I think she has a milk allergy. You should stop eating all dairy products for 3 months”.

When I was seven years old, I was diagnosed with a milk allergy. At the moment, it didn’t seem like a big issue. On the contrary, I was glad! Now my mother couldn’t force me to drink milk daily.

Reality sunk in not long after; it was difficult in the beginning. So many, too many, dishes had dairy products in them. I never knew that Rasgullas are made of cottage cheese and that most Indian sweets are made with either ghee or khoya or both.

That, combined with my egg allergy, limited my options. Upon further research, I discovered that those who are allergic to milk should avoid both egg and fish.

But it got better with time. I found substitutes: plant-based milk such as soy milk, almond milk, coconut milk instead of animal milk, tofu in place of paneer, homemade almond curd instead of normal curd, flaxseed gel in place of egg while making cakes. We realized cashew paste could substitute cream in many Indian dishes such as Dal Makhani, Gaajar ka Halwa etc., I even learnt how to make vegan buttermilk for baking!

My mother and I tried new recipes to accommodate my dietary restrictions. My grandmother made Kadhi for me by replacing curd/buttermilk with a thin mixture of tamarind/amla paste with water. The rest of the recipe remains the same as the conventional kadhi.

I unwittingly started eating much healthier; I was no longer eating as many sweets as I used to; some of the substitutes, like dark chocolate, were healthier. We started cooking more at home rather than eating out, and I learnt how to bake. Moreover, I developed the habit of always checking the ingredients.

Lately, veganism is gaining popularity. World over, people are converting to veganism by choice. One of the major reasons for this lifestyle change is health. Research has shown that a meat-based diet increases the risk of some serious health conditions such as diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. On the contrary, plant-based foods fight against cancer and other health risks.

Another motivator is the health of the planet. People are becoming increasingly aware of the impact that animal farming has on our Earth. The industry is responsible, not only for high greenhouse gas emissions but also excessive use of land and water.

Moreover, people are recognizing the suffering of animals in dairy, egg, and meat industries as well as for fashion, entertainment, and research. Billions of animals are exploited for human gain.

More and more people are also trying a flexitarian/semi-vegetarian lifestyle. While their diet is primarily vegetarian, they do occasionally eat meat.

As exasperating as veganism can be in the beginning, it gets better with time. You discover blogs and YouTube channels* for guidance. It feels empowering to be able to control your cravings. And soon enough, it becomes a source of pride; a testament to your will power.

Recipe

Almond curd

  • Soak approximately 30 almonds in water overnight.
  • Peel the almonds and blitz them with water in a mixer till it forms a milk-like consistency.
  • Boil this almond milk and keep stirring while it boils. The milk thickens upon boiling.
  • Cool it and then store it in the refrigerator.
  • Your curd is ready!
  • You can add a few drops of lemon juice for a more curd-like taste.

*One of my favourite channels is Pick Up Limes by a Canadian dietician, Sadia Badiei. She is currently living in the Netherlands.

– Vrinda Rastogi, Amity International School Noida

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