11 tips for going dairy free
Out of all the food groups, dairy seems to be the hardest for people to give up.
No cheese? But what about lattes? Wait a minute, you can’t eat pizza?! These are all questions I’ve been faced with since going dairy-free.
I gave up dairy as part of an elimination diet, which saw me also remove gluten, soy and eggs from my diet. After being diagnosed with leaky gut syndrome, this was part of my protocol in order to heal.
I found cutting out dairy pretty easy. I’d never been a big coffee drinker (though I did love tea!) and although I enjoyed cheese I knew that my health was more important and needed to come first.
Since being dairy-free I’ve learnt that there are lots of benefits, not only for physical health but also for the environment and animal welfare.
WHAT I'VE LEARNT SINCE GOING DAIRY FREE
Removing dairy has vastly improved my digestive issues.
I experience less bloat, tummy cramps and bouts of diarrhoea.
I’ve seen improved quality of skin (less redness, rosacea).
My keratosis pilaris (little red bumps on the skin usually caused by a dairy intolerance) has cleared up by 80%.
It’s not a necessary staple in our diets, as we’ve been led to believe. For example a cup of cooked spinach offers the same amount of calcium as a cup of milk.
Being dairy free doesn't mean deprivation! I've discovered delicious alternatives that taste as good if not better than the dairy versions.
Tasty dairy alternatives are foamy nut milk lattes, creamy pasta sauces made with cashews or seeds and replacing spreads with nut butter or coconut oil.
MY 11 TIPS FOR GIVING UP DAIRY
1. Find nourishing alternatives
When removing dairy from your diet the key is to focus on the nourishment you’re introducing, not what you’re taking away.
Naturally, our minds react with panic when we remove a food group we've been eating for years. It's so important that those foods are replaced with high nutrient foods so that we don't feel deprived.
Ensuring you have high quality and nourishing alternatives lined up is key to staying satisfied and on track with your new lifestyle.
Use the infographic below to see substitutes for typical dairy containing foods:
2. Plan your meals
Being dairy-free can make grabbing a snack or meal on the go difficult. It can also create stress if you’re having to think about what to make at the last minute, especially if you’re already hungry.
To ensure my week is as stress-free as possible I plan all of my meals (including snacks) ahead of time.
I spend about an hour each week researching new recipes and planning my shopping list. This way I can be sure that I’m fully stocked with the dairy-free alternatives I need for the week ahead.
3. Read menus before eating out
Scoping out menus and even calling the restaurant ahead of time to see what dishes can cater to your needs is a great way to diminish any anxiety around eating out.
It can be difficult to know exactly how your food has been prepared, for example the vegetables could have been fried in butter, but that might not be stated on the menu. So asking lots of questions and being informed about your meal is totally acceptable!
4. Have a list of go-to recipes
I’ve found this tip to be massively helpful when friends invite me to a dinner party or I am staying with family. If your loved ones are used to including dairy in their cooking, they made need help with ideas of what to cook for you.
I keep a list of 3-5 easy and budget-friendly dairy-free recipes that I can share with anyone who’s kindly cooking for me.
Chances are your host may feel pretty unsure about what they should cook for you, so providing some options will be really helpful for them too.
5. Know where you can eat out
Similar to #4, having a list of places that do an awesome nut milk latte or a dairy free pizza means you will have some ready-made suggestions for where you can eat out.
The internet is a wonderful thing, so use it! Trawl websites and read menus to find the places that can cater to you. Tripadvisor and other reviewer platforms are also great tools to find out what food options are available.
6. Make your own dessert
For me, I’ve found that a dairy-free dessert is by far the most difficult meal to find when eating out or attending a party/event. If this is the same for you, then offering to make a dessert can help.
Your kind offer will be contributing to the meal, supporting the host and ensuring that there is also a sweet treat you can enjoy too.
Some tasty ideas for inspiration could be a cashew cream cheese cake with a ground almond base or chocolate avocado mousse with fresh raspberries.
7. Read the ingredients list
Milk and butter are used in lots of recipes, even in places you wouldn’t expect them. So getting into the habit of quickly scanning the ingredients is the best way to know what you’re buying.
After a short time, you’ll get to know the products you can trust which will make the whole process much quicker and easier. But in the beginning this step is definitely worth putting time into.
8. Carry snacks, always.
For surprise moments like an office birthday or dropping by a friends for a catch up, I always make sure I have some kind of snack on hand.
Seedy energy balls full of fat and fibre, dark chocolate topped with thick almond butter or a simple granola bar would all do the trick.
This way you can still enjoy the social aspect of the situation, whilst eating food that nourishes your body and supports your choices.
9. B.Y.O.M (Bring your own milk)
Sometimes no matter how hard you try you may end up at an outlet that doesn’t have a milk alternative. This is definitely true if you’re avoiding soy as well. So if you have plans to stop by a coffee shop, take your own milk alternative.
If you love your latte with almond milk then don’t feel embarrassed, most baristas will have no problem making your order.
10. Watch your intake of soy
A common substitute for milk can be soy, but before having it regularly make sure you’re educated about soy and how it could be affecting your body.
For example, some soy products are heavily processed and lack nutrients. Soy can also act as a hormone disruptor so it’s important to pay close attention to how it might be making you feel.
If you do think soy is interfering with your natural rhythm, definitely minimise your consumption and choose nut or seed milks instead.
11. Never feel embarrassed
Making any transition in your life tends to throw up opinions, concerns and intrigue from others.
In some circumstances people are genuinely interested in your decisions, but other times questions can come from a place of judgement and confusion. If this is the case, gently explain your reasons and continue being true to YOU.
New behaviours and habits most definitely feel strange at first and might appear odd to others but ultimately you need to consume what is best for your body and what supports your health. That’s always so much more important than what other people think.
Whether you’re looking to remove dairy for health reasons, to support animal welfare, for the goodness of our planet - or all three! - I hope these tips are helpful.
And please let me know if you have any tips of your own!