the Earth Balance buttery spread that is both dairy and soy free! I can also use it in cooking and baking. I can’t tell the difference to be honest, though my husband claims he can, but he doesn’t realize half the stuff I’ve cooked it with! Ssshhh, don’t tell!

Chocolate – I do love chocolate from time to time. While I know dark chocolate has some health benefits, I could never quite go for the real thing. Well, now I can! I have definitely developed a taste for it. Dark chocolate, at least 85% or higher, is usually both dairy and soy free, though read the label in case the manufacturer uses soy lecithin. I also discovered these Enjoy Life chocolate chips that are dairy, soy and gluten free! I can now make my own granola bars and other chocolate chip treats.

Soy Sauce – If you are a regular reader of my blog and menu posts, you know that I recently discovered this recipe for a soy sauce substitute. It really does work well in a recipe or a marinade calling for a little bit of soy sauce. This has opened up many more options for us cooking-wise. My husband turned up his nose at the idea of it, but he really can’t tell the difference in the majority of recipes I’ve made with it.

Eggs – Eggs are not a dairy food! I get this question all the time. My sassy reply is that cows don’t lay eggs last I checked [though I don’t say that out loud]. I guess because you find eggs in the dairy section of a grocery store that people get confused. I love eggs and enjoy them regularly.

Avoiding soy and dairy really isn’t all that difficult if you like to cook and eat at home the majority of the time. Eating foods more in their natural form, closer to nature as we should, is quite adaptable to a dairy and soy free diet.  Eating out is another story though. Since my daughter is so sensitive, I try not to eat out too often and when I do I just tell the server I have a soy and dairy allergy – so much easier than trying to explain MSPI. Most restaurants have done their best to accommodate me and I can usually find something on the menu. Fast food restaurants are an exception though since most of their food is laden with hidden dairy and soy, which is fine by me as I rarely eat it anyway.

For the most part the menu plans I have been posting on my blog since mid-February have been dairy and soy free. I usually note how I might have changed a recipe to be both dairy and soy free. I do not believe in being a short order cook so we all eat the same thing for dinner. Of course there is still plenty of milk (for my son), soy milk (for my husband), yogurt, bread and cheese around to satisfy them outside of meals or can easily be added to their portion if they so desire.

Being soy and dairy free is only temporary for me.  Yes, it is a sacrifice, but one I am more than willing to do for the health of my baby. I will say that it does give me new found appreciation for what people go through with food allergies. There are times that I wish I didn’t have to cook or make my own food from scratch, but planning ahead and keeping a well-stocked freezer really helps. Some of the alternative foods are more expensive, but it is still cheaper in the long run than using a specialty formula. Hopefully I can reintroduce soy and dairy in the months ahead, but I will do so cautiously. I’m sure I’ll have more to say on it then!

To catch up on this series and learn about what is MSPI and my personal story, read Part I and Part II.

This is NOT a sponsored post. The brands I list above are just ones that I have found that fit my dietary restrictions and taste preferences.