My Toddler's Dairy Intolerance: How to Overcome the Challenges

Updated: June 26, 2019
Find firsthand tips and tricks to overcome the challenges of a dairy and gluten intolerance.
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While recently enjoying the hysterical movie, Bad Moms, I couldn't help but laugh during several scenes. There's one clip in particular where the President of the school PTA holds an "emergency meeting" regarding the school bake sale. A huge list of banned ingredients are obnoxiously displayed in an over-the-top powerpoint presentation. The point is to poke fun at the health industry trends of having a dairy intolerance or going gluten- and nut-free, etc.

Before having a child who has multiple food intolerances, I too would think this all was a bunch of nonsense, but seeing my child struggle firsthand has changed my outlook. My son was diagnosed with a dairy intolerance as a newborn, resulting in two extremely confused and sleep-deprived parents. I remember roaming the aisles of Whole Foods looking for dairy- and soy-free foods, attempting to nurse my son. As my son has gotten older (he is now 2.5), I have learned to navigate the overwhelming world of food intolerances. My son can't have dairy and can tolerate limited amounts of gluten — and that's after lots of meetings with our GI doctor.

Little Boy Holding Lollipops

Here are my tips and insights to hopefully help other parents in a similar situation:

1. Don't be afraid to ask questions
While it's hard to ask a family member or waitress to see an ingredient list, remember that other chefs may not be as educated about your child's intolerance as you are. I can't tell you how many times I've been told a food is dairy-free, when in fact it wasn't. Always trust your gut, and do your research.

2. There are delicious substitutes
Because more children are diagnosed with certain intolerances, the food industry has worked hard to create substitutes. Most grocery stores have dedicated sections that cater to the most common allergies and/or intolerances.

A few of my son's favorites are:

  • Annie's gluten- and dairy-free mac n' cheese. I can personally attest to how delicious this tastes!
  • Whole Foods almond milk
  • Bobs 1-1 gluten free flour. This is the best gluten-free flour I've found. You can't taste a difference, and it's wonderful to bake with.
  • The brand So Delicous. Awesome yogurts, cookies, and treats.


3. Going out to eat is a challenge
It's hard enough to eat out with toddlers, but when classic crowd pleasers like mac n' cheese and pasta aren't an option, you've got to get creative. Research restaurants beforehand to see what they offer, but my personal experience usually leads us to eat at home.

4. Plan ahead
As my son has made friends, new challenges have presented. He can't eat most foods at birthday parties or play dates. I always pack things he can eat, and we bring our own cupcakes and treats. Since he's still too young to understand why, it can be a struggle. I have gotten ever creative at preventing meltdowns. I use food coloring to make his treat look fun and cool like the birthday cake. I'll even pack a special candy in case he gets upset. I can't promise it will always work, but it usually does the trick.

5. Bookmark resources
Here is my personal cheat sheet and favorite resources to inspire my cooking:


I hope this article helps you and your little one tackle his/her intolerances, whatever it may be. And when you are ready for a good laugh, rent Bad Moms!