Why Dairy-Free Shoppers Should Always Check Bread And Cracker Labels

According to data from The Lancet: Gastroenterology & Hepatology (via the National Institute of Health), nearly 70% of the world's population has lactose malabsorption, or the reduced ability to digest the lactose found in dairy products. Yet, many would never even consider giving up cheese. Those who do make the commitment to cutting out dairy, however, will quickly realize it's harder than it seems. While cheese is obviously out of the picture, many breads and crackers contain dairy ingredients too, often as sweeteners or preservatives.

This isn't to deter you from trying. Whether you've considered taking on the dairy-free lifestyle for personal reasons, such as sensitivity, an allergy, or in hope of acne-free skin, or for more worldly ones, like reducing your carbon footprint or concern for the welfare of dairy cows, going dairy-free is more than possible. With all the vegan milk and cheese alternatives in stores these days, you won't be missing out on anything. However, it's the other foods you need to look out for — the ones you wouldn't think contain dairy but actually do.

Vegan alternatives are the obvious choice for replacing the traditionally dairy-rich products like cheese and milk in your fridge. But when it comes to shopping for foods like bread and crackers, you should always check the ingredient list to be positive that it's dairy free. Otherwise, you might end up cheating yourself out of your dairy-free goals without even realizing it.

Scan the ingredient lists

Outside of things like pizza, ice cream, and mac & cheese, most people probably don't realize how many foods actually contain dairy — even the ones you might never expect. Bread and crackers — and even your favorite brands of chips — tend to be some of those items.  Some examples include naan and pita bread, which are often made with yogurt and, in naan's case, lots of butter.  There are also popular brands of chips like Sun Chips, Cheetos, and basically anything sour cream and onion flavor that include dairy in their ingredient lists. But, in some cases, it can be even less obvious than that.

It's not uncommon to find lactose added to things that are typically dairy-less, such as plain bread and crackers, because it works as a sweetener. You're also likely to come across bread and cracker products that contain whey or milk protein because it helps maintain the bread's soft texture and acts as a preservative. For this reason, when you're shopping for bread or crackers, you should always check the labels before you buy. Usually, you can just look at the allergen list. If it says "milk," you can obviously put it down and look for something else. However, check the ingredient list just to be sure.

Along with lactose and whey, common dairy ingredients that are used in bread, crackers, and other snack foods can include milk powders, evaporated milk, or casein, so be sure to check for those as well.