I’m often asked the same questions over and over by parents who are new to MSPI. I thought I would go ahead and answer some of them here. If you have a question that you don’t see answered here, email me, and I’ll do my best to answer it. Remember, I’m not an expert, just a mom who has “been there, done that”!
I’ve taken dairy and soy out of my diet, and my baby is still having a reaction. What gives?
Keep in mind that it can take two to four weeks for dairy/soy to completely leave your system as well as your baby's. If you've only been on the diet for a few days, then you may just need to give it more time. I know, I know ... your patience is running pretty thin by this point, but hang in there!
If you've given the diet plenty of time, first thing you should do is double check the ingredients you use. For example, chicken broths often contain dairy or soy. Always, always read labels! Don’t take my word for it that something is safe. You are ultimately responsible for what you eat!
Second thing you should do is double check the ingredients in any medications or vitamins that you (or your baby) are taking. Lactose is often used in medications! RxList is really helpful.
A third thing you should do is double check the prepared foods you are eating. The ingredient lists may not list dairy, but cross-contamination is very possible. Familiarize yourself with Kosher symbols. They are a good indicator of what is or isn't dairy-free. If there's a D or DE listed next to the symbol, then that means there's dairy in the item or it was processed on equipment that also processes dairy -- thus cross-contamination. Also look for the words parve or pareve. That means it is certified dairy-free!
Another problem could be that your baby may have intolerances or allergies beyond milk and soy. Keep a food diary and try to correlate your baby’s reactions to what you’ve been eating. You can try eliminating other foods from your diet. Some you might try include beef, gluten, eggs and peanuts. Remove one at a time and see what happens. Another option would be to try the Elimination Diet.
Soy(bean) oil and soy lecithin are common ingredients in a lot of the food you use in your recipes. Are they safe?
For most MSPI kids, soy oil and soy lecithin (an emulsifier) are OK because they don't contain protein, but some kiddos still react to them. You'll just have to figure out what works for you!
What does "MSPI-friendly" mean?
I use the term MSPI-friendly to refer to any product that may or may not contain dairy and/or soy protein depending on the brand and variety. In other words, it is my way of reminding you to make sure you read labels closely when purchasing these products. The good news is that an MSPI-friendly product is available in stores, the bad news is you may not be able to eat it depending on your child's level of tolerance. FYI: If a product contains soy oil/lecithin, I still classify it as MSPI-friendly.
You use rice milk in the majority of your recipes as a substitute for cow's milk. Can other MSPI-friendly "milks" (almond, coconut, flax, oat, hemp, etc.) be used instead?
I like to use rice milk because it's mild flavor most closely resembles that of cow's milk. Feel free to substitute other milks. I see no reason why they shouldn't work. The only thing to keep in mind is how the flavor of the milk will effect the final product -- particularly in savory recipes. Have fun experimenting!
Do you have a list of MSPI-friendly foods?
I don't have a list of foods available, and I'm not going to type one up. Why? Because what's MSPI-friendly for me may not be MSPI-friendly for you because of soy oil, lecithin and cross contamination. Remember, you are ultimately responsible for what you eat. I've actually received messages from people who were angry with me because a product I use wasn't safe for them, and I don't like hate mail! So sorry, you can blame them for the lack of list. I also feel it is incredibly important that you get in the trenches and read ingredient labels. Yes, it's difficult and time-consuming. I've been there! But you won't become efficient at it without practice. Also, manufacturers are notorious for changing recipes and formulations of their products. What may be MSPI-friendly one month, may not be the next, and the formulas can vary depending on where you live and where the products are manufactured.
I'm happy to share what products I use (and I have a few listed in the following FAQs) on an individual basis, so feel free to drop me an e-mail and ask about individual products -- not a list.
What MSPI-friendly chocolate chips do you use?
My favorite chocolate chips are the 365 brand of vegan chocolate chips at Whole Foods. Also, Enjoy Life Foods' chocolate chips are completely dairy and soy free. There's a store locater on their website. If your baby can handle a small amount of milk through cross contamination, then you might be able to use Ghiradelli's semi sweet chocolate chips, which are available in lots of stores.
What MSPI-friendly margarines do you use?
I’ve used Fleischmann’s Unsalted stick margarine, Blue Bonnet Light stick and tub margarine, and Smart Balance Light tub margarine. For baking, I get better results when I substitute butter-flavored Crisco for butter, rather than using margarine because there’s too much water in the margarine. I've also heard great things about using coconut oil as a substitute for butter in recipes.
Those options all contain soy oil, so if you're looking for a soy-free option, Earth Balance makes a soy-free variety of margarine. It's the one in the red tub. They also make a coconut spread. For shortening, you can try palm oil shortening.
What MSPI-friendly breads and buns do you use?
Since starting this diet and hearing from all of you, I've come to realize that the bread for sale in the grocery store is very regional. For example, I use Rotella's bread and buns, but it's a local bread maker here in Omaha. Unless you live in the surrounding area, you probably can't get it. If you've looked at every single bread offered at your store (including the freezer section for bread dough) and still come up empty, you can look outside your store. Check your local bakery. Maybe they have something you can eat. Or what about making your own? There are several recipes on my blog you can try or look into getting a bread machine. You won't regret one of those machines. They're simple to use and the bread you make is super delicious.
Where do you do your grocery shopping?
I buy what I can at Costco. They have the BEST price I've ever seen on rice milk, and their organic produce is fantastic. Plus, they carry several frozen and snack aisle foods that are MSPI-friendly. In my opinion, it is well worth the membership costs. (The only downfall: If you don't have room to store the bulk items, you're going to run into problems! Fortunately, I have lots of room in my basement.) Anything I can't buy at Costco, I pretty much buy at Super Walmart. Their super-duper easy price-matching policy is my best friend!
I also buy a handful of items off of Amazon, when there are some good sales. (Like my Facebook page. I usually try to post great deals on MSPI-friendly foods when I come across them.)
That's right. I rarely shop at Whole Foods or Trader Joe's. Don't get me wrong, I love them, but it isn't convenient for me to do my regular shopping at those stores.
Any advice on eating at restaurants?
Several of the fast food and chain restaurants post allergen/ingredient information on their websites. Check them out and compile a list of the foods you can eat from their menus. Keep in mind that restaurants have been known to change their recipes and ingredients, so update your list periodically. If a national restaurant doesn’t post ingredient information on their website, try contacting their customer service department. For links to restaurants' allergen information, check out my Web Resources page.
If you’re eating at a local restaurant, try calling ahead to talk to someone in their kitchen. They are often more than willing to talk over menu options with you, especially if you call at a slow time of day.
The most important thing to remember is that despite what a restaurant's ingredient information may say, mistakes can be made by restaurant personnel and cross-contamination is always a problem. When in doubt, only eat food you've prepared!
I’m going on vacation, any advice?
Take along items you know you can eat – especially anything you might have a hard time buying at unfamiliar stores. I always bring MSPI-friendly bread, margarine and rice milk. And when possible, stay at a place that has access to a kitchen of some sort. Condos often have full-size kitchens, and many hotel rooms now offer microwaves and refrigerators. You can prepare your own food that way.
I’m having a hard time juggling my family’s meals and my meals. Any advice?
The best advice I can offer is to do what my family does: Our family meals are all MSPI-friendly. I don’t have time to cook two meals for every dinner. How exhausting! The trick is to prepare tasty "normal" meals that don’t require milk or soy. My husband and oldest daughter still drink milk and eat yogurt, ice cream and cheese on their own, but our dinner every evening is something all of us can eat. The majority of the recipes on this blog are intended for the entire family.
I’ve relied on prepared foods in the past because dinnertime is so hectic around my house, and since most prepared foods aren’t an option now, I’m really struggling with getting dinner on the table. Any advice?
Here are some strategies that might help you:
1) Utilize your freezer. Double, even triple, recipes that are safe for you to eat and put the extras in the freezer. You can do the cooking during nap time, evenings after the kids are in bed or weekends when you have more help around the house. That way they can thaw during the day and are easy to reheat at dinner time. 30 Day Gourmet has a lot of good information about freezer cooking and recipes that can be adapted to the MSPI diet. This page over at Once a Month Mom is also super helpful with lots of dairy-free recipes, just avoid the soy.
2) Grill out! Now that the weather is getting nice, utilize your grill. Marinate a bunch of chicken breasts/steaks/pork chops/etc. and grill them when convenient. Cut up the leftovers for salads/other meals. Again, store them in your freezer.
3) Do some slow cooking. Find slow cooker recipes that are safe for you, throw the items in the slow cooker in the morning, and a meal will be ready for you at dinnertime. You can even do your prep work the night before if mornings are hectic for you. A Year of CrockPotting is a great blog full of recipes that can be adapted to MSPI cooking.
Some of your recipes are marked as Vegetarian, but they call for chicken broth and other meat ingredients. That's not vegetarian.
If I've marked something as Vegetarian, it means the recipe is already meat-free or can be easily adapted to meat-free by substituting vegetable broth for chicken broth or leaving the meat out. I have faith in your abilities to figure it out!
I already have a child with MSPI and am expecting again. Will going on the MSPI diet during the pregnancy make a difference, and if so, when should I start?
There really isn't any conclusive evidence that I've seen about how being on the diet prior to birth affects the baby. I've heard from moms who swear by it and others who saw no difference. However, I can share with you my personal experience. I went on the diet one month prior to birth. By doing this, I knew my milk would be clean from the get-go, making reactions minimal. I figured that if my baby was completely symptom free by 2 months old, I would try some dairy and watch for a reaction. However, I had a small slip-up in my diet when she was a few weeks old and she reacted. Her reaction was minimal and it only took a few days to clear up, as opposed to the weeks it took my son when he was a newborn, since my system was so full of dairy then. Life was so much easier the second time around!
What "milk" did you wean your MSPI children to?
I started weaning both of my MSPI kiddos to rice milk when they turned 1 year old. It took about 3-4 months to fully wean them. I know some people are concerned about the lack of nutrition in rice milk, but as long as your child eats a well-rounded diet, is staying on his or her growth curve and is healthy, I (and our pediatrician) don't believe it will be a huge problem. However, if your child has growth issues, you might look into using Metagenics Ultracare for Kids. The vanilla flavor is decent, particularly when compared to elemental formulas!