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You’ve discovered that you’re allergic or sensitive to dairy, so you finally committed to completely cutting it out of your diet. Initially, you felt great. Then, some of those old symptoms started to resurface: a little belly bloat, a stomachache, another sinus infection. So, did you actually cut out all the hidden dairy?

It can be really discouraging to make such a huge leap and still not feel like it’s making a difference. But before you throw in the towel and make yourself a cheese plate, there’s something you should know: there are hidden sources of dairy in places you may not expect. This means that even though you think you’re avoiding this allergen, it may still accidentally end up on your plate.

When grocery shopping, it’s essential to read every label, because dairy can be disguised under a number of unfamiliar names and forms. It might not appear as “cream” or “milk” or something obvious, but it may masquerade as a harmless ingredient. Here’s what you should know…

Other Names for Dairy

There are quite a few alternative names and sources of dairy that can appear in seemingly non-dairy foods. Here are some of the most common:

  • Whey and Whey Protein
  • Rennet
  • Recaldent
  • Casein and Caseinate
  • Lactose and most similar-sounding names, like lactate solids and lactulose

These names above are just the tip of the iceberg. Check out this free comprehensive list for more names so you can be a hidden dairy detective pro.

a pdf downloadable list of the ingredients that contain dairy

Now that we have a better understanding of the terminology, we can relate it to some commonly purchased, and seemingly safe, foods. Look below for the most surprising categories of foods that might have hidden dairy in them.

What to Look Out For

charcuterie assortment on wooden board

Deli Meat:

When you buy dried meats like salami, the last thing you’re worried about is consuming dairy. But deli meats contain sodium lactate, a curing agent that preserves the meat. If you have a lactose allergy, these foods could be an issue. I buy Applegate Organics brand salami which is certified casein free. If you want to dive deeper into lunch meats and which brands are dairy free, Go Dairy Free wrote a comprehensive post about it.

Protein Bars & Powders:

Most protein bars and powders contain whey, which is a dairy-derived ingredient. Look for certified Vegan labels to ensure your granola bars and smoothie products are safe.

Dairy-Free Cheese:

Okay, this is confusing. If it’s dairy-free why does it contain dairy? Well, some nut cheeses still contain casein. If this is a no-no for you, nut cheeses may be off the list, unless you can find one free of casein additives. My favorite brands are Chao Slices, anything from Kite Hill,  Miyoko’s Kitchen and Treeline Cheese! But there are new, amazing nut cheeses coming out all the time.

Chewing Gum

I would never think that chewing gum was a place I might be getting unwanted dairy. Many brands use recaldent, as mentioned above, which is a dairy derivative.

Every Case is Different

Depending on your specific allergy, you may need to look out for some of these ingredients—or you may not. If you’re allergic to the casein in milk, any food with a casein ingredient should be avoided. If not, you may be okay with it. So it’s important to really get clear on your sensitivities so you can navigate food labels with ease.

While it can be a difficult transition, and all these terms may feel daunting, just remember that once you truly understand how you react to dairy (in all its many forms) you can make informed decisions about what to put in your body. And that’s when the healing truly begins. Start paying attention to how you feel after you eat a suspect food. Most likely your gut will give you the answer you need.

Confused about an ingredient or struggling to find dairy-free products? Email me or leave a comment below. I’m always here to help!

Here are some dairy free recipes to try!

a stack of macadamia coconut bark on a cutting board

This Macadamia Coconut Bark tastes like white chocolate, but is completely vegan. It is a wonderful little fat bomb that is super satisfying and full of real foods

Apricot & Plum Coconut Bars – These shortbread bars are free from dairy, eggs and gluten.

You can make this breakfast frittata with a plant-based milk, and even share it with family on a holiday morning.

And you can even make a CHEESECAKE without cheese!  My Creamy Lime Cheesecake uses avocados and rich coconut cream to create that thick creamy consistency.

Do you want more content like this?

I have a robust course all about dairy free cooking, that contains all the swaps that work best depending on what you are making. This course will be available inside The Holistic Kitchen Membership. If you are interested in more info, email me at to get on the wait list!

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