Non-Dairy Diet for Toddlers

A milk allergy is one of the most common food allergies in children. Most children outgrow a milk allergy by their third birthday, but in the meantime a non-dairy diet will help prevent potentially dangerous symptoms.

Other children might experience lactose intolerance, which makes digesting milk more difficult, and might also require a non-dairy diet. Fortunately, there are many food choices that supply the same nutrients as milk without the undesirable side effects.


There are two primary reasons why your toddler would need to go on a dairy-free diet. A milk allergy occurs when your toddler's immune system identifies the proteins in milk as being potentially harmful. In response, her body sends out histamines which can cause a runny nose, itchy eyes, rashes, hives, nausea, diarrhea or difficulty breathing.

Lactose intolerance isn't as dangerous as a milk allergy and occurs when your toddler is unable to properly digest milk sugar, which is called lactose. A lactose intolerance can cause diarrhea, nausea, stomach cramps, bloating and gas when your toddler eats dairy foods.

Milk Alternatives

White beans on a wooden board

Does Drinking Whole Milk Give Toddlers Diarrhea?

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Milk is a major component of many toddlers' diets because it contains essential nutrients they need for healthy growth and development. Calcium is the most important and helps support bone and teeth development.

Milk also contains vitamin D, a nutrient that enables your toddler's body to absorb calcium. A glass of milk supplies protein as well. Certain milk alternatives don't provide a comparable calcium source to cow's milk, reports a 2000 study published in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition."

Look for soy, rice or almond milks that are fortified with calcium to be sure your toddler is getting plenty of this essential nutrient. Read the nutrition label as well. Many milk substitutes contain large amounts of added sugar. Look for versions that are low in sugar for the most nutritional value.

Calcium-Rich Foods

Your toddler needs 700 milligrams of calcium each day.

Add calcium-rich foods to your toddler's daily diet to help replace the calcium she would normally get from milk, cheese and yogurt.

Calcium-fortified orange juice is a beverage option that can contain just as much calcium per serving as a glass of milk. White beans, canned salmon, collard greens, almonds and broccoli each supply a healthy dose of calcium as well.


White beans on a wooden board

Risk of Toddler Drinking Too Much Milk

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Milk is a top source of vitamin D, a nutrient many toddlers don't consume enough of even if they can drink milk. There are few food sources of vitamin D, however. Speak with your toddler's pediatrician about the benefits of a vitamin D supplement to be sure your child gets enough of this essential nutrient. If your child has lactose intolerance, look for soy versions of cheese, yogurt and ice cream.

Ask your toddler's doctor about certain medications that help her digest lactose so she can eat dairy foods more often.

A severe milk allergy might require that you carry an epinephrine pen with you at all times. The pen is used to treat a serious reaction called anaphylaxis, which causes the airways to close.