Testing a Dairy Elimination Diet on our Little Devil – Plus 6 Days of Menus

Testing a Dairy Elimination Diet with our Son
It came as no surprise that our son wanted to dress up as the devil for Halloween.  We have been having some challenges with his behavior for the past few years, and have privately referred to him as the devil on more than a few occasions…

We have seen several specialists and have appointments for a few more. But desperate times called for what felt like desperate measures.  I heard that dairy allergies could manifest themselves as behavior problems in children, so we thought we would see if his attitude would improve if we did a dairy elimination trial with his diet.

I was worried.
Because I love cheese.

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But it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be to eliminate dairy from dinner, the main meal that we share as a family, or even from his breakfasts and lunches.  It just took a little bit of extra planning so that I wasn’t relying on standard meals that come naturally.

In case you ever need to try a dairy elimination diet for your family, I thought you might find it helpful to see what Ari ate for the first week of the experiment.   I didn’t mention desserts here – but I stocked up on some special treats from Trader Joe’s for dessert: gum drops (with natural coloring), Joe-Joe’s, and Tofutti Cuties.

6 Days of Menus for a Dairy Elimination Diet for a Child

Day 1:

  • Breakfast: vegan blintzes from Trader Joes, cornflakes with rice milk
  • Lunch: dry mango, grapes, dehydrated pea snacks, orange, almonds, olives and a pickle (he dropped the pb/j sandwich on the ground at school)
  • Dinner: fried tofu triangles, coconut brown rice (and chard, that he didn’t eat…)

Day 2:

  • Breakfast: vegan blintzes, homemade pumpkin muffin (with rice milk instead of milk)
  • Lunch: grapes, dried mango, peanut butter filled pretzels and leftover tofu from dinner
  • Snack: fruit leather, graham cracker
  • Dinner: soy cheese quesadilla and a chicken tamale (with no cheese, of course)

Day 3:

  • Breakfast: homemade pumpkin muffin with Earth Balance spread, steel cut oatmeal
  • Lunch: banana, dried mango, pretzels, peanut butter and jelly sandwich
  • Snack: Boo chips, fruit, olives
  • Dinner: pork tenderloin with figs, coconut rice, roasted cauliflower and carrots

Day 4:

  • Breakfast: homemade pumpkin muffin, vegan blintzes
  • Lunch: tortilla chips, applesauce and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich
  • Snack: fruit leather, graham crackers
  • Dinner (at my parent’s house): carrots with edamame hummus, salmon, roasted potatoes, salad with Asian pearss/avocado, artichoke with mayonnaise and fruit sorbet

Day 5:

  • Breakfast: vegan blintzes, Cliff bar
  • Lunch: ham/soy cheese quesadilla, grapes, lollipop
  • Dinner: turkey burgers, salad, sweet potato fries

Day 6:

  • Breakfast: cereal with rice milk
  • Lunch: Peanut butter/jelly sandwich, pretzels
  • Dinner: roasted chicken legs with Asian sticky sauce, rice and acorn squash

We had to start over after Day 6 because I found out that he ate a muffin from a friend at school.  It was so hard for him to remember that he couldn’t eat anything from other people (unless it was simply fruit and veggies).  It also didn’t help that we were doing this around Halloween, when he was surrounded by treats at school.  There are lots of hidden sources of dairy in packaged foods – like our sandwich bread and crackers.  I even found dry milk powder in our sliced salame!

We made it about three weeks after the do-over before deciding to stop. I talked to several parents and medical professionals, all of whom said that if dairy were contributing to our behavior issues, we would have noticed a change by then.  It was worth a try – and was much easier than I had anticipated.

One thing that kept me going was the thought that simple changes in our diet would be the EASIEST fix for our issues – and much less expensive than therapy or medicine!

Have you had any challenges with your diet? Do you have any words of wisdom for the rest of us?

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20 Responses to Testing a Dairy Elimination Diet on our Little Devil – Plus 6 Days of Menus

  1. Renee says:

    A few years ago I was seeing an alternative health professional for fatigue issues. At that time she did allergy/sensitivity testing (blood test) and I came up sensitive to yeast and gluten. The fatigue problems were alleviated through a good multi-vitamin and high daily doses of vitamin D (she also tested for that and like most people who live in the midwest, I was very deficient), so I never tried an elimination diet for yeast and gluten. I love bread products and pasta, so I’d have to have pretty bad symptoms to eliminate those from my diet.

    On another blog I read, there was recently a discussion of the Feingold diet (http://www.feingold.org/). You might already be familiar with this, but if you’re not, you might find it interesting as it relates to your son.

    • Michelle Stern says:

      You are so sweet to leave such a thoughtful response. I can’t believe how different I feel after starting vitamin D only a week ago. Like I don’t have any desire for that afternoon cup of coffee – just awake and aware. Sigh. xoxo

  2. We had to try some elimination diets with our girls. We were lucky, within days cows milk indeed identified as the trigger. They can have dairy, but not the milk. But it really was about skin issues (eczema and yeast) not behaviour. But I am not above thinking that diet plays a part in behaviour.

    • Michelle Stern says:

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, Cheryl. I truly think it is a brain chemistry issue, to be honest. But it was worth trying, for sure.

  3. I work as cook/baker at a Children’s Center and discovered that if I puree chick peas, mix a bit of pizza sauce with it, and put it on the top of pizza crust, it substitutes for the cheese topping. The milk/free children eat slices of pizza right along with the children who have pizza with cheese. You are not alone. Often, the parents, and doctors, are also experimenting and sometimes the diet restriction is removed.
    I also am a mother and previous foster mother. Every child challenged me, not because they were bad, but because they encouraged me to keep an open mind and to find more holistic answers. You have an open mind, and an open mind WILL recieve answers.

  4. Mrs. Q says:

    Now onto wheat elimination! 🙂

    • Michelle Stern says:

      That’s what I am afraid of, Mrs. Q! That won’t be as simple…

      • Mrs. Q says:

        Wheat/gluten elimination is definitely tough to do — it’s in everything. It’s something to think about though. Start small, like a gf breakfast (there are great gf cereals by Nature’s Path) and see if there’s a difference before lunch. My little guy is basically very low gluten and no dairy…terrible twos aren’t so terrible anymore.

  5. Elizabeth says:

    When our son was around 5 we were looking for answers to behavior issues. I did try to really cut back on gluten and preservatives but one thing that seemed to be a big trigger was artificial dye, especially blue and purple. We noticed problems after popscicles (it wasn’t just sugar – other highly sugared foods such as ice cream didn’t seem to corespond). We paid much more attention to artifical dye and noticed a great improvment – could just be he was growing out of it but it’s worth looking at.

  6. Karen says:

    My daughter, who recently turned three, had terrible behavioral issues that involved her inability to regulate her emotions and an intolerance to things that did not go specifically the way she had planned (more than what would be considered developmentally appropriate). She had meltdowns from the time she woke up in the morning, stemming from the type of shoes she would wear to the way her breakfast was presented on her plate (bacon BESIDE the biscuit, not in it!). She attends a Mother’s Morning Out program three times per week, but her teacher never reported any problematic behavior. However, as soon as she would get into the car, any minor thing would set her off, which would lead to hours of tantrums, with nothing able to calm her down. I spoke with her pediatrician, who attributed all of this to typical childhood behavioral issues. However, I knew something was amiss. I gathered a list of child psychologists and was prepared to make the call. During this particular time frame, my daughter was complaining daily about her stomach hurting and the pain would wake her up during the night. After consulting with a gastroenterologist, he stated that, because of allergies, mucous was draining into her stomach, thus causing her stomach to become irritated. I questioned him about her consumption of dairy products and he stated that dairy products cause one to produce mucous, and since this was causing her so much discomfort, we should abstain for now. Prior to this appointment, my daughter would consume approximately 20-25 oz. of milk per day in addition to cheese and yogurt. However, after eliminating dairy from her diet, we have noticed a tremendous (almost unbelievable) change in her behavior. She is the most pleasant child and tries very hard to insure that she displays acceptable behavior, even when things do not go her way. She still gets upset, but nothing like before and I can reason with her. So far, we have passed the one-month milestone and I am ecstatic. There have been times when I have allowed her to have a small amount of ice cream or some cheese on a pizza, but have monitored this very closely. I am convinced that the dairy products were causing these terrible behavioral problems and hope this may help someone else. Also, as a last note, she was tested for the milk protein allergy when she was around one year old, but the allergist stated that, as long as the products did not appear to cause her any discomfort, it would be okay to give them to her. She was still on formula at the time, and really did not start drinking milk until she was well over two years of age. At any rate, diet modification/elimination is certainly worth a try and I encourage anyone not to give up!

    • Wendy Harnden says:

      Wow, very similar story to mine….I am amazed at just after 3 days of eliminating obvious dairy of milk, yogurt, cottage cheese and cheese that my daughters behaviour is back to ‘normal’ behaviour of a 6 year old. I’m glad I tried it and now I see the real person my dauhter is and can be!!

      • Ellen says:

        Wow..this story sounds just like mine! My daughter just turned 8. She has always been outspoken moody and snappy. She now takes allergy shots for things like dogs and cats, grass, and oak. I then did a milk elimiation and I am amazed. I have a whole new daughtet that I love to be around. Does anybody know of websites or blogs with similar stories that share recipes?

  7. Angela says:

    We eliminated gluten and casien from my middle son’s diet and within 2 days he was a whole new child! I highly recommend it to anyone having behavior issues. We still have melt downs but our life is so much better for doing this. A bad day now is what a good day used to look like before changing his diet. The best thing about it is HE notices a difference when he does/does not eat these foods so he chooses not to eat them because he doesn’t like the way he feels when he does.

  8. Wendy Rubin says:

    In doing an elimination diet for dairy, is it ok to use lactaid milk or have other lactaid products?
    We are trying to see if she is lactose deficient.
    Thank you.

  9. Mrs. B says:

    My son (soon to be 8) has been diagnosed with ADHD, however, through several elimination diets we have discovered and overcome a great deal. Artificial food dye causes his hyperactivity… the slightest bit of red will send him bouncing off the walls with NO self control. Dairy is another one… any milk, yogurt, or cheese not only causes constipation, but his mood is absolutely miserable! Although I would probably be miserable too if I was so uncomfortable!

    Here’s a tool I would like to share with anyone/ everyone… during a very difficult school year with my son, I researched natural methods to help with his attention/ focus battle. I learned that a lot of children with ADD/ ADHD are deficient in certain minerals. Calcium, Magnesium, Iron, and Zinc seem to be the primaries. I visited my local GNC and picked up a mineral supplement with these 4 minerals (plus other vitamins/ minerals for absorption) and started giving them to my son.
    At this time I was meeting with his teacher weekly to trouble shoot his academic/ focus challenges.
    I didn’t tell his teacher that he had started taking minerals because I wanted to see if there would be a noticeable difference.
    Nonetheless, 1 week after he started taking the mineral supplement I met with his teacher again. She asked me immediately if we had started him on medication because she had noticed a huge difference! This has not cured all problems… it’s a slow process and elimination diets are key. However, my son’s grades went from C’s and D’s to A’s and B’s within months!!!
    I strongly believe that there is so much ‘junk’ in the chemically altered food that many of us consume and that many of us are simply deficient in vitamins/ minerals that our bodies were intended to have. It’s like trying to run a vehicle on the wrong fuel but still expect it to perform to it’s fullest potential. It just doesn’t work. 🙁

    I am constantly searching for answers to provide my son the tools he needs to be successful and from what I can see here, I’m not alone.

    I’ll just say, great job to all the parents who care enough to get to the root problem rather than just slapping bandaids on the symptoms. 🙂

  10. Eldon Ueckert says:

    A glass of pure fruit juice, bananas, yoghurt, low-calorie muesli with semi skimmed or skimmed milk, fresh fruit salad with few spoonfuls of low fat yoghurt, fresh and raw veggies mixed with flavoured yoghurt, a slice of toast or plain bread with eggs, boiled or poached are some of the options for breakfast. Kids can enjoy a Smoothie with their favourite fruits; add dash of yoghurt or honey to make it more delicious.:

    Look at all of the most popular short article on our web page

  11. dianne says:

    For us, we need to eat Paleo: copious amounts of vegetables, some meats and fish of all kinds, nuts (no peanuts) and fruits (we eliminate grains of any kind, no legumes, no dairy) for our 12 year old middle daughter’s thyroid disease. When we stick to this diet her antibodies seem to come down drastically and she feels better. Our youngest daughter (8) has behavioral issues that look like ADD stuff. They got much better when we gave her massive probiotics every day and she wasn’t eating dairy. She recently had breakfast at a friend’s home, and the friend’s mother insisted she drink an 8 oz glass of milk. The next day (yesterday), I also forgot for the first time to give her the probiotic, and the day was pure Hell for her and for us. Not sure which variable was the culprit. Temper tantrums, aggressive, OCD behavior suddenly came back. She talked incessantly, couldn’t settle down for bed mentally or physically (even at 10PM) and said she was so uncomfortable she couldn’t stand it. Poor thing. We will see if not having dairy again for this coming week yields improvements. I wish everyone luck with their precious children. Always give the benefit of the doubt, there is an underlying reason for everything. We just have to find it.

  12. Marie says:

    Those of you who have school aged children or younger, how have you handled schools with these feeding issues? Where my younger son goes now they are pretty good at keeping him out of food that he gets sick from. We have narrowed it down so hoping soon he can have school food with the exception of obvious sources of milk. I ask the question above as he was at another school where the school gave me crap about changing his diet blaming the state and claiming they are required to offer it and that I needed a doctors note to change what they offered. He has milk sensitivity from elimination diet and gets diarrhea and vomiting from it, however not lactose intolerant or milk allergy. We had to go out of town to find a doctor who has helped with is diet. How do you guys manage to pull it off. Had issues with doctors trying to get out of signing school papers stating not to even give him milk. So far gotten lucky and the kid is doing a lot better.

    • Michelle Stern says:

      Ugh – your story is way too common. I don’t understand why teachers, school administrators, and other parents respect the needs of each individual child? Feeding kids is OUR choice and the school should set the stage with good examples. Better lunch programs? Yes. Should they offer milk as part of school lunch? Yes. But they can not enforce kids to take it. And they should offer alternatives for kids like yours. Unfortunately, kids with food allergies need to learn to self advocate and “just say no” to foods offered outside of their home. If you pack it, it’s safe. Otherwise, they need to learn that they are at risk. It’s frustrating and sad… Thanks for chiming in.

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