Most of us were raised to believe that we need to consume copious amounts of dairy to be healthy. But the tide is changing – and many folks are ditching dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheese due to dairy allergies or intolerances or because they want to reduce the amount of chemicals in their diet from conventional dairy products. One of the primary reasons people are looking to ditch dairy for good, whether for themselves or their children, is because dairy sensitivities and allergies are on the rise.
When a dairy sensitivity or allergy exists, many seemingly unrelated health challenges can be exacerbated. This is why we teach dairy-free cooking in the Culinary Nutrition Expert Program. When looking to use diet as part of the healing process, many people will benefit from eliminating dairy whether there is a known sensitivity or just a suspected one.
Eliminating dairy is definitely doable and can quickly become effortless once you decide to do it and stick to it. The transition, however, can be tricky especially if you grew up with the stuff. If you’re struggling with ditching dairy, here are a few of our best tricks to help you out.
5 Tricks to ditching Dairy for good
1. Learn Why Dairy May Be Harmful To You
If you’re going to quit dairy for good, it’s helpful to understand the why of it all – that way, you’re more likely to make a change and stick to it. Learn more about dairy production and the effects it has on our bodies. Some of the health effects of dairy include:
- Very few of us possess the proper enzyme – called lactase – to digest the lactose found in dairy, which can lead to poor digestion and bloating, gas or cramps, as well as aggravate patients with inflammatory bowel diseases and irritable bowel syndrome.
- Some people react to the proteins in milk like whey and casein – and casein is actually similar in structure to gluten.
- Dairy is also a mucus-forming food; this mucus coats the digestive tract and prevents us from absorbing nutrients.
- Milk and other dairy products can aggravate skin conditions like eczema, atopic dermatitis and acne.
- Milk may be a trigger for asthma and rhinitis in children as well as aggravate symptoms in children who are already diagnosed with asthma.
- Evidence indicates that milk can trigger an immune response and lead to autoimmune diseases.
- High amounts of milk consumption have also been associated with greater levels of inflammatory biomarkers, higher fracture rates, and a higher risk of mortality.
Plus, keep in mind that humans are the only ones to drink milk after weaning, and we’re also the only ones to drink the milk of another species.
2. Note How Your Body Responds For 72 Hours After Consuming Dairy
Image: Sheri Silver on Unsplash
Does dairy give you gas and diarrhea? Make your skin itch or break out? Leave you feeling bloated? Or maybe it leads to a headache? Write it all down on a list and post it where you’ll be most likely to see it – the fridge, your cupboard, or even tucked into your wallet in front of your debit card or credit card. That way, when you’re feeling an intense craving for cheese or milk chocolate, you’ll remember what the negative consequences will be if you make that dietary choice.
A food journal can be incredibly helpful to track what you’re eating and how it makes you feel.
Remember, a reaction to food can happen up to 72 hours after consuming it so start watching for those patterns.
3. Find Awesome Dairy Substitutions
We are very fortunate that there are loads of dairy-free products, even at large grocery stores. Almond milk, rice milk, oat milk, and coconut milk can easily replace cow’s milk in any recipe. We’re huge fans of dairy-free ice cream, and there are even amazing nut-based non-dairy cheeses that will knock your socks off. There are some people who may be able to tolerate ghee, which has the dairy proteins removed. Check out the section below for additional recipes that will help you in your quest to eliminate dairy products.
One word of caution about dairy-free, store-bought products: always check the labels. Some products like dairy-free margarine, vegan mayonnaise, and vegan cheese are extremely processed and contain artificial ingredients. For example, many non-dairy milks contain carrageenan, a compound that induces inflammation. We don’t want to swap the harmful components in dairy for toxins in dairy-free products! This leads us to our next tip…
4. Experiment in the Kitchen
The very best dairy-free alternatives are just waiting to be made in your very own kitchen. Dairy-free milk, sour cream, mayo, ice cream, cream sauce, and even nut cheese are all a breeze to make at home using whole food ingredients. Start experimenting with new recipes! Here are a few to inspire you:
- 20 Best Dairy-Free Smoothie Recipes
- How to Make Nut and Seed Milk
- 9 Uses for Almond Pulp + Almond Pulp Recipes
- 20 Best Dairy-Free Cheese Recipes
- 27 Best Dairy-Free Cheesecake Recipes
- 20 Best Dairy-Free Chocolate Recipes
- 20 Best Dairy-Free Elixir Recipes
- Our 5 Favourite Dairy-Free Hot Chocolate Combinations
- 20 Best Dairy-Free Soup Recipes
- Dairy-Free Mango Coconut Parfait
- Dairy-Free Gingerbread Latte
- Almond Cinnamon Date Smoothie
- Baked Mac and Cheese
- Cashew Sour Cream
5. Be Grateful for the Foods You Can Eat
Remember, dairy is only one small group of products. There are hundreds and hundreds of foods that you can eat and enjoy on a regular basis, including vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts, beans, legumes, fish, poultry and organic meat. That’s a whole lotta foods – and there are a ton of combinations and delicious meals you can create using those foods. So don’t despair if you have to be dairy-free: there is a lovely abundance of things to eat.
By using these tricks to ditching dairy, you’ll be able to scrap it for good!