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Dairy-Free at Daycare

For the past three weeks, Henry has been dairy-free in an effort to reduce his susceptibility to ear infections. This is a big change for our family's diet. Since introducing solids, we have frequently given Henry dairy products. In addition to drinking whole milk, he would often eat yogurt, cheese, kefir milk, and foods cooked using cream and butter. Dairy foods are some of his favorites, but we decided to give this a shot on a trial basis to see if it could help improve Henry's health.
Henry drinks a dairy alternative with his afternoon snack.
Not only is Henry dairy-free at home, we also notified his daycare provider about this change. The staff asked me to write a note clarifying what foods we wanted to restrict. Since dairy can be found in many surprising places, they needed a clear understanding about what foods are not allowed. 

Daddy and I gave them a list of foods Henry is avoiding during this trial period: 
  • Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Cheese
  • Cream cheese
  • Sour cream
  • Butter and margarine
  • Pudding and ice cream
  • Snack foods that contain dairy products, including ranch dressing and goldfish crackers
Even though bread, saltine crackers and even some deli meats contain trace amounts of dairy, we decided not to exclude those menu items at this time. 
We've decided not to limit Henry's access to bread and crackers, even though they may contain small amounts of dairy.
We also asked the daycare staff to help us provide nutrient-dense alternatives for Henry to help offset the fats, proteins and calcium usually found in dairy products. Healthy fat sources for brain development include avocado, olive oil, peanut butter, nuts and fish. Substitute protein sources could be beans, hummus, eggs, fish and meat. Foods that are high in calcium include spinach, broccoli, artichoke, beans, figs, apricots, oranges and almond butter.

We are providing milk alternatives, like almond and hemp milk, for Henry to drink with meals at daycare. The staff also asked us to supply a main dish on days when the planned menu includes dairy. They will still provide an array of side dishes and snacks, including fruits and vegetables. 

On days when they are serving tuna sandwiches or chicken soup for lunch, we don't need to do anything. But when the menu includes something like lasagna or macaroni and cheese, then we need to send a substitute for Henry's main dish. To accommodate this request, we have provided peanut butter, canned salmon, and hummus for Henry's daycare lunches. We can also bring a hot dish in a thermos, but the daycare staff will not heat or reheat any foods we bring from home.

We recognize that eliminating dairy from Henry's diet can be inconvenient in a group childcare setting where staff are trying to feed multiple children with divergent needs.

Have you coordinated with a daycare provider to accommodate your child's dietary restrictions? What worked best in your experience?

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