Most of us were raised to believe that we need to consume copious amounts of dairy in order to be healthy. But the tide is changing – and many folks are eliminating 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.
Due to how many health challenges are exacerbated by conventional, processed dairy, we actually run the entire Culinary Nutrition Expert Program completely dairy-free.
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.
1. Get Educated
If you’re gonna 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. Educate yourself about how dairy is produced and the effects it has on our bodies.
Very few of us possess the proper enzyme – called lactase – to digest the lactose found in dairy. Dairy is also a mucus-forming food, and this mucus coats the digestive tract and prevents nutrients from being absorbed. Plus, 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. Write Down How Dairy Makes You Feel
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 in 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 fermented non-dairy cheeses that will knock your socks off.
One word of caution about dairy-free, store-bought products: always check the labels. Some products are extremely processed and filled with artificial ingredients – like dairy-free margarine, vegan mayonnaise and vegan cheese. Many non-dairy milks contain carrageenan, a compound that induces inflammation. We don’t want to swap the toxins 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 get you inspired:
- Chai Mocha Latte
- Almond Cinnamon Date Smoothie
- Baked Mac and Cheese (Meghan’s favourite comfort food!)
- Cashew Sour Cream
- Herbed Vegan Cream Cheese
- Salted Caramel Pecan Swirl Ice Cream
- Earl Grey Infused Lavender Cheesecake
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, and organic meat. That’s a whole lotta foods – and there are a crapton 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.