Which Easter Eggs are Vegan 2016

UPDATED: CLICK HERE FOR 2017 Easter Eggs in the UK!

As promised, the 2016 edition of Which Easter Eggs Are Vegan (UK and USA):  I went to all the supermarkets in my town to see which ones carried dairy-free vegan easter eggs, and which eggs were actually dairy free and vegan, then I checked out Amazon.com to help out my American Vegan and Dairy Free readers too, so there should be something here for most dairy-free people.

Sainsbury’s:

Sainsbury’s had an excellent selection of vegan Easter eggs for 2016:

The Moo Free Egg is 100% vegan and available in Sainsbury’s:

The moo free vegan egg is available in Sainsbury's
The Moo Free vegan Egg

This interesting new addition to the range of dairy free vegan eggs is by a brand called Celtic (did they do Scheese??) and is also available in Sainsbury’s:

Dairy free vegan Easter egg Celtic Sainsburys
I haven’t seen this Celtic vegan egg before 2016.

Longtime entry Caramel Choices Easter Egg by Choices is a very sweet, very tasty dairy free and vegan egg that’s a favourite with children. It tastes like Thornton’s Special Toffee Egg (but vegan) although the chocolate is a little softer. Available at Sainsbury’s.  I have three of these ready for Easter, it’s my favourite!

Choices vegan Easter egg
Caramel Choices vegan Easter egg

The Choices dairy free vegan chocolate Easter bunny, at £1 each, comes in “milk” chocolate flavour or white chocolate flavour, but is still dairy free and vegan.  Available at Sainsbury’s and Tesco:

Choices vegan Easter egg bunny
The Choices chocolate vegan Easter bunnies.

Sainsbury’s have done their own dairy free and vegan eggs again this year.  This one is fantastic (I had one last year) – it’s a vegan white chocolate egg that’s dairy and wheat and gluten free and vegan so it covers all bases.  I love white chocolate eggs and there’s so few vegan ones on the market, so this is one of my favourites:

Sainsburys vegan Easter egg
Sainsbury’s white choc vegan egg.

This is the larger of Sainsbury’s two dairy free, gluten free and vegan eggs on offer this year: This one is dark chocolate flavour and comes with little chocolate discs.  If you’re a vegan dark chocolate fan this one’s for you.

One of Sainsbury's two dairy free, gluten free and vegan eggs on offer this year: This one is
Sainsbury’s dairy free Vegan gluten free Easter egg.

Tesco:

Moving on to Tesco, who had a very good selection last year, we also have the following dairy free and vegan Easter eggs:

The Tesco Finest 74% Ecuadorian Egg (the one that looks exactly like this with the gold on it) is dairy free and vegan. This egg is quite luxurious and would make an excellent gift for a dairy free or vegan adult who likes dark chocolate, but a child would probably want something a little sweeter:

Tesco finest 74 Ecuadorian Easter egg vegan dairy free
The Tesco Finest 74% Ecuadorian Egg is vegan.
Tesco Finest 74% Ecuadorian Easter egg
The ingredients for the Tesco Finest 74% Ecuadorian Easter egg. That’s “cocoa butter” not “butter” (despite some companies getting these confused when they label food for some reason).

The Green and Black’s Dark 70% chocolate egg is vegan and dairy free in 2016. Green and Black’s can be very inconsistent with whether they put milk in their food or not. One minute their chocolate is reasonably vegan, then the next minute it’s full of horrible milk, as I’m sure we all know, so don’t rely on this for checking if they’re still vegan in 2017!

Green and Blacks chocolate Easter egg vegan
The Green and Black’s Dark 70% chocolate egg is vegan in 2016.
The 2016 ingredients for the Green and Black's 70% Cocoa Dark Chocolate Easter Egg.
The 2016 ingredients for the Green and Black’s 70% Cocoa Dark Chocolate Easter Egg.

The Green and Black’s mint chocolate egg is also dairy free and vegan this year.  All the Green and Black’s say “not suitable for milk allergy” but I have an allergy and my only problem is that their chocolate doesn’t taste very nice, it’s never made me ill though:

The 2016 ingredients for the Green and Black's 70% Cocoa Dark Chocolate Easter Egg mint.
The Green and Black’s mint chocolate egg.

The Lindt DARK chocolate bunny with the brown ribbon is vegan 2 years in a row!  I am most excited about this positive move by Lindt to enable those of us who are dairy free to enjoy their chocolate.  Their chocolate is so nice!

Lindt Bunny Vegan
The Lindt DARK chocolate bunny is vegan.

The ingredients for the Lindt dark chocolate Easter gold bunny are here:

Lindt Bunny Vegan Ingredients
The ingredients.

My local Tesco’s Free From section surprised me two holiday seasons in a row – they didn’t have dairy free and vegan chocolate Advent calendars before Christmas and now they don’t have any Free From dairy free chocolate Easter eggs to choose from, good thing they make up for it with all their vegan dark chocolate egg offerings, but the only vegan Easter chocolate that Tesco sell that children would enjoy is the Lindt gold bunny and the little Choices bunnies, so if you’re shopping for vegan children or children with a milk allergy, Sainsbury’s is far and away the best place to get some proper Free From eggs.  Tesco’s selection is better for adults who like dark chocolate, so do check the preferences of your vegan or milk allergy sufferer before assuming they will like something just because it’s dairy free.  I think the vegan Kinnerton dairy free egg has been withdrawn this year because nowhere has it on sale and it used to be the most popular one for shops to stock (I’m sort of glad, I’m sick to death of getting that flipping egg from everyone year after year).  Morrisons were the most disappointing, for the fifth year in a row, they had absolutely nothing in the vegan or dairy free Easter egg department, not even the Green and Blacks or Lindt ones, and while they’ve expanded their dairy free area of the Free From section recently to move with the times and nearly catch up with… um… every other supermarket in Britain… they still have a long way to go before I can confidently get rid of my car and just use the local Morrisons for my dairy free and vegan shopping.

The Supermarket Shelf Hall Of Shame:  NOT VEGAN OR DAIRY FREE:

To follow are a list of eggs that looked like they might be dairy free or vegan but definitely aren’t.  Please don’t buy these for someone who doesn’t have milk or milk products:

After Eight Easter Egg not vegan
NOT VEGAN The After Eight Easter Egg contains milk.
The Lindt Excellence dark chocolate 70% cocoa egg contains milk.
NOT VEGAN: The Lindt Excellence dark chocolate 70% cocoa Easter egg contains milk.
Nestle Black Magic Easter egg NOT VEGAN 2016
NOT VEGAN: Did anyone really expect Nestle to come up with a dairy free egg for 2016? Well they didn’t. Again. But it looks like it might be vegan, so I included it in the hall of shame. I think Nestle might be the only chocolate company I know of who have never even tried to make a dairy free chocolate bar (even Cadbury’s trialled it with Bournville).

Cadbury’s also have nothing vegan or dairy free again this year, but I don’t mind too much because I can’t stand their chocolate. The vegan After Eight mint chocolate bunnies we saw last year (that I bought about 5 of at £1 each) also seem to have disappeared this year which is a shame because they were fabulous. If you see them please let me know where in the comments!

Dairy Free And Vegan Eggs on Amazon:

For my American readers, I’ve taken a look through Amazon and come up with a list of the best dairy free vegan Easter eggs available in 2016.  There are a couple I excluded because they were too expensive to be even vaguely reasonable for what they were.  I was surprised that there wasn’t the vast selection I was expecting:

Moo Free Cheeky Orange Vegan Easter Egg This one is $17.00 (plus $5.99 shipping) so comes in a little on the expensive side but I included it because it’s the only orange flavoured one.  This one is dairy free and suitable for vegans.

Moo Free Bunnycomb Free From Vegan Easter Egg At $13.00 (plus $5.99 shipping) it’s a little cheaper, but the cost of shipping is quite high again.  As the name implies, it’s dairy free and suitable for vegans.

Equal Exchange Organic Dark Chocolate Eggs in a Gift Boxes 36 Blue Foil Wrapped Eggs (Pack of 2) These are $21 but they do qualify for free shipping AND you get a two pack for the $21 (which is a total of 36 foil wrapped eggs).  They are organic dark chocolate and suitable for vegans.

Cream Veggs Milk Free, Nut Free Vegan Easter Cream Filled Eggs These are $16.95 plus $6 shipping, but you do get 6 eggs so if you’re getting something for a family of vegans, dairy and nut allergy sufferers, or if you want all the kids to have the same as each other, this is a pretty good choice and since they’re cream-filled (I’m assuming dairy free cream, otherwise this is a really stupid item with misleading labelling), it’s something a little different to the usual hollow eggs.

Montezumas Chocolate Dark Choc Bunnies 90g This is a $17.82 (plus $5.99 shipping) 90g pack of 8 mini chocolate bunnies that are dairy free, organic and vegan. Interestingly the description says these are made in West Sussex (UK) but I’ve never heard of them so I don’t think they’re a very big company – perhaps one day these will find their way onto English supermarket shelves too!

Bonnie the Milkless Bunny Rabbit, Milk Free, Nut Free Vegan Candy Okay this one’s not an egg, it’s an Easter bunny, but it’s so freaking adorable and at $14.95 it’s one of the cheaper options to feed your vegan tasty dairy free chocolate at Easter!

And finally:

If you’re new to veganism or recently been diagnosed with a milk allergy (or recently met someone you’re buying for) you should be aware that these eggs will sell out fast!  I have already (time of writing is February 2016) got my Lindt dark chocolate bunny, and am getting my Sainsbury’s eggs this week so I don’t miss out, because Easter is a very special time of year for me and my bunnies, and I totally missed out on Christmas due to being critically ill so I’m looking forward to opening my tasty eggs on Easter day which means getting them early.  Please store them in a cool, dry place so they don’t go bad or melt, dairy free chocolate is still chocolate and it will melt in warm temperatures/direct sunlight!

I am an Amazon associate. This article contains affiliate links, which means if you buy from Amazon I get some of their profits. This helps me have time to do the painstaking research that goes into producing this content.

While these eggs are suitable for lactose intolerance, A1 casein intolerance and milk allergy sufferers, as well as most people living a milk-free life, not all of these eggs are suitable for all people whose medical conditions mean they avoid milk, not because they contain milk (they absolutely are 100% vegan except the three clearly labelled in the hall of shame) – but some people also have to avoid all of a specific type of sugar as well e.g. with a disaccharide intolerance. If you want to know more about the seven different types of milk-related allergies and intolerances, see my article here.

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I’m not vegan anymore (but I still eat vegan food).

I haven’t talked about food for a good long while, and there’s a reason for that:

I’m not vegan any more.  And I haven’t been for a while.

You may remember my New Year’s resolution was to get back to veganism again.

It didn’t really work out.  Between the 9 month mixed state I’ve been in until August and the fact that I had to avoid all sugar (not just “added” but fruit sugar and some sweeteners too, as I had no mood stabilizers and was in a mixed state), I’ve had to put whatever I can into my face.  And I’ve been gravitating towards specific things.

Most vegans gain a sort of sense of what their body needs.  Mine’s been taking me away from veganism.

The truth is, the more I learn about food, the more I believe that a paleo type diet is actually more helpful.  I’ve been eating solid pieces of meat (such as chicken, lamb and beef), along with two to three servings of vegetable, and a small amount of carbohydrate.  I don’t know what type of diet that is but it’s been my best configuration.

I still avoid milk but I have now found out where I stand on the allergy/intolerance spectrum (I outlined the types of allergy/intolerance here and updated it today to add A1 casein intolerance): I have an A1 casein protein intolerance as well as lactose intolerance.  This means I can tolerate something called A2 milk (available in supermarkets) without getting milk allergy symptoms, which means I can try small amounts of milk without the fear of dying or going blind (which happens if you have galactosemia and you keep having milk).  When the symptoms were similar, I was not going to take the risk.

I call my current way of eating a “real food” diet – if someone from a thousand years ago (date picked at random) looked at my plate, would they recognize everything on it as actual food?  Independent of food inventions and discoveries, but just going with what they know about things that can be eaten, what would their opinion be?

For example:  chips are not real food.  Baked potatoes are.  Pasta isn’t real food.  Whole boiled or steamed or raw vegetables are.  Meat is (but not processed meat such as bacon).

I didn’t get this from a recipe book or diet guru, I just started eating like this.  It was what my body was crying out for.  And I’ve felt a lot better since I’ve been doing it.  I do still eat meals that are completely vegan, but I feel that I’ve found a different way of eating that is more beneficial to myself.  I have nothing bad to say about veganism and the vegan community in general, and I do believe the underlying philosophy to be more valid and worthy than that of people who have never questioned.  I have simply found a different nutritional path.

I’m not sure right now where it’s taking me, but I will keep you posted.  And possibly share any recipes if I have any.

Rome in A Day (and pushchair, wheelchair accessibility)

So, unless you believe it was beamed here by aliens, most people can agree that Rome wasn’t built in a day, yada yada yada.

However, it can be visited in a day (although you will miss out on loads).  Here’s the 5 things to see/do if you only have one day in Rome, I’ve included accessibility information for wheelchairs and pushchairs because I know a few people who have been put off going to Rome due to a perceived lack of accessibility:

5. The Spanish Steps – I really liked them, and I used a network of back alleys to get to the top, just as it was going dark, then climbed down, because it was actually less touristy to do it that way around and we only got harassed by two flower sellers at the top, not the zillion or so at the bottom, because I realized I couldn’t get a good shot from the bottom so I bought a postcard instead.

Spanish Steps Wheelchair Pushchair Accessibility:

It’s a monumental staircase.  The back way isn’t totally wheelchair friendly, if you’re a solo wheelchair traveller you would be disappointed, but it’s one flight of stairs after a bit of a hill (see my first picture, that’s the back way not the actual Spanish steps, which are much less accessible for wheelchairs and pushchairs, particularly due to size and shape of the steps, as well as crowds), so if you’ve got a carer with you, you might be able to possibly get to the top (depending on your circumstances).  Personally, I would have flagged down a strong person to help me lift the wheelchair to get my mum up these steps if I’d taken her (if she’d wanted to see the top, and obviously at a time when I was still caring for her), but obviously it depends on how comfortable you are with doing that.  No way in hell I would have got an electric wheelchair up these steps or a scooter, unless it was a child’s.  This is also the way up that I’d recommend if you’ve got a pushchair, pram or buggy.  If you look at a map of Rome, just trace back from the top of the Spanish steps down some alleys (alleys are a bit hilly) to see how to get up here.

The back entrance to the Spanish Steps.
The back entrance to the Spanish Steps.  Note these aren’t the actual Spanish steps, this is a MUCH shorter, shallower staircase.
The only VAGUELY in focus picture of the view from the top of the Spanish Steps.  My camera does NOT cope with low lighting very well.
The only VAGUELY in focus picture of the view from the top of the Spanish Steps. My camera does NOT cope with low lighting very well.

4.  The Trevi Fountain would usually come here, but due to current renovations it’s actually empty and covered with scaffolding at the moment.

The Trevi Fountain restoration work September 2014
The Trevi Fountain restoration work September 2014

Instead, I’m going to bump up The Pantheon, which has had all its repairs completed and is fully open.  I first saw the Pantheon in 2007, when it was covered in indoor scaffolding, and I was very pleasantly surprised this time that it was restored to its stunning former glory with nary a builder in sight.  It’s well worth a visit and when you do, look up at the ceiling as well.

The Pantheon is completely wheelchair accessible.  Entry is free.
The Pantheon is completely wheelchair accessible. Entry is free.

Trevi Fountain Wheelchair Pushchair Accessibility:

It’s all flat ground to get to the Trevi Fountain, but you can’t actually get to it, usually at Easter and Summer there are huge crowds, so I’m not sure how you would get to the front to see anything, also the actual sides of the Trevi Fountain are quite high to stop people falling in, so you might need to either stand up (if you are able) or get someone to lift you to see all of it.  It’s 100% pushchair accessible, though.  With the current glass floor, if your wheelchair isn’t too wide, you could get to see the current renovations up close before they restore it to its former anarchic glory.

Pantheon Wheelchair Pushchair Accessibility:

The Pantheon is totally accessible by wheelchair and inside is nice shiny flat floorage and wide thoroughfares.

3.  Eat At A Pavement Cafe – one of my most memorable experiences each time I go to Rome is the food.  Yeah, it’s somewhat overpriced, and yes, it’s just pasta/pizza at most eateries.  But when it’s 9pm, the heat of the day is still in the air, the twinkling fairy lights are on above you, and some guy with an accordion is busking up and down the street, eating a pizza at a pavement cafe, either with someone you care about or solo, is one of the finest eating experiences of my life.  “But you have a milk allergy!” I hear you declare (or if you know me less well, “but you’re vegan!” which has only been since January)  I found this awesome place where the owner was really helpful and did me a dairy free pizza with no cheese, and the base was dairy free anyway, so that was fantastic.  I was very excited to have a vegetable pizza.  Mine cost 7 Euros, my drink (Sprite) was 4 Euros.

This place was at the bottom of the Spanish Steps round a corner, and were happy to oblige me with a dairy free pizza.  They didn't overcharge us, either.
This place was at the bottom of the Spanish Steps round a corner, and were happy to oblige me with a dairy free pizza. They didn’t overcharge us, either.

Pavement Cafe Wheelchair Pushchair Accessibility: 

Pretty much every pavement cafe is wheelchair accessible, you can just roll up and they’ll pull the chair away from the table if you don’t want it, and they will bring everything to you, like they do for everyone else, although there’s often a step or three to get inside and toilets (where they have one) are rarely wide enough for a wheelchair, baby changing stations are also non-existent.

2.  The Coliseum – Being an archaeology graduate, Rome means Ancient Rome to me.  Getting to see the Coliseum (some nations spell it Colloseum, or Coloseo) and actually stand where thousands of people stood, watching the games that used to go on, wondering what they thought and how they responded when they saw such spectacles… that’s just tremendous for me.  While here, I bought a 7 Euro guidebook for the Forum and Palatine, because you get a combined ticket (which is easier to obtain from the forum with less queueing, but I did the coliseum first).

The Coliseum from the bottom end; the wooden platform is where the floor level would have been after (I think it was Caligula) renovated from the original dirt floor.
The Coliseum from the bottom end; the wooden platform is where the floor level would have been after Domitian (the original builder Vespasian’s son) renovated from the original dirt floor and added the top layer of seating, doing both in wood, which was later fire damaged around AD217.

Coliseum Wheelchair Pushchair Accessibility:

There is a lift to get to the top stone floor where you can look at the actual arena, and the exhibition area, although once you’re up there, I don’t think the actual monument has wide enough walkways for a standard wheelchair plus hand clearance, so you’d have to go back to the lift to get back down again.  I’m not sure I’d pay full price for this, and I don’t know how wheelchair friendly the lower levels are, where only the guided tours are allowed, because I didn’t want to pay for a tour guide.  There were plenty of people with pushchairs at all levels of the coliseum.

1. The Roman Forum and palatine – There’s no decorum in the forum!  Depending which path you take from the entrance, you might be forgiven for thinking that this is just a big hill with not a lot of interesting stuff on it, without any plaques etc to tell you what’s going on.  Go back to the entrance and either go right or straight on, rather than left, and you go round the hill to it’s foot, where you will see the most awesome remains, such as these, which made me wonder if I’d wandered onto the set of Xena, Warrior Princess:

I wish my house looked like this.
I wish my house looked like this.
This copper door is still keeping this building's contents safe, two thousand years after it was all built.  I wonder whether anyone still has a key to get inside...
This copper door is still keeping this building’s contents safe, two thousand years after it was all built. I wonder whether anyone still has a key to get inside…
And the verdant plant life is another reason the Roman Forum is my number 1 favourite part of Rome.  This area was reminiscent of a Studio Ghibli anime.
And the verdant plant life is another reason the Roman Forum is my number 1 favourite part of Rome. This area was reminiscent of a Studio Ghibli anime.

Roman Forum and Palatine Wheelchair and Pushchair Accessibility:

The Forum’s accessibility is surprisingly good.  Another reason why it’s scored quite highly on this list.  There is a separate entrance for wheelchairs and pushchairs, with a lift to get to the correct level.  You can’t get to the Palatine at all as far as I can see but the Forum’s where all the best stuff is (all the above photos are of the Forum) and you can get around most of it that’s all on the same level.  If I was in a wheelchair or planning a trip for someone in a wheelchair, I’d have no worries about the Roman Forum.

Hat Tip:

And I also strongly recommend that you take a hat and plenty of water.  I had water (and there’s a hosepipe in the coliseum where you can refill although the water quality is not quite British tap water quality, something I gladly pay my water bills for back home) but I had no hat, and I still got heat exhaustion after 24 hours in Rome using factor 50 suncream because my head just got too hot during the heat of the day, from visiting so many outdoor monuments without ample breaks.

Toilet Tip:

The biggest issue facing disabled tourists in Rome will be the toilets, or lack of toilets.  I strongly recommend you find the McDonalds restaurants which are all over Rome because they have a standard design in Europe, which means EVERY McDonalds in Europe must have a ground level accessible disabled toilet.  They’re usually pretty easy to spot as well.  How do I know this?  I worked at McDonalds all over the UK for 2 years, full-time, and I always make use of their facilities when I’m on the road.  I am very conscientious and always buy something (cup of tea, large fries or even a garden salad if I’m not overly hungry, it’s part of my 5-a-day if nothing else), because some stores get really sick of tourists literally pooping on their facilities and not even buying anything, which means these people have no respect for the person who cleans those toilets (hi!), and I don’t want to see stores charging people to use the toilets or otherwise restricting access.  KFC and Burger King may also have accessible toilets, but I can’t personally recommend them since I’ve only ever had overcharged, bad food experiences at Burger King, and KFC’s food is excellent (love love LOVE their corn on the cob, fries and BBQ sauce) but I rarely use their toilets because their Drive Thrus tend to have short opening hours and they don’t have as many city locations.

Note on the Vatican:

You’ll notice that I didn’t include il Vaticano on this list.  The Vatican City is really a completely stunning experience, and very accessible, BUT you really need a full day, or at the very least, an entire half a day, to soak up everything.  I also recommend you getting an ISIC card (the European Student card) if you are possibly able to (I get mine from the amount of language courses I’m studying at my Uni – you don’t need to be a full time student to get one, just studying at a university that participates in NUS/ISIC) because it slashes prices for you at all the major sites, including the Vatican, and I wish I’d had it when I went to Italy last year because it’s accepted pretty much everywhere in Rome.

Meat Free Monday: Vegan Lasagna

Dairy Free Vegan Lasagna (In England, we spell it lasagne, but I’ve used the American spelling as I know most of my readers are American/Canadian):

This post contains an affiliate link.  This recipe takes some time (I take just over an hour) so do it on a weekend day!

What better way to celebrate rabbit awareness week than to start it off with a meat free, animal free lasagna?

You will need:
A box of lasagna/lasagne sheets,
A block of dairy free hard cheese that can be grated/melted,

The “béchamel” sauce (method here):
Flour (or gluten free)
Soya milk (or alternative of your choice)
Vegan butter
Grated vegan cheese (optional depending on whether you prefer traditional or cheese béchamel sauce)

Alternative béchamel (if you are in a hurry):

Some cream cheese,
Cornflour,
A tablespoon or two of soya milk,

The “innards” of the lasagna:
1.5 cups Vegan mince or TVP,
1 Onion (or 1 cup frozen onions),
1/2 carton Tomato passata,
1/2 tsp of vegemite or yeast extract,
Herbs: a sprinkling of basil (OBT),

You will also need a square glass dish. You may need to change your measurements to fit your glass dish, mine is medium sized and serves 4-5. If you don’t have one, this lasagna dish set looks perfect.

Make the innards first:
1. Soak the TVP in some boiling water and mix in the Vegemite to add flavour.
2. Fry the onions and add the (drained if necessary) TVP, herbs, and the passata, mix well and set aside.

Then start to work with the lasagna sheets:
1. Follow the pre-soaking guidelines for the lasagna sheets. I usually pre-boil mine before using them so they’re not too hard.
2. Line the bottom of the glass dish with a layer of lasagna sheets, tearing and overlapping where necessary.

Then pour the innards over the first layer of lasagna sheets to totally cover it.

Next, put more lasagna sheets over the top of the innards.

Make the béchamel sauce next:
Here is the recipe you will use for the traditional béchamel sauce. If you’ve got all the ingredients, this one is the best one to make because it’s by far the most realistic. It’s your choice whether to include the grated cheese.
Alternative béchamel sauce using vegan cream cheese:
Put 1/3 of a tub of cream cheese in a pan, and heat it to soften. Mix in the soya milk and stir well. Add about 1 teaspoon of cornflour (sieve with a fine-mesh sieve to ensure no lumps, or just bung it in and live with the lumps) and mix well with a fork. Add more cornflour to thicken if needed.
Once the mixture is thick enough, pour over the top layer of lasagna sheets to completely cover them. You may need more sauce than this, depending on your dish size.

Grate the hard cheese over the top of the béchamel sauce to completely cover it with a decent layer of cheese.

To cook:

Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes on 180 degrees C or Gas Mark 6.

Remove from oven and cut into square slices to serve. I use a wide flat spatula to get it out of the lasagna dish and a spoon in the other hand to stop the filling falling out.

To serve:

If it’s just to serve one, let the rest cool and cover then put in the fridge. When you wish to reheat, remove the amount you want to eat, and either oven it or microwave, depending on what you prefer.

Nutrition:

Approximately 1 of your 5 a day per serving and about 1/3 of your daily protein. For more of your 5 a day (so more vitamins), add some salad on the side or serve with a baked sweet potato and some boiled carrots.

Tips for success:

1. Get used to making the béchamel before you attempt the whole lasagna.
2. To save time you could pre-cook the béchamel for a different recipe the day before and set some aside for today’s lasagna.
3. Stir the vegemite fully into the TVP so you don’t get any lumps of yeast extract in your finished lasagna.
4. You can apparently just put the lasagne sheets in dry but I’ve always pre-soaked them and find this to make them cook better in the oven, as vegan cheese sauce tends to be a little too dry to soften the sheets in the oven.

Notes:
With the exception of the actual pasta itself, none of my pasta recipes contain gluten, so if you’re gluten free, replace your pasta with gluten free pasta and follow the rest of the recipe as normal. Most shops stock gluten free lasagne or lasagna sheets.

Next week: Pizza!

Bene cena!

Which Easter Eggs Are Vegan 2015

THIS IS 2015’S ARTICLE!! CLICK HERE FOR THE 2017 VEGAN EASTER EGGS

I’ve done the work for you so you can just go out and get them.

A beautiful array of Easter eggs in Tesco's seasonal aisle.  But which ones are vegan?
A beautiful array of Easter eggs in Tesco’s seasonal aisle. But which ones are vegan?

These are the mainstream ones and Tesco own brand, since I did my checking in Tesco – and I’ve included any that are either vegan or are not vegan but look like they might be – with a picture of the ingredients list showing you why they aren’t vegan.  The more you know.  Enjoy the easter egg porn. xx

The first of several surprise vegan eggs are the Lindt Dark Chocolate Bunnies, with the brown collar on the bell.  They may contain milk.  I'm good with that, because the more of these get bought instead of milk chocolate, the more of these will get made until no-one makes milk choc any more.
The first of several surprise vegan eggs are the Lindt Dark Chocolate Bunnies, with the brown collar on the bell. They may contain milk. I’m good with that, because the more of these get bought instead of milk chocolate, the more of these will get made until no-one makes milk choc any more.
Another surprise, perhaps less surprising but an improvement on previous years, Green and Black's are offering a mint dark chocolate egg which is another May Contain Milk.
Another surprise, perhaps less surprising but an improvement on previous years, Green and Black’s are offering a mint dark chocolate egg which is another May Contain Milk.
Green and Blacks did two dairy free eggs this year.  This one is not mint flavoured.  Again, it may contain milk.  The more
Green and Blacks did two dairy free eggs this year. This one is not mint flavoured. Again, it may contain milk. The more “may contains” get bought, the sooner they’ll have to make them in a separate factory.
These beauties were the biggest shocker.  The ingredients are under a peelable label but I decided to be very antisocial and I peeled that label, to discover these delightful mint chocolate After Eight bunnies were dairy free and vegan (unlike their eggs)!  So I bought 4.  Their RRP is £2 but they were on half price today.
These beauties were the biggest shocker. The ingredients are under a peelable label but I decided to be very antisocial and I peeled that label, to discover these delightful mint chocolate After Eight bunnies were dairy free and vegan (unlike their eggs)! So I bought 4. Their RRP is £2 but they were on half price today.
Another picture of these lovely vegan bunny Easter treats.
Another picture of these lovely vegan bunny Easter treats.

Those were all the vegan ones I found (with the exception of the Free From ones which I’m sure you already know about).

And the following eggs are DEFINITELY NOT VEGAN (but looked like they might be).  To avoid irritation, don’t buy these next ones if you’re after dairy free.

Unlike the bunnies above, these eggs are NOT vegan.
Unlike the bunnies above, these eggs are NOT vegan.
Oops! Didn't realise the ingredients were unreadable in the previous picture.  Click to enlarge.
Oops! Didn’t realise the ingredients were unreadable in the previous picture. Click to enlarge.
These beautifully designed dark chocolate eggs are sadly not vegan because they were decorated with white chocolate.
These beautifully designed dark chocolate eggs are sadly not vegan because they were decorated with white chocolate.
Another non vegan Easter egg which was decorated in white and milk chocolate.  Why???
Another non vegan Easter egg which was decorated in white and milk chocolate. Why???
Sorry! Didn't realise the ingredients were unreadable in the previous picture.  Click to enlarge.
Sorry! Didn’t realise the ingredients were unreadable in the previous picture. Click to enlarge.
The egg is fine, the dark chocolate crisps are fine, but the milk ones are not.
The egg is fine, the dark chocolate crisps are fine, but the milk ones are not.
I didn't realise the ingredients were unreadable in the previous picture (or the last two).  Click to enlarge.
I didn’t realise the ingredients were unreadable in the previous picture (or the last two). Click to enlarge.
What the actual hell??  This one from Tesco was vegan last year (I had one) and this year it's not!  Whut??
What the actual hell?? This one from Tesco was vegan last year (I had one) and this year it’s not! Whut??
More readable ingredients. Click to enlarge.
More readable ingredients. Click to enlarge.

These last ones are definitely not vegan and you’d never think for a minute that they were, but they’re just lovely to look at, complete Easter egg porn, so I thought I’d share them with you.  Who knows, maybe one day they’ll make them so I can eat them.

I know, it's fairly simple, it's Ferrero Rocher in a box. But they made it bunny shaped and that makes me want to have it.
I know, it’s fairly simple, it’s Ferrero Rocher in a box. But they made it bunny shaped and that makes me want to have it.
This beautiful easter egg coop is filled with milk chocolate, but it's a delightful idea, and you could DIY this at home with some dairy free treats or even non-edible presents.
This beautiful Easter egg coop is filled with milk chocolate, but it’s a delightful idea, and you could DIY this at home with some dairy free treats or even non-edible presents.
This is a 1kg Lindt milk chocolate Easter bunny.  Just... wow.
This is a 1kg Lindt milk chocolate Easter bunny. Just… wow.
For perspective,  so you can see just how enormous this Lindt milk chocolate Easter bunny is.  Underneath are normal sized Easter eggs.
For perspective, so you can see just how enormous this Lindt milk chocolate Easter bunny is. Underneath are normal sized Easter eggs.
My personal favourite, the Lindt Easter soft cuddly gold bunny, complete with three tiny milk chocolate bunnies hiding in her tummy.  I think it's educational.  I'd like it even better if the little ones came in dairy free dark chocolate.  So very snuggly...
My personal favourite, the Lindt Easter soft cuddly gold bunny, complete with three tiny milk chocolate bunnies hiding in her tummy. I think it’s educational. I’d like it even better if the little ones came in dairy free dark chocolate. So very snuggly…

UPDATE (SUNDAY EVENING): I CHECKED IN THORNTON’S (like, their actual full shop with the cafe and the full range) AND NOT ONE SINGLE ONE OF THEIR EGGS OR EASTER CHOCOLATE TREATS ARE VEGAN. NONE OF THEM.

Update 27-03-14:  This is why you should not impulse buy a living rabbit. Just in case anyone was even considering it.

[wellness] The False Concept of Cooking

I’ve always been a big fan of eating whole, unharassed, clean vegetables. I really love the simplicity of it. I think it’s one of the things I love most about my rabbits – we can pretty much eat the same food. However, I didn’t always know how to eat. My biggest mistake when I first became vegan was that I tried looking for foods in the supermarket that were beyond the fruit and veg aisle. I found myself frustrated with the conventional foods and convenience foods in the parts of the supermarket that I’d always bought food from, the fact that dietary staples such as Packet Pasta (an example would be Kraft Macaroni), vegetarian frozen food, vegetarian chilled ready meals, curry sauces, snacks and even drinks were full of animal products. I had many a meltdown in the supermarket where I would just walk out of the shop and sit in my car and cry, because I didn’t know what to do, I was certain I wasn’t going to eat that crap, but I didn’t know what to eat.

Something my aunt told me recently, when I told her a vegan friend has found out she’s gluten intolerant, was “she’s going to have to learn to cook then.”

This is the big myth that keeps us all subjugated and enslaved to a world of shit food.

You don’t have to learn to cook. You don’t need to learn to cook.

You need to learn to eat.

A lot of “so you want to be vegan” type books (apologies if this book is real, I’m categorizing a type of book here) tell you that you need to eat more whole foods, that you can get “meaty” foods like tofu, Facon (fake bacon), scheeze (fake cheese) and so on, to replace the meat in your food.

Meat loss is not the problem.

All these eating books have built up the idea that you need to replace the meat with a solid, meat-textured object, that you only need to check the ingredients are animal free, and that if you do, POP! You’re vegan.

This type of eating is unsustainable, and really it undermines the fundamental principles of veganism. Instead of trying to find foods that you used to eat which happen to be vegan, and attempting to subsist off those (beans on toast anyone), or trying to “veganize” foods which are not vegan, or imitate foods, here’s a staggering thought:
How about try eating totally different foods, including lots of fruit and vegetables, and see where that takes you?

I’m only being slightly sarcastic here because it wasn’t until my mum died of cancer in December that I realised what I’d been doing wrong with my eating habits this entire time. We all do it. It’s so ingrained into us from birth that we must eat a particular way and when we question it we’re told it’s because of nutrition and when we get ill we’re told it’s because we’re not eating a particular way. On paper, I’ve always thought I understood this concept of “changing the way you eat” and thought it just meant, “stop eating animal products” and “move away from meat and two veg nonsense.” It’s so very much bigger than that.

What if the answer was to totally break free from all the things you think you know about cooking, all your kitchenware, all your dishes, steamers, microwave, etc etc? And then, once you’ve started listening to your body, identifying what it needs, and acting on it, you could maybe add some of those things back in?

After I got the news about my mum, I couldn’t eat anything other than raw vegetables for a week.

I didn’t understand why. My 22 year old sister, across the country, was spontaneously having the exact same problem. We both fundamentally knew, no matter what anyone told us was the cause of our mother’s death, that food was the key. In our house growing up, a meal would be chicken nuggets and chips, with maybe a tablespoon of tinned peas or sweetcorn. Snacks were crisps, biscuits and in summer, home-made ice lollies made from that stuff you dilute. We never had real fruit juice, fresh vegetables or fruit. Sometimes at Christmas there would be tangerines. When we went to clear her house, we found receipts for food shopping. Ready meals full of processed meat and other junk. I had changed the way I ate when I first left home at 18. Moving in with an Aunt while I finished school had been a culture shock. The idea of eating two freshly cooked vegetables with the evening meal literally astounded me. I felt so healthy. I didn’t even consider the possibility that this was only a moderately healthy meal. I still filled my face with chocolate and crisps, now adding biscuits and cakes to the list.

Sometimes, when I’m reading about nutrition and I come across some of the delicate balances of nutrients that we humans need, I wonder how it is that some people are still alive. I wonder how my sister and I didn’t grow up with some serious developmental disorders due to what we were eating.

I went to university. I became vegetarian. I felt like I’d never been healthier. I swapped sausages (which I’d always detested) for vegetarian sausages. Chicken nuggets became vegetarian nuggets. Chips (fries) were still chips. Pot noodles and spaghetti hoops were still the same too. Crisps (potato chips) were still a daily dietary staple. So was chocolate. I struggled with my weight, constantly fighting to get down to a 10 (US6). I exercised and didn’t understand why I was tired all the time. It literally didn’t occur to me that my poor diet was making me ill.

Fast forward two years. I became vegan. I took the “3 week vegan challenge” and, once the three weeks were up, I never really got round to eating eggs or dairy again. I felt healthier, stronger, happier, more outgoing, my grades soared and I was finally on track to get the degree classification I’d been obsessing over for the past two years. Never had I felt better. All my life, I’d been plagued by stomach pains, stomach cramps, trapped wind, bloating and a constant feeling of nausea. I had actually associated that nausea with feeling full. When I became vegan, after the first two weeks, all these problems went away. I realised that it wasn’t normal to feel like this, and that I had the power to avoid it. That was when I first started wondering if I was lactose intolerant. I had a few false starts in the first year; every time I slipped up, I felt the familiar nausea and pains in my stomach. It became a big decision-making factor in what I ate. And nothing vegan ever made me feel like that.

Two years later, I’d become quite ill. I’d been working at McDonalds and eating fries for lunch every day, or a hash brown if I was on the breakfast shift. Milkshakes started creeping their way in. And ice creams. Soon I was feeling sick all the time again, and I had forgotten why this happened. I thought it might be gluten, I was adamant that it couldn’t possibly be milk. After six months off gluten and feeling only slightly better (probably because my favourite food was pasta and cheese sauce), I had to concede that it was milk. I was being sick several times every day. I got very ill with a mobility problem and was in bed most days, with no money to buy good food. I finally cut out milk and, while some of my problems improved, others got worse.

I had cut out milk, but I hadn’t replaced it with anything. Yes, I was drinking soy milk instead of regular milk in my tea, but there was also the lasagna, mac and cheese, yoghurt; I had replaced them with totally different milk-free foods, but I hadn’t replaced the nutrients. Primarily, the protein.

I didn’t realise this until a fitness instructor was sat next to me at lunch one day and she looked at my food, tapped the plastic container and demanded “where is your protein?” in a particular tone that the written word cannot emulate. I looked at my food. I looked at her. Nettled at criticism of my food, I said, “I have protein with my evening meal.” She told me it wasn’t good enough. We never spoke much again, but in the back of my mind it got me thinking. Where was my protein?

I got wrapped up in other things such as teacher training, and my nutrient stores got even more depleted, until one day, early last year, I realised I couldn’t carry on. I was working 70 hours per week and not getting enough time to eat. I got diagnosed with anaemia and I knew it wasn’t the only problem. I looked at all my proteins in the cupboard and I could have cried. Quinoa, advertised as a complete protein, is one of the worst sources of protein of everything ever. White pasta has more protein. My Quorn, a vegetarian substitute for meat, which I was only eating for the protein because I hated the stuff, but it said on the label “good source of protein” was the second worst offender. In some cases, less than ten grams of protein per 100g. I believe, after years of false advertising, that they changed the labelling in the last 3 months because it’s a terrible source of protein. Nuts, textured vegetable protein and tofu all did a lot better. Nuts were the best. And lentils were really good as well. Mushrooms were another shocker, with hardly any protein in them. As a comparison, I looked at the meat that my boyfriend kept in a particular freezer drawer. The salmon, lamb, and chicken were all good sources of protein – but even the salmon was not as good as peanuts and pistachios.

I went around all the foods in my kitchen and I felt like my eyes had opened. I suddenly had a basis to found my dietary principles on. I was still eating a lot of processed and convenience foods, but I figured at the time that it was fine as long as I got my protein. However, I had noticed that I was struggling to get my five-a-day fruit and veg.

That was where I was at when my mum died.

Then my attitude to food was turned on its head even more.

Instead of eating for “taste” or “favourites” or “comfort” how about eating for nutrition? So, eat things that will enable you to get 45g of protein a day, eat enough things containing vitamins and minerals, get your 90g of carbs and 70g of fat. Ensure that the protein includes the right amounts of each amino acid, and that the fat contains essential fatty acids.

As long as you are doing that, it doesn’t matter how you eat. You can eat that as a meat eater, a vegetarian, a vegan, raw vegan, fruitarian or sproutarian (sorry, juicearians, if you even exist, it’s impossible to get all your nutrients from your specific diet).

When my mum died, and I was just eating vegetables, I began researching raw food diets because they have almost become fad diets. I did a series of articles on them, which explained what they all were and weighed up how easy it was to get each nutrient from each diet.

I then took that one step further and identified ten vegan sources for each nutrient, because I was sick of people saying that it was an unhealthy diet.

While I was researching all these different diets, I became very attracted to fruitarianism. I thought the ideals of the diet were beautiful, and reminded me of a renaissance garden of Eden type fantasy. Having researched it, though, I knew it wasn’t the healthiest diet to follow 100%. I know that some people do anyway, but on the other hand there are people who eat nothing but junk food – neither of these is optimal but it won’t kill you straight away, so people keep doing it. I felt myself changing inside. I felt that fruit was the answer. I had never really been interested in fruit before, so this was a revelation.

A typical fruitarian meal
A typical fruitarian meal that I ate.

So at the moment, I’m a 60% fruitarian, 40% vegan (cooked). For this reason, I eat breakfasts and lunches that are fruit and nuts. Some days, like proper fruitarians, I will graze throughout the day. Other days, I feel the need for a “conventional meal” so I prepare all my fruit and nuts and put it in a bowl to eat. It makes me feel like I’ve actually eaten, and is easier to keep track of what I’ve eaten.
Since I’ve started doing this, I’ve felt like I’m functioning at a much higher intellectual level than before – no, I don’t mean it’s made me smarter, I mean, I was struggling with processing power, my brain wasn’t processing things very quickly and was struggling to take in new information. Not only that, but I was feeling very tired through the day, pretty much four hours of tiredness, followed by four hours of wakefulness. Since I’ve been eating fruit for my daytime meals, these problems seem to have disappeared.

Another fruitarian meal
Another fruitarian meal that I’ve eaten

I’ve started eating fruits I never would have considered before – I always used to worry about buying fruit, because like many people, I would constantly buy it, eat a small amount, then it would go off, then I would throw it away. I got so mad at my wastefulness that I stopped buying fruit for years after a particularly bad incident with a bunch of bananas. Making a commitment to eat fruit during the day eliminates this problem because the fruit just gets eaten. I’ve gone from having no fruit in a week (just veg) to having four to six pieces in a “meal.” I enjoy food shopping a lot more and I finally feel like I’m getting enough of everything. I’ve also stopped skipping meals since I’ve been seeing fruit as a viable alternative to regular meals – before, I would often skip breakfast and lunch on the basis that I would look in the cupboard and feel like I just didn’t have the food I wanted to eat – but I didn’t know what food I was craving.

Another thing I really like, for why I skipped the raw vegan step entirely, is that you don’t need a bunch of fancy equipment or cooking skills to be a fruitarian. Raw Vegans cheat a bit and use all sorts of weird and wonderful food processing techniques to make their food look and taste like “real food” whereas fruitarians just accept their food in the shape and size and flavour that it comes in, and eat it whole and unaltered. I really feel like it makes me connect with what I’m eating and where it came from in a way that raw veganism could never do for me.  I’ve found myself drinking a lot more water since I’ve started eating fruit, too, which generally improves my wellbeing.

I don’t think I am never going to be a full-time long term fruitarian, because I feel that other foods also have value, but I do enjoy a good fruit fest and think that if you’re having the same problems that I was, the addition of fruit and nuts to your balanced diet could be your answer.

[Wellness] Overview of types of milk allergy and intolerance

An overview of the different types of milk allergy and intolerance:

Most people these days assume that when you say “milk allergy” you mean “lactose intolerance.” Some people know these are different, but even milk allergy/intolerance sufferers can be pressed to explain which milk ailment they’ve got. Of course, in an ideal world none of us would have to explain because my ideal world would not include any dairy products. At the present time, when you’re trying to work out which of these illnesses (and these are just the ones I’ve found out about, I’m sure there are others – contact me if you know of any so I can add them) is the cause of your inability to eat dairy, it’s made even more difficult when the doctors themselves sometimes don’t actually understand what they’re saying or what all the different dairy allergies and intolerances look like. For simplicity, I call all these different illnesses “milk ailments” collectively, so you know that I’m referring to all of them, not just cow milk allergy. I have at least two separate milk ailments, but I’m unsure what the second one is. Without paying huge amounts of money for allergy testing, I will never find out.  UPDATE: September 2015: I now know I have #7 and #1.

Here’s an overview of the types of milk allergy:

1. Lactose Intolerance
2. Galactosemia
3. Alpha-S1 Casein Allergy (cow’s milk)
3a. Antibody Mediated Allergy
3b. Non-antibody mediated allergy
4. Milk Soy Protein Intolerance
5. Fermentable Carbohydrates Intolerance
6. Disaccharides intolerance
7. A1 casein intolerance

Lactose Intolerance:
This is the classic milk ailment that most people have. Basically, we didn’t evolve to consume dairy products after weaning, so (according to certain statistics) 60% of the European descended adult population, 90% of the African descended population and 95% of the Asian descended population can develop lactose intolerance under the right conditions. It’s caused by your body reducing lactase enzyme production after a certain age. Lactase is the enzyme that digests lactose from milk. Lactose intolerance comes in two forms:

Lactase deficiency, a.k.a. hypolactasia:
Many people with this ailment have a threshhold of how much milk they can consume, after which the effects are uncomfortable.

Congenital lactase deficiency:
However, there is a variation of this, where the sufferer lacks the gene for lactase production and so has no lactase enzymes whatsoever. This person cannot even eat tiny amounts of lactose without feeling the effects. As a baby, they cannot even have breast milk.

As an adult, these two forms of lactose intolerance produce the same symptoms and cause the same problems in life, especially if you live in a country that eats a lot of dairy. Because it’s the best known of all the milk ailments, it’s the one people assume you have when you tell them you can’t have dairy. Pro-tip – if the lactofree works for you, you’re lactose intolerant. If it makes you horribly ill instead, you have a different milk ailment.

Symptoms: Bloating, diarrhea, gassiness, feeling very uncomfortable, all the symptoms of lactose intolerance are LOWER INTESTINE symptoms. “Anyone (except for young children) who gets vomiting, burping, heartburn, or other stomach ills, should look for a different cause.” http://www.stevecarper.com/li/LI_v_milk_allergy.htm
Unfortunately, to get your doctor to look for a different cause, you might have a real fight on your hands, particularly in the UK where allergies are not taken seriously (they only kill you, after all).

What do you need to do if you have lactose intolerance:
Avoid dairy. If you can tolerate a small amount of milk, you can experiment and find out your limits. Be sure you don’t have any kind of milk allergy before ingesting any milk! There are also lactase enzyme capsules available on the internet, I have tried these (that’s how I found out I was also lactose intolerant) and found that they definitely do help you to break down the milk. Instead of getting all the lactose intolerance symptoms that I usually get within 30 minutes of eating dairy, I only got the secondary symptoms that I get from my unidentified milk ailment (probably either galactosemia or non-antibody mediated allergy), a few hours later. You can also get special milk that’s cow’s milk but has been predigested with lactase enzymes. I haven’t tried the milk, but I did try the cheese. In the UK it’s marketed as the “Arla Lactofree” brand. I got very ill, but again, it’s probably great if lactose intolerance is your only milk ailment.

Galactosemia:
In the US, this potentially deadly genetic disease is routinely tested in infants. In the UK, this doesn’t happen. I asked six doctors if they could tell me the symptoms of galactosemia, none of them knew, and they all mistakenly said it was the scientific name for lactose intolerance. This is incorrect. In individuals with Galactosemia, the lactose itself is tolerated just fine – the enzyme lactase breaks down the lactose molecules and produces two smaller molecules – glucose and galactose. This is how we get glucose for respiration, and this happens in healthy individuals AND individuals with galactosemia, but NOT in individuals with lactose intolerance. In galactosemia, it’s the galactose that’s not tolerated – it cannot be broken down further, so it builds up, causing toxic levels of galactose-1 phosphate in various tissues. This can cause liver damage, renal failure, cataracts, brain damage and ovarian failure. It is most prevalent in the White European population at a rate of 1 per 60,000, and the traveller population is worst affected at 1 per 6000 (although since it’s a very small minority group this statistic might be flawed).

Symptoms:

Children: Usually, you will find out fairly soon if your infant has galactosemia. It causes jaundice, failure to thrive, lethargy, vomiting and diarrhea.

Adults: If, like me, you were brought up on soya milk, you may not ever find out whether this is the cause of your milk ailment. It is certainly the most serious non-allergic response to milk, and not enough people in the medical profession know the signs.

What do you need to do if you have galactosemia: Avoid milk. In fact, avoid anything containing lactose. You may be okay with “lactofree” products but personally I wouldn’t risk it if you value your major organs. Galactose is also found in sugar beets and gums (gellan gum, xanthan gum, for example) and mucilages, so this is one problem where you may require the services of a qualified dietitian with experience in galactosemia. If you’re vegan, make sure they take this into account when meal planning, some health professionals can be insensitive about such things (whilst others can be fantastic).

Alpha-S1 Casein Allergy (Cow’s Milk Allergy)
With this allergy, often it’s really obvious from birth that you have it. But not always. If this is you, you cannot have any milk containing product, may contain milk, made on a line handling milk, and if it were me, I would avoid anything made in a factory handling milk. The actual part of the milk that CMA sufferers are allergic to is a protein called alpha-S1 casein. It’s in a lot of things. There are other milk proteins and other parts of milk that you can be allergic to (you can actually be allergic to anything in the world, they don’t tell you that when they’re trying to fob you off with lactose intolerance). While it’s become common in the past few years to call it “Cow’s Milk Allergy,” most sufferers will need to avoid any and all milks, even sheep and goat. This is the one that people also refer to as “milk allergy” just to confuse you – there are other types of milk allergy but this is the one people always assume you mean.

There are actually two types of milk allergy that I could find any information about: antibody mediated allergy, and non-antibody mediated allergy, and they have different symptoms. When allergy helplines and doctors tell you that you don’t have a milk allergy if you don’t go into anaphylaxis, they actually are only talking about an unusual specific reaction to the antibody mediated allergy.

Antibody Mediated Allergy:
The symptoms of this always arise within an hour of consuming milk. Basically, your body produces antibodies and believes that any Alpha-S1 Casein proteins are actually invaders, so they fight them off and these antibodies are what make you ill.

Symptoms: Skin rash, hives, vomiting and gastric distress, stomach pain, respiratory problems, wheezing and runny nose are all symptoms of this, as well as (very rarely, but can happen) anaphylaxis.

Anaphylaxis is: difficulty swallowing, shortness of breath, swelling of the face and neck, call 911 or 999 immediately when this happens. It’s life threatening. If the person involved has an epi-pen, now is the time to use it. It’s really easy these days – just jab the pen against the outer thigh of the person having anaphylaxis. This isn’t a “cure” they still need to go to hospital. An epi-pen just has adrenaline in, and doesn’t actually stop the reaction, it just gives the body adrenaline to help survive. The real treatment is Diphenhydramine, one of the many types of Benadryl. This is what they’ll give to the sufferer once they get to hospital. If you have some Benadryl syrup with the word “diphenhydramine” on the box, this could help if they can still swallow. Anaphylaxis sometimes happens so quickly that you can’t do anything other than stab that epi-pen, call an ambulance and hope like hell that your loved one will be okay. Other times, the sufferer has time to articulate the problem. What is common to both situations is to ALWAYS take anaphylaxis seriously. It’s far better to be safe and have irritated ambulance staff on your porch than to have a dead loved one. See http://www.anaphylaxis.org.uk for more information about anaphylactic shock.

What do you need to do if you have antibody mediated cow’s milk allergy: Totally avoid any and all dairy and milk based products, check ingredients regularly and carefully (they often change), look for words such as:
milk, lactose, milk proteins, whey, whey powder, cheese, butterfat, buttermilk and casein, and if a word is in bold on the back of a packet, look it up on your smartphone before putting the item into your trolley. Never EVER assume a product or food is milk free unless it’s a pure unadulterated fruit or vegetable, or you’ve checked the ingredients yourself. Sometimes, other people will tell you that something is milk free when it isn’t. Sometimes, they just don’t understand what they’re reading on the back of a food packet (it’s a learning curve) and sometimes they do understand, but don’t believe they’ll be doing you any harm (particularly people who don’t understand that your ailment is different from lactose intolerance.
Badger your doctor for an epi pen. You can’t always control your food, sometimes a restaurant accidentally cross contaminates or doesn’t realise that whey (for example) is milk. If this is the case, you want to be as safe as you can. There was a manufacturing/supply issue with epi-pens across 2014, there are alternative brands as well (which a lot of doctors and pharmacists don’t know about), read about them here: http://www.anaphylaxis.org.uk/living-with-anaphylaxis/medication. Hold onto your prescription if you can’t get it fulfilled, and check back sporadically – they’re usually good for at least a month, often longer, before they expire. Your other option is to find an online source for an epi-pen and get one through them. Some places can issue prescriptions and if they are licensed by a Pharmaceutical Governing Body then they are NOT selling inferior medicines (don’t believe the anti-online-pharmacy hype). Check they can legally ship it to your country and that they’re not going to put it in an unpressurised cargo hold if it’s being transported by plane – it can shatter the vials that connect to needles, rendering the whole thing useless. My friend once went to Peru, left his insulin in the checked-in baggage, and when he got to the (rather remote) archaeological dig he was on, he needed insulin, so he opened one up to use, to find that every single vial was shattered. He was trapped in the middle of nowhere in Peru with no insulin. He had to be airlifted to hospital and nearly died. Make sure this doesn’t happen to your epi-pen.

Non-antibody mediated allergy:
Recently, a body of scientists have discovered that there’s a second type of milk allergy, which doesn’t involve IgE – the antibody that causes the problems in antibody-mediated cow’s milk allergy. The mechanism is poorly understood and research doctors can’t decide whether this is an allergy or an intolerance, just to further confuse matters. Some of them think this is a separate type of allergy that still has an allergic reaction, just not using the same specific antibody causing the problem in the previous allergy. Others believe it’s another form of lactose intolerance, although the problems associated with lactose intolerance are all lower intestinal problems, and the problems associated with non-antibody mediated allergy are very different. Because the problems take place in a part of the digestive tract that doesn’t actually digest milk sugars, the argument that this is lactose intolerance is invalid, and the idea of a generalized milk intolerance just oversimplifies the digestive process. Mostly, because there’s no money to be made from these types of allergies, I think reseach councils don’t care enough to fund research into milk allergy. Milk is a complex substance, with many components of very different types (remember it’s supposed to be a complete source of nutrition for calves) so the idea that we are just “intolerant to milk” or “allergic to milk” rather than being allergic to one or more of the milk fats, milk proteins or milk sugar is a silly one. Coherent and conclusive information about the medical classification of non-antibody mediated allergy was non-existent, so you will have to make your own enquiries. Some of the symptoms are similar to the antibody-mediated allergy – stomach pain, vomiting, gastric distress, skin rash. The reaction can be delayed by up to 72 hours.

What to do if you have non-antibody mediated allergy:
Avoid milk in its entirety, including lactofree products and anything containing whey, casein, butterfat or lactose, because they really don’t know which part of it makes you ill and it’s not looking likely that they’ll find out any time soon. Coconut milk (despite some confusion on the parts of certain companies) is just fine unless it contains a specific additive. Don’t worry about getting an epi-pen; it won’t be of any use to you.

Milk Soy Protein Intolerance:
Milk soy protein intolerance is another one with very little information on the topic. It’s basically a reaction to the proteins found in milk and soy. These proteins damage the inside lining of the digestive tract. It affects infants, and in these cases, solid foods are introduced at a later stage. Foods also need to be introduced in a different order. The best resource I have found on MSPI is here: http://www.choa.org/Child-Health-Glossary/~/media/CHOA/Documents/Child-Health-A-Z/Special-Diets/Milk_Soy_Protein_Intolerance.pdf
There is evidence that MSPI can continue after weaning and even through to adulthood, although this is rare. It doesn’t show up on a blood test, which means it is diagnosed purely by symptoms. Children with MSPI cannot have goat’s or sheep milk products, although people who have confused this with lactose intolerance will suggest it.

What are the symptoms:
Bloody stools, vomiting, diarrhea, irritability and weight loss.

What to do if you have milk soy protein intolerance:
Avoid anything with either milk or soy (soya) in. This includes all of the following:
Milk, butter, cheese, cream, buttermilk, milk solids, milk powder, milk protein, malted milk, condensed milk, evaporated milk, milk derivative, goat’s milk, sheep’s milk, skimmed/powdered milk, dairy solids, non-fat dairy solids, yoghurt, whey, casein, caseinate, sour milk/cream, curds, custard (unless dairy free) butter oil, ghee, butter fat, soy flour, soy lecithin, soy protein, soy protein isolate, textured vegetable protein, soy beans and soy caseinate

Fermentable Carbohydrates Intolerance:

All carbohydrates are sugars – carbohydrates is just the scientific word for sugar. We often associate carbs with pasta, rice and grains, but in fact, any sugar is a carbohydrate.
Fermentable carbohydrates are a specific type of carbohydrate which ferment during digestion; they are supposedly easier to break down because they are short chain sugars. Some people are intolerant to them; lactose and galactose are both short chain sugars, and they come from milk.

What are the symptoms of fermentable carbohydrates intolerance:
Bloating, cramping, gassiness, burping, diarrhea or constipation.

What to do if you have fermentable carbohydrates intolerance:
Managing a fermentable carbohydrates intolerance can be complicated, it requires a lot of restrictions from a wide range of foods. This booklet explains what you need to do if you have fermentable carbohydrates intolerance:
http://www.hamiltonhealthsciences.ca/documents/Patient%20Education/LowFermentableCarbDiet-trh.pdf

Disaccharides Intolerance:
Disaccharides are a specific type of carbohydrate (sugar). When your body doesn’t produce enough isomaltase and sucrase enzymes, it can’t absorb disaccharides. Watery diarrhea and abdominal discomfort are the main symptoms, and it isn’t a life threatening ailment. Lactose is a disaccharide, because it’s made of glucose and galactose. Lactose is found in milk which is why I have included this intolerance here, because it’s a very rare but often overlooked intolerance.

What to do if you have disaccharides intolerance:
Find a qualified dietitian, or request a referral to one, depending on what your health insurance or local health administration covers you for, because there are so many disaccharides in existence that it’s a very complicated condition to manage.
More information can be found here: http://www.rightdiagnosis.com/c/congenital_sucrose_isomaltose_malabsorption/intro.htm

A1 Casein Intolerance:

This gives you all the gastric distress, possible skin rash, sickness, diarrhea, and other lovelies, but it’s not an allergy, it’s an intolerance.  The theory goes that back in olden times (technical term), cows used to produce milk with the A2 casein type.  Cows that aren’t from western/central Europe or America still seem to produce milk with A2 casein type.  However, cows from western/central Europe, The Americas, Australia and New Zealand all produce A1 casein, which is a genetic mutation (but was discovered first so is called A1 where the other one is called A2).  Some people come from ancestry who never evolved to tolerate A2 casein, they cannot digest that protein.

What to do if you have A1 casein intolerance:
First, eliminate any chance of it being an allergy by seeing your doctor!  Then, test this theory by buying yourself some A2 milk (available in most supermarkets in the milk aisle) and having some of it e.g. in a hot chocolate.  If you get lower intestinal symptoms from A2 milk, but none of your other “usual” symptoms, you may also have lactose intolerance.  If you get no symptoms from A2 milk, where you usually get symptoms from “normal” milk, you probably have A1 casein intolerance.  Take your findings to your doctor so he can put this on your medical notes.  If this is the case, you can buy broad-spectrum enzymes that may help you digest normal milk products, otherwise, you should be ok with authentic feta, halloumi, and paneer, because these are made in countries with A2 cows.

Conclusion:
If you know milk is making you ill, there are many different problems it can cause. Doctors often use the rule of “parsimony” to diagnose people – the idea that the most common/simple explanation is most likely to be correct. Obviously, this means most people get diagnosed with lactose intolerance, and since most of these conditions require you to avoid milk, the symptoms abate when you do. While avoidance of milk is paramount, you must keep pressing your doctor for a conclusive diagnosis and testing, because the more people they wrongly diagnose with lactose intolerance, the more common it looks on statistics. I would estimate 20% of people diagnosed with lactose intolerance have a different or additional form of milk ailment, and that because doctors aren’t investigating, the rate of occurrence of these other milk ailments looks artificially lower than it actually is. Print this article to show to your doctor if you need to, but make sure your illness is correctly diagnosed.

Limitations of this article:
This article draws on what is currently known about illnesses which are made worse by consumption of milk. I can only write about what I can learn about from research, and I am sure there are other forms of milk ailments which could be included in this article, but which haven’t been named in places where I could find them. I’ve found that trying to research different milk ailments is very difficult – search terms only bring up the exact thing you searched for, so related illnesses aren’t discussed in the majority of articles.