About 12 percent of children have a food allergy, with cow’s milk, egg, peanut, tree nut, soy, wheat, fish, and crustacean shellfish being the most common. At this time, there is no known treatment for food allergies other than avoiding the offending food allergen and managing allergic reactions.

When a toddler is allergic to cow’s milk, it must be removed from the diet. This means eliminating all milk and any food made with milk. Removing milk from the diet may increase the risk of developing nutrient deficiencies, such as vitamin D and calcium.

To prevent nutrient deficiencies, children with a milk allergy should have a carefully planned diet that takes care to avoid the offending allergen, milk, while including alternate sources of calcium, vitamin D, and protein. Calcium, vitamin D, and possibly protein are the most common nutrients at risk in a milk-free diet for children.

Children with cow’s milk allergy, and those who have multiple food allergies such as to milk, egg, and peanuts, are at the highest risk for growth problems. This is due to multiple food restrictions and the higher risk for missing nutrients and inadequate calories in the diet.

The following chart outlines the nutrients at highest risk with milk allergy and highlights alternate food sources of these nutrients.

What is your food allergy?Which nutrients are at risk?Where can you find this nutrient in other, milk-free foods?
Cow’s milkCalcium
Fortified soy milk and alternative milks, such as nut milks, rice milk, or hemp milk. Fortified orange juice, tofu made with calcium, salmon, kale, Bok Choy, broccoli, ready-to-eat fortified cereals
Vitamin D
Salmon, tuna, vitamin D-fortified orange juice, ready-to-eat cereals, regular and vitamin D-fortified eggs, and milk alternatives fortified with calcium like soy milk
Protein Natural meats (watch deli meat, hot dogs and other processed meats because they may contain milk solids); nuts and nut butters; beans and legumes; high protein grains such as quinoa; fish and shellfish; and eggs. Alternative milks like almond and rice milk may be too low in protein (and fat) for the toddler. Check with your healthcare professional.

Remember, the ingredient list on the food label is your best bet for finding potential food allergens. If there isn’t a food label, you can inquire about ingredients directly with the company. Since 2006, manufacturers are required to list the top eight food allergens on package labels: milk, soy, egg, wheat, peanut, tree nut, fish, and shellfish. Manufacturers may add a qualifying statement on the product package warning you of potential contamination, such as “this product was made in a facility that also produces milk products.” In this case, or when in doubt about any ingredient, avoid eating the food, because there may be a risk for allergic reaction.

Reviewed by Dr. Sara Connolly, September 2020


  • A milk allergy eliminates important nutrients from a child’s diet.
  • Milk allergy and multiple food allergies may place a child at risk for growth problems.
  • With careful planning, a child’s nutrient needs can be met with alternate food sources.


  1. Food Allergy Research & Education. Milk Allergy.
  2. American College of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology. Milk & Dairy Allergy.


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