Eating Well on a Dairy and Soy Elimination Diet

I remember clearly the moment in the pediatrician’s office where the doctor suggested that I try an elimination diet. Being desperate to find a solution to Max’s colicky behavior, I would have tried anything. Going dairy and soy free didn’t sound like a huge deal. Little did I know.

I remember the first meal I had after we left there. We stopped at the local chicken place on the way home. I know realize how much I had to learn. The cooking oil was likely soybean. The food was laced with all kinds of hidden dairy and soy.

I could seriously start a blog just about the dairy and soy-free journey. It has been a tremendous source of stress, but also a very worthwhile undertaking . When I have just a bite of something with dairy or soy, we know. Max will get congested and fussy and lo and behold then his diapers usually complete the picture. Poor guy. It is one of the worst feelings in the world to know that you’ve done something that causes your child pain – especially when that was something avoidable (you know, if I just eat lettuce and rice).

The question I get asked the most is: What do you eat? Well, anything that doesn’t contain dairy or soy. Today was a typical day:

  • Breakfast: Steel cut oatmeal with almond milk and dried blueberries
  • On the way to work: Smoothie
  • Lunch: Leftover grilled chicken with grilled veggies and quinoa pilaf
  • Afternoon Snack: granola with chia seeds and almond milk
  • Dinner: Shrimp and veggie stir-fry with rice
  • Dessert: Taza dark chocolate and a coconut macaroon

Unfortunately, even the slightest bit of soybean oil, which is in everything from bread to mayonnaise, is a trigger for Max. I have to be incredibly careful. Most restaurants cook with soybean oil so it is a big challenge eating anywhere but home

Here is a ton of info I have complied regarding eating on a soy and dairy-free diet (also called MSPI: Milk Soy Protein Intolerent):


  • Oatmeal with almond milk and sweetener (brown sugar, honey, agave, coconut sugar) and cinnamon; Add dried fruit (favorites are TJs dried wild blueberries and dried cranberries) and/or nuts.
    • I use steel cut oats and cook them in my fuzzy logic rice cooker on the porridge cycle. I put 1.25 cups of oats in with 3 cups of water and set the timer for it to be ready in the morning. I divide the batch into five separate portions to eat throughout the week. [Note: As of 8.5 months, Max shares my morning oatmeal with me]
    • Cereal  with almond milk. I like frosted shredded wheat, granola (Cascadian Farms organic), or Barbara’s products (shredded spoonfuls or the puffed wheat kind)               
    • Smoothie  – Frozen banana, frozen berries, baby spinach, almond milk. I found a protein powder at WF/Mom’s called Amazing Meal that is not really good. I add it sometimes or add a scoop of Green Superfood for a little extra nutritional boost. [Note: Amazon has the best prices by far.]
    • Bagel (TJs has mini bagels that are safe) with peanut butter, almond butter or pumpkin/apple butter. Bagels from the bagel shops in Clarendon and Alexandria (Bradlee Center) are safe, but most store bought ones (supermarket, Costco, Panera, ABP, etc) are NOT.
    • Scrambled eggs cooked with coconut oil and veggies. And BACON!
    • Bagel with smoked salmon and non-dairy spread (Earth Balance is great; just check the labels as not all are soy free)
    • Muffins  – Udi’s makes really good chocolate muffins and blueberry muffins (skip the cinnamon rolls). Find them in the frozen section of MOMs.

 Lunch and Dinner:

  • Salads – I make a big salad on Sundays (dry the greens really well in a spinner) and take it for lunch every day
  • Burritos/Fajitas (I make a big batch of Mexican Black Beans; freeze in small portions, add rice and avocado; salsa optional)
  • Stir Fry (use coconut aminos for soy sauce) (Trader Joe’s has a good and nutritious Shrimp and Vegetable Stir Fry that I love)
  • Pasta with homemade Bolognese (sub olive oil for butter and almond milk for milk)
  • Fried Rice – (use coconut aminos for soy sauce)
  • Paella (I liked this recipe from MSPI Mama, I used boneless, skinless chicken pieces)
  • Salmon/Fish/Seafood dishes
  • Chili (My favorite Cooking Light recipe; time consuming but freezes beautifully)
  • Frittatas – not bad when made with Daiya dairy and soy free cheese
  • Vegan Cream Sauce – my sister made me a delicious cream sauce made from boiling and blending raw cashews. Delicious.
  • Vegan Mushroom Ravioli – my indulgent meal; found in the refrigerated section above the cheese (irony!) at MOMs.
  • Crab Cakes
  • Peanut Noodles – I make this recipe using coconut aminos and shrimp or chicken
  • Pad Thai – I like this recipe

 Snacks and Other Info:

  • TJs has a chipotle tortilla that is really good and soy/dairy free. I use these for everything from to make breakfast burritos (eggs, avocado, bacon/ham) or to make wraps and burritos.
  • Guacamole – usually safe, but check to make sure
  • Coconut Aminos – great substitute for soy sauce – buy at WF/Mom’s or online
  • Bacon bits – wandering around Costco one day, feeling deprived and searching for a ‘treat’ for myself, I found a big bag of bacon bits. Very few ingredients (though that doesn’t make them healthy). Not something I would ordinarily purchase, but it has been a nice addition to salads and when I’m really desperate for a quick dinner, I may or may not have enjoyed a bowl of pasta with olive oil and bacon bits. Not stellar nutrition, but…
  • Deviled Eggs – I make these with soybean oil free mayo. They’re a great protein rich snack to grab after a middle of the night feeding or when you get home from work and have a million things to do before you can even think about eating dinner.
  • Avocados – a great addition to salads, sandwiches or whatever. Lots of good, healthy fat.
  • Pretzels – TJ’s Honey Whole Wheat are my favorite
  • Kale Chips – I am like Brad’s raw kale chips. They’re expensive but tasty. I like the vegan cheese flavor.
  • Potato Chips – Most corn chips and potato chips (mmmm, Kettle Chips) are usually safe
  • Justin’s Chocolate Almond Butter – this stuff is amazing.
  • Brianna’s Salad Dressing – My favorites are the blush wine vinaigrette and the poppyseed
  • Coconut Yogurt – I really like the vanilla coconut yogurt from TJs, but am not a big fan of the other brands
  • Spring Mill Bread – found at MOMs – fresh baked, whole grain goodness
  • Udi’s Bagel Things and Sandwich Flats
  • Trail Mix – use safe chocolate chips from MOMs along with any nuts and dried fruit
  • Larabars – I’m overdosing on these right now. So convenient
  • Quinoa or Whole Wheat Cous Cous – I make a big batch of pilaf (sauté chopped veggies and then add grain and liquid)

Other ideas

  • Corn chips and guacamole
  • Avocado on bagel or bread
  • Deviled eggs and/or hard-boiled eggs
  • Coconut Yogurt
  • Smoothies (see above)
  • Salads (Grill chicken ahead or use deli meat, hard-boiled eggs)
  • Wraps (same as above)
  • Tuna salad (check tuna ingredients; most tuna doesn’t list soy as an ingredeient but will say “contains soy” beneath the list) use soy-free mayo
  • Chicken salad is good to have on hand
  • PB&J – I’ve never eaten so much PB&J
  • Hummus (check ingredients for soybean oil) with veggies or pretzels
  • Justin’s Almond Butter – Worth mentioning again. The chocolate almond butter is to DIE FOR – enjoy this now while you can afford the calories. It is better than Nutella.
  • Lots of nuts – almonds are great for lactation


  • Tazo Mexican Dark Chocolate (SO GOOD); Also found under TJ’s store label – these are round packages
  • Enjoy Life Dark Chocolate – soy & dairy free (found at Whole Foods)
  • Macaroons – WF/Mom’s has some coconut macaroons that don’t contain dairy or soy; I also like the Alexa brand which can be found at Giant (and the Ft. Myer commissary)
  • Truffles – WF/Mom’s sell raw, vegan truffles that are pretty good (and very expensive) if you like the bittersweet flavor of dark chocolate
  • So Delicious Coconut Ice Cream Bars/Sandwiches – Dairy/soy free
  • Enjoy Life Brownie Bites – I love these but the Knight doesn’t – more for me 🙂
  • Jelly beans and gummy candies
  • Trader Joe’s Cat Cookies – regular flavor, not chocolate
  • TJs vanilla meringue cookies

My Go-to Restaurants

Chains have become my friend. Most chains have allergen info on their website, which is so helpful!

  • California Tortilla – I’d never eaten here before but it has been a blessing for me since it is near work and most items are dairy and soy free.
    • Note: District Taco was very responsive to my request for allergen info. If I hadn’t asked I wouldn’t know that most of their products are cooked with vegetable oil that contains soya oil. The carne asada, pollo asado y al pasor and all of the rice and beans are off limits. (The Carnitas and  Barbacoa are safe, however.)
    • Chipotle also uses soybean oil in most items except the corn tortillas and carnitas.
  • Sushi –Most sushi items are safe if you skip the soy sauce (or bring your own coconut aminos). Just don’t spaz like I did and forget that miso soup is made with soy. Duh. The imitiation crabmeat in California rolls (surimi) has soy. Learned this the hard way. FYI, the salad dressing probably has soy, too.
  • Ethiopian – The menu for the restaurant near me (Enat, near Landmark in Alexandria) states that their vegetarian items are vegan and made with canola oil.
  • Pizzeria Orso in Falls Church – Pizza? Yeah, you wouldn’t think… Pizza is still out, but I had a great meal here. This is one of my favorite restaurants and the chef (Chef Will Artley) and the manager (Sarah) were so accommodating when I went recently. (The waitress was a little less helpful, so ask for a manager.) I told them about my restrictions and they made me a delicious meal. I personally thanked the Chef and he said to just let him know when I am there and he will accommodate me.
  • Ceiba  – I went here for an office lunch and I was so impressed with how accommodating they were. The two waiters I spoke to seemed extremely knowledgeable about food allergies and were able to immediately tell me which items contained dairy and soy. I have enjoyed a few good meals here.
  • Teaism – amazing! The manager spent a great deal of time with me on the phone helping me figure out what I can eat. Huge props to them!
  • The Hamilton – The chef got on the phone with me and helped me figure out what I could eat. They use soybean oil in the fryers but can use other oils on the grill. Just ask.
  • Chopt – good salads and lots of info on their website.   
  • 2941 Restaurant  – I had a very positive experience when I was invited to go here for an event. I called ahead and told them about my restrictions. They went over the menu with me on the phone and we arranged to have my selections prepared without dairy or soy. It was delicious and I avoided being the awkward patron.

Helpful websites:


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Jennifer
    Jun 22, 2013 @ 08:43:51

    What fantasic accommodations from the restaurants! I had a very positive and helpful experience at the Penn Quarter Protein Bar the other day. I had to eliminate dairy only for my little guy. Kudos to you for handling soy as well. What a challenge!


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