Shortly after I started kicking gluten I decided to go dairy-free as well. There are many reasons why someone would choose to go dairy-free. It might be an allergy, chronic digestive problems, skin ailments such as acne and eczema, or if you’re like me, just doing it for the health benefits. Almost half of the calories in whole milk come from fat, and nearly all of its carbohydrates come from sugar. “In addition to the high content of cholesterol and saturated fat (excesses of which are the primary causes of atherosclerosis and heart disease), dairy products are a source of delayed food allergies with a variety of symptoms that may include: diarrhea, abdominal pain, eczema (skin rash), joint pain, gas, bloating, migraine headache, asthma, acne, fatigue, runny nose, diabetes and immune dysfunction. There is often a delay in the onset of these symptoms making them difficult to trace back to dairy. It is not until individuals entirely eliminate dairy products from their diet that they may experience relief and understand the connection between their consumption of milk products and these symptoms.” Good enough reason? I think so!
First one that got the boot was milk…cow’s milk. This was pretty easy for me since I love the taste of almond milk. My favourite brand right now is Silk Unsweetened Almond Milk – it is shelf-stable and does not have carrageenan. Since writing this post I have started making my own almond milk. You can find the recipe here. I use this in full substitution for milk in recipes, smoothies, on cereal, in coffee, everywhere! You can get different flavours like chocolate but I don’t drink milk by the glass, I usually have it in things so this doesn’t appeal to me.
Next up was cheese. I only use cheese on pizza, sometimes salad and pasta, so it wasn’t too difficult to substitute. I do really love feta, so I use goat’s milk feta. I know goat’s milk is not considered dairy-free but it is more tolerant than cow’s milk. (Note: if you are going dairy-free to become vegan this would not include goat’s milk!) I use Daiya for anything that requires grated, melted cheese. It’s completely dairy-free and vegan. Looking at the texture of it in the bag you wouldn’t think it melts very well…or tastes good, but it surprisingly melts just fine and it has almost a buttery taste to it. I liked it!
For butter I use Earth Balance, which tastes exactly like butter and substitutes very well into recipes. Again, this one was an easy substitute as I really only use butter to bake with. Cream cheese, sour cream and mayo all have dairy-free brands out there. Although I haven’t tried these yet, Follow Your Heart and Toffuti make dairy-free cream cheese and sour cream and Vegenaise is a great substitute for mayonnaise.
Now onto yogurt. I had been stuck on Yoplait Source Yogurt for a long time. Loved it, ate it every day. It was low-cal, fat-free, aspartame-free, had all kinds of flavours, but also contained artificial flavours, sucralose and milk. So I started trying out coconut and almond yogurts. Both were really yummy! I had no problem substituting these out. They did have more calories but I realized the serving size on the container was quite large, so if you only have about a 1/3 to 1/2 cup it is still in the 50-75 calorie range per serving. My favourite so far are Amande Almond Vanilla Yogurt and So Delicious. The only thing I don’t like is they are higher in sugar, but looking at the ingredient list it’s not added refined sugar, so I’m assuming they are naturally occurring sugars from fruit.
So there it is! That’s been my transition so far. My recommendation is don’t quit cold turkey. This whole process took me about a year. Start substituting things here and there, before you know it you’ll be dairy-free!
Have you already given dairy the boot? What products are your favourites? I’m always looking for new things to try!