With her training as a pharmacist, Schererville resident and nutrition coach Carol Slager knew she could turn to prescription drugs to help her sons, Ryan and Colin, with their dairy allergies growing up — especially because she and her husband didn’t share those allergies, but rather a mutual love for cheese, ice cream and other dairy-based goodies. But her passion for health and wellness — and her desire to make sure her family could share the same home-cooked meals — led her in a different direction.
The result is her recent book “Cookies No Milk, Pizza No Cheese: An Ice Cream Lover’s Guide to Raising Children With Dairy Allergies,” which serves as something of an extension of the philosophy of responsible nutritional choices and overall wellness that she preaches every day to clients at her practice, Inkwell Healthy Lifestyles.
Q: What inspired you to write this book?
A: It can be stressful and overwhelming when we are told we must change current habits, especially when it comes to food. Over the years, I’ve had to make various modifications in my diet that may be simple, but aren’t always easy! There are numerous health conditions that may be improved by making adjustments in what we eat.
I felt it was important to get this information out there so individuals would be able to decide for themselves what is best. Some people may not be aware that making a few simple changes over time can have a major positive impact on their health and quality of life. The topic I focused on in the book is one that I could really speak to, since our family lives it. My hope is that others find it easier to cope with dairy sensitivities and allergies because of what we learned along the way.
Q: What kind of feedback have you received?
A: I find it interesting as to which points in the book stood out and offered benefit to each reader. Presenting important facts and ideas on how to live with a dairy allergy, while incorporating humorous stories, family favorite recipes and even a few poems has made it a fun read even for those who are fine with dairy. I also made sure to include my sons’ perspective in the book; since things can be different from each vantage point, I felt it important to have them tell their side of the story.
I’ve heard from some of my readers that this book would have helped them when their children were young, since they suffered similar symptoms with no conclusive diagnosis. Other health and fitness experts have found the information to be valuable and eye-opening as well.
Q: What are some of your go-to dairy substitutes?
One of our favorite dairy-free foods is Earth Balance Soy-Free Buttery Sticks, which are as rich and delicious as butter and are perfect for baking. When I first discovered this product, the only way I could purchase it was in 18-pound cases from a local health food store, but most grocery stores in the area carry it now in one-pound packages.
There are also a variety of nut milks that can substitute for dairy milk. I enjoy unsweetened plain almond milk, since it does not add flavor or additional sugar to whatever I’m making. And then we have my favorite: ice cream. This is my weakness, but it’s great that there are so many varieties of frozen non-dairy desserts to choose from now. Our favorite is the coconut milk.
Many baked goods contain some form of dairy, so it is critical that you become an expert in reading ingredient labels. Some of the more common terms for dairy include whey, cream, butter, lactose, rennet, ghee, yogurt and milk protein. When looking for any dairy substitutes, I tend to avoid those with hydrogenated oils and artificial sweeteners. If you don’t have time to bake your own, my advice is to look for those foods that specifically tout “no dairy.” Even here, check the label anyway.
Q: What would you say to a food-loving skeptic who doubts the possibility of a satisfying dairy-free lifestyle?
A: Talk to my sons! Our family loves to eat, and I have always insisted on food with lots of eye-appeal and flavor. There are many more options now than there were when they were growing up, so it’s easier than ever to find great-tasting substitutes for dairy and many other troublesome foods.