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Monthly Archives: February 2012

A Great Launch!


A Soy and Milk-Free Life blog received 180 hits within a day-and-a-half of launching it! Crazy, huh? Several friends shared the link to their friends (yes, I have great friends), and they shared the link to their friends, and so on. Not many actually subscribed to the blog, so perhaps my Facebook friends really just wanted to see what I was up to! Just about everyone knows someone with allergies to milk or soy, so perhaps the word will spread about my blog and the people who need this information and encouragement will subscribe. In the meantime, Facebook will have to help me spread the word.

My Vision for A Soy and Milk-Free Life

Where would I like this blog to go? In the short term, I want to hit the basics, and share alternatives to soy and milk products for day-to-day living. I’m a busy single working mom of a finicky toddler and I don’t have much time to cook from scratch. In the coming weeks, I’ll be looking to find snacks, meals, and desserts that are soy-free and milk-free, and I’ll dutifully report my finds to you. I’ll be reading countless labels (with camera in hand) to find soy-free cosmetics, hair products, skin care, and household goods, so you don’t have to. I’d like to educate myself about why so many people have soy and milk allergies…and pass that along as well. I also want to leave it open for the site to breathe into whatever form it needs to as we go. We’ll just have to see where this journey takes us…

In the long term, I hope to build relationships with food, household goods, cosmetic, and skin care companies. Perhaps with a large enough following, this blog can be a voice that will influence decisions that companies make about ingredients in their products. Yes, I think big. Let’s think big together!

In Wellness,


Vitamin E is Often Derived From Soy

Vitamin E in gel caps are derived from soybeans
Vitamin E in gel caps or in liquid form are derived from soybeans.

Wow. I thought I was doing something good for my body by ingesting vitamin E and applying it to my skin…in theory, I was! Unfortunately, the kind of Vitamin E I was using was derived from soybeans. My understanding is that Vitamin E in gel caps or in liquid form is always derived from soybeans. After applying Vitamin E to my skin before bed every night for four days straight, my irritated skin began to feel like it was on fire! Of course it was…I was applying pure soy oil to my allergic-to-soy skin!

Thankfully, after talking to one of the many helpful employees at Lassen’s, I was able to find Vitamin E that contained no soybeans:

Jarrow Formulas Dry E-400 does not contain soy!

Jarrow Formulas Dry E-400 does not contain soy!

Jarrow Formulas Dry E-400 is soy-free. Because it is dry, I cannot apply it directly to my face. Although, I suppose I could get creative with this by emptying the capsule into a dot of (soy free) lotion and applying it that way…hmm…might be worth trying…

This Vitamin E discovery led me to thinking about all the other vitamins that I take that may contain soy. Sure enough, several of my vitamins contained soy (multivitamins and beta carotene were among them). Fortunately, there are soy-free options for everything. I hope you have a good health food store nearby. Look specifically for the vitamins that clearly indicate there are “no soybeans”. Here’s a Rena-friendly multivitamin I found: RAW ONE for Women. It contains “raw food-created nutrients” which purportedly is easier for the body to absorb.

RAW ONE for Women is a great soy-free multivitamin

RAW ONE for Women is a great soy-free multivitamin.

Many, many cosmetics lines and hair products will include soy in their products and advertise boldly their product contains Vitamin E. Beware! This usually means those products contain soy. As you read the labels, you will want to avoid “tochopherol acetate” (vitamin E derived from soy). I will write a separate post about our beauty products next.

Soy and Milk-free Protein Powders

Protein drinks

There are a variety of soy and dairy-free protein powders. Their base is typically, hemp, pea, chia seed, and/or rice. They are generally vegan, corn free, and gluten free too.

Often times, if I know I’m going to be out and about and would otherwise be at the mercy of a fast food joint unless I armed myself with food from home, I’ll take along a protein shake as a snack or meal.  I usually use cold vanilla almond milk mixed with a scoop or two of one of the above protein powders. Depending on the taste of the powder, I may just use water, or part water/part juice.

I use a shaker bottle that contains a wire ball that looks like part of a whisk:

Shaker Cups

These shaker bottles do a great job mixing up clumpy protein powder with your liquid of choice.

I found these bottles at

Some of these protein powders claim to have between 12-20 grams of protein in each serving! This is great news for me…the protein is what sustains me and keeps me mentally sharp. Beware…these protein things are EXPENSIVE…One container usually goes for $20-25. But, I justify the expense when I think about how much I would pay for the equivalent number of meals/snacks while eating out…as well as the allergic reaction I’d have to endure afterwards. Totally worth it.

Welcome to “A Soy and Milk-Free Life”!

Hello my fellow soy and milk-challenged friends,

Today, rather than crying over the foods I cannot eat, longing for a scoop of ice-cream, fettucini Alfredo, or a bowl of warm salted edamame, I decided to channel my energies into helping otherwise normal people like me to find solutions for their dietary restrictions. Specifically, I want to help others learn what I’ve learned about living soy and milk-free over the past year.

I finally got so fed up with my allergic reactions and having to use medications that I decided I really have no choice but to give into a soy and milk-free lifestyle. It’s not what I would have chosen for myself if I were not allergic, but I’m certain this choice will lead me to wellness. I’m sure you’ve already discovered, this is a challenging (and expensive) process…and my learning curve has been steep.

After all this work and expense, I feel it is my duty to pass along what I’ve learned…I’m hoping this information will help people struggling with similar food issues as mine. Frankly, the effort to write this blog would be completely worth it if I am able to help just one person find some relief from their allergies or food sensitivities! And, perhaps you will feel free to share some of  your findings with me too…let’s help each other through this!

I plan to address issues like what to eat and what to avoid, skin/hair care products, vitamins, how to order when eating out, and ways to feel somewhat normal while making extreme choices.

Thanks for stopping by!


P.S. Since starting this blog, I’ve poured myself into photography. Please feel free to check out my work: and “Rena Petrello Photography” on Facebook.

Milk and Soy-free Bread?

I can’t tell you how much time I’ve spent on this one. There are so many different brands of bread in the market, and label-reading was a chore. I’ve checked the labels until my eyes went cross-eyed, questioning if I needed glasses after reading the fine print. Unfortunately, I was not successful finding any breads in a traditional market. However, I did find some winners at the health food store (Lassen’s and Whole Foods). Beware — each of these fabulous finds falls apart very easily. You’ll want to eat your sandwiches gingerly.

Julian Bakery, "Wonderful" (soy free and dairy free)

Julian Bakery, "Wonderful-bread" (soy free and dairy free).

Great Harvest Bread Co. "Honey Whole Wheat"

Great Harvest Bread Co. "Honey Whole Wheat". This is delicious bread! Soy-free and milk-free!

Of course, we could always make our breads from scratch? If only I had the time…and the desire…I’m so glad I don’t have to…

Pancakes Without Milk or Soy Ingredients

What could be better than making pancakes with your toddler on a Saturday morning? The last thing you want to do is spoil this precious memory-making time with an allergic reaction!

Most pancake mixes already contain milk and/or soy. We could make the pancakes from scratch (and by “we”, I mean “you”, because that just seems like too much work). Fortunately, I have found one brand of pancake mix that does not: Eating Right (Vons) Whole Wheat Pancake Mix. The preparation instructions say to add milk, oil, and eggs to the mix. I substitute either rice milk or almond milk in place of cows milk and I use sunflower oil in place of vegetable (soy) oil. It’s not bad – and once you get your maple syrup or jelly on it, you really can’t tell the difference.

You’ll want to pay attention to the ingredients on ANY bread item. Muffins, breads, cakes, etc. usually contain milk and/or soy ingredients. See my next post about this…

“No milk? No soy milk? Then what do you put in your cereal?!”

The first question people usually ask me when I share with them my food restrictions is, “No milk? No soy milk? Then what do you put in your cereal?!”

First of all — I had to find a cereal that contained no soy and no milk ingredients already – most processed foods contain those ingredients, but fortunately, most grocery stores will have a couple friendly options for us, like plain oatmeal and Shredded Wheat (the kind containing only one ingredient – wheat). I found Dorset Cereals at Whole Foods Market which is oat-based but also contains added nuts and/or dried fruit. Don’t forget – you may always add raisins, other dried fruit, or nuts to your plain cereal if you’re craving something sweet or nutty.

Shredded Wheat, Dorset Cereals, John McCann's Irish Oatmeal, Bob's Red Mill Thick Cut Oatmeal

Shredded Wheat, Dorset Cereals, John McCann's Irish Oatmeal, Bob's Red Mill Thick Cut Oatmeal

Next, what to put in the cereal? Soy milk and cow’s milk are obviously not healthy choices for us. I alternate between almond milk , rice milk, or hemp milk. They come sweetened or unsweetened and also come in vanilla or chocolate flavors. Hemp milk is a relatively new discovery for me. It has a grainy taste to it. If the “milk” I’m using is unsweetened, I’ll sweeten my cereal with raw stevia. Don’t expect any of these choices to taste like cows milk!! It will definitely be a new taste, and to me, I’m happy to just be able to eat cereal again.

Rice milk, hemp milk, and almond milk

Rice milk, hemp milk, and almond milk - I don't really taste a difference between competing brands. I'll buy whatever is cheapest at the store.