Two years ago…
Our lactose free journey began almost two years ago, my then four year old daughter got a horrible sickness and diarrhoea bug. School was a no-go zone and she flopped around like a small rag doll with little energy and none of her usual buzz. She didn’t each much and drank only water or a little diluted squash.
Slowly but surely she recovered and within a week was bouncing off the walls and ready to go back to school.
Within 24 hours she was home again, with explosive diarrhoea (which decided to make a dramatic appearance in Marks and Spencer). Her appetite was fine though, so, on doctor’s advice we let her eat what she wanted and kept her fluids topped up.
Back to school within three days and, like clockwork 24 hours later (in Tesco this time) history, and her lunch, repeated. This vicious cycle continued, for a long and miserable three weeks. I silently hissed at every mother who didn’t force their kids to wash their hands at every opportunity, cursed the mothers sending their kids back to school without waiting for the ‘3-day post vomit deadline’ to pass and offered to don my marigolds and come into school after hours to give it a thorough hose down. To no avail.
A trip to the GP. Any answers?
When we ended up back in the waiting room at the local surgery I convinced myself that it would be a total waste of time, it would no doubt be something ‘viral’ that we had to just ride out. But I was mistaken.
‘Has she had anything with milk in it, or cheese or chocolate maybe?’ said the doctor.
‘How about a cheese and tomato sandwich, some chocolate buttons and a drink of milk for lunch?’ I replied.
The doctor shook his head in a manner clearly reserved for stupid patients and said;
‘That’ll be it then’
Unbeknown to me (and I come from a family bursting at the seams with food allergies and dietary issues) it is really common for a child who has had a tummy bug to become temporarily lactose intolerant.
No dairy for six months! But it’s Christmas
‘Keep her off dairy for at least 6 months’ he quipped casually. ‘Hopefully then it will phase out but if she’s unlucky it might be permanent’
Six months! Might be permanent? I wasn’t looking forward to telling my sweet-toothed 4 year old that Father Christmas was only bringing raisins and not chocolate coins; that her advent calendar would have to be a paper one and our Christmas chocolate log would be very, well, non-chocolatey!
Once I had calmed down I set to work making sure that her Christmas would be just as fabulous as a chocolate and cream filled one, just with a little more work.
Here are our top ten tricks to survive Christmas lactose-free, including our favourite non-dairy seasonal alternatives and some cracking recipes!
- Make your own advent calendar. Try making a simple DIY advent calendar (we are just finalising our amazing design – watch the blog next week) that you can re-use every year and fill with your own choice of lactose-free treats.
- If you can’t face making one, supermarkets and big brands are now upping their game in the dairy free stakes – try advent calendars from Moo Free Advent Calendar or Holland & Barrett for a great dairy free alternative.
- If you know you are going to a party, make your own special pack up to take with you containing dairy free alternatives.
- Plan ahead for meals out. Phone to make sure that there are dairy free options (often kids menus are woefully inadequate when it comes to dairy free) or ask the kitchen if they can make something separate. We found Pizza Express were amazing. They make a range of gluten free pizzas and were more than happy for us to take dairy free cheese with us and made Phoebe her own special pizza. Again, I would advise having a small stash of sweet treats or snacks as restaurants are a pain for giving kids free chocolates or cookies at Christmas – cue wailing small person if they can’t have one!
- Let school and friends know that you have a dairy-free situation going on! Most people are desperately keen to help, lots of our friends have gone out of their way to find alternatives. But if you are worried (I have lost count of the people who think eggs are dairy and cream is fine because it isn’t milk!) keep a small stash of non-dairy treats in the car/handbag to whip out at the first sign of chocolate treats.
- If they are old enough, get your little one to write a note for Father Christmas telling him that they can’t have chocolate this year. My daughter was beyond delighted to discover that the big man himself had brought something special just for her.
. Santa was wonderful to us and brought at Moo Free Selection Box
- Make our dairy free Christmas Cake, Mincemeat or Christmas pudding so that they can share in the celebrations without being marked out as different [link to recipes]. .
- Get the kids involved in making savoury snacks such as roasted chestnuts, veg sticks and humus, sausages in bacon…anything to tempt them away from the chocolate stash.
- Hot chocolate is a big thing in our house at Christmas, especially our famous Red Velvet Hot Chocolate. Make it with cocoa powder instead with a little sugar and lactose free milk. There are lots of dairy free alternatives such as soya milk or almond milk. My daughter gives her biggest thumbs up to Lacto-Free which seems to have the closest taste to cows milk (as it is essentially cows milk with the lactose removed). Lacto Free also now do a passable attempt at lactose free cream.
- Keep calm (it’s only Christmas) and pour yourself a glass of something cold (a gin cocktail maybe or a chilled prosecco!
It isn’t always permanent if caused by a bug!
Luckily for us, for the most part, our daughter has grown out of her intolerance. However, a full glass of cows milk, a milkshake or a regular milk hot chocolate goes straight through! It seems to be a question of trial and error.