How To Go Dairy Free with Ease – How To Make A Dairy-Free Diet Practical
Learning how to cut out dairy can seem overwhelming at first. Learn how to go dairy-free while still loving food with these tips. A dairy-free diet doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, with these tips to go dairy-free, you’ll learn the easiest substitutions as well as how to still enjoy some of your favorites.
Making the choice to go on a dairy-free diet can be a huge step. While dairy is commonplace in our society, there have been a lot of articles recently showing the adverse effects regarding dairy. The most common issue being inflammation (which is also the least severe).
I have been dairy-free since roughly 2017. Initially, I eliminated dairy at the request of my Holistic Nutritionist to aid in getting pregnant. Once I was pregnant (as well as afterward) I noticed I was unable to tolerate it.
Common Symptoms Of Dairy Intolerance
It’s said that roughly %65 of the population is unable to tolerate dairy. Unfortunately, the majority of the time this is simply overlooked. We live with many of the symptoms because we either don’t know better or do not want to know better. Some of the biggest symptoms of dairy intolerance are:
- Digestive stress/bathroom issues
- Eczema, psoriasis
Unfortunately, the only way to determine that you have a dairy intolerance is to completely eliminate it from your diet. This means making sure it’s not in foods you may eat like chips, crackers, or protein bars also.
Eliminate it for 4-6 weeks, re-introduce it, and see how you feel. For me, acne, headaches, and bloating simply are not worth consuming dairy products.
However, this blog post isn’t debating the benefits or risks of having dairy in your diet. If you’re here, you’ve probably already decided to try a dairy-free diet and you want to know how to go dairy-free without losing your mind.
Common Questions On How To Go Dairy-Free
For many people, just the thought of going dairy-free is enough to cause a panic attack. Nut what about cheese? Baked goods? Yogurt? Much of this will be answered below.
Keep in mind that learning how to cut dairy out of your diet is a habit, just like anything else. It’s going to take some effort and some time to switch over what feels most natural to you. But it can be done.
Below are simple swaps to help you make the transition to a dairy-free diet. More often than not it’s about getting used to buying new brands and adjusting flavors.
But What About Calcium?
While we definitely need calcium in our diet for health, it doesn’t mean you need cows milk. You can get calcium from a variety of plant-based sources – or use more cacao powder (chocolate!!) in your diet. These sources can be just as effective as calcium from cows milk.
There have been lots of talks as well about how much calcium we even absorb from cow’s milk and it’s my understanding it’s not crucial. Find ways to boost calcium in other areas of your diet.
How To Go Dairy Free – Switch Up Your Milk
This is perhaps the biggest and the most obvious swap. If you’re about to start a dairy-free diet, you’re not going to be running out buying a jug of cows milk. But you will probably want some type of milk on hand for breakfast food, smoothies, and baking recipes.
Thankfully, there are lots of options on the market! While I used to originally stick to nut-based milk, I have since started alternating between that (specifically almond or cashew milk) and hemp milk. This is mainly because too much of anything can cause issues and it’s always good to rotate your fats.
After much trial and error, we settled on two brands of plant-based milk (Silk & Earth’s Own) While there are a few new brands on the market I haven’t looked into, originally the Silk brand was one of the only ones that didn’t contain carrageenan (a thickener). This is really just a personal preference. Some people believe that carrageenan causes some serious inflammation and digestive issues so it’s something I try to avoid.
Rice milk is another option that many people love. It does work well for smoothies and baking recipes however it does tend to be very thin- so normally not a favorite for granola!
Soy milk is a popular one at the moment and it does have a good flavor. With the amount of milk we use in smoothies I chose not to opt for a soy-based product.
We also love Pea Milk (it’s oddly creamy) but I won’t deny that it’s extremely pricy.
How To Interchange Dairy-Free Milk
When it comes to baking, you can simply use the same amount that you normally would of cows milk. Most dairy-free milks I’ve noticed are interchangeable for baking.
If you’re thinking of smoothies or cereal, it’s a bit of trial and error as to what you enjoy. I find that almond, cashew or pea milk work the best for cereal as I find rice milk far too watery.
Using Coconut Milk For A Dairy-Free Diet
Coconut milk is going to become your new best friend. However, there are two kinds of coconut milk: the one in a can and the one in a box similar to the nut-based ones above.
The one in a box can be used interchangeably with any other milk. It is normally very watered down. The one in a can however is your solution to:
- making things creamy (think alfredo sauce)
- plant-based whip cream (you need full fat for this)
- any kind of indulgence
Coconut milk in the can is thick, creamy, and hardens when places in the fridge. It’s the best substitution for cream in a recipe.
Dairy-Free Yogurt Options
If you’re a yogurt fiend and looking into how to go dairy-free you may have a bit of a struggle here- but there are options. My first tip is to learn more about your specific reason for going dairy-free as you may be able to get around it.
If it’s the protein lactose you can’t digest, you may be able to enjoy a lactose-free yogurt (liberty brand has one). However, it is still dairy so if you’re doing it for personal reasons omit.
Again, if your reason is specifically with cows milk, your digestive system may have no problem tolerating sheep or goats milk. Goats yogurt is becoming more popular as it’s easier to digest. Though admittedly the taste takes some getting used to as it’s a bit more bitter.
The Best Dairy-Free Yogurt Brands
Lastly, if you’re looking to completely omit dairy, there is such thing as coconut yogurt (actually now I believe there is also almond and cashew yogurt). Is there anything coconut doesn’t do?!
When I first tried coconut yogurt, truth be told I hated it. However, like many food items- brand matters. I’ve come to really love coconut yogurt, especially the Yoso brand.
I had originally tried another brand and found it so watery I couldn’t get over the texture (or the price!). The yoso brand is actually creamy and has a naturally sweeter flavor- even the unsweetened kind.
Another option though is to… make your own coconut yogurt! I know what you’re thinking… uh.. Joyous Health has a wonderful recipe and tutorial onhow to make your own coconut yogurt. And it only contains two ingredients! Seriously, this recipe is beyond easy and it delicious. You can flavor it how you like and it’s much more cost-effective than buying.
And lastly (clearly I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out dairy-free yogurt!) you can also go the traditional vegan route. Daiya now makes vegan greek yogurt in individual cups. It is rather delicious my only complaint is that they don’t offer a plan version and thus the sugar content is a bit high for me. Their Greek Yogurt in bulk is also extremely thick which is the most similar to a traditional Greek Yogurt. It works extremely well in recipes.
Cheese On A Dairy-Free Diet
Cheese is perhaps the biggest hurdle when learning how to go dairy-free. And truthfully it’s because it’s just tasty and used frequently. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do it!
There are a lot of soy-based cheeses (vegan cheese) on the market like Daiya that come in shredded or sliced form. I personally dislike the Diaya brand for cheese as it doesn’t melt. Instead, try Earths Island cheese. They have both shredded and sliced and it truly melts when you heat it (though it does take longer).
On that note: keep in mind that vegan cheeses do tend to be overly processed. If you’re big into gut-health, they may be something you look into using every so often and not every day.
For appetizers like crackers and cheese or using a spreadable cheese on sandwiches/wraps, there is the option of cashew cheese! Yup, you guessed it, cheese made from cashews! This cheese is tasty, decadent and of course expensive. It’s a great alternative to your favorites and comes in a variety of flavors. Plus, it’s made from cashews so you’re rocking some awesome health benefits when you eat it.
My favorite brand is Nuts For Cheese. I’ll be the first to admit that I could eat a whole sleeve of it myself. It is tasty.
Learning to use nutritional yeast in recipes like Mac & Cheese will open a lot of baking doors as well. On its own, nutritional yeast is a bit odd but when you learn to use it correctly it definitely helps make recipes flavorful! It adds a cheesy flavor to sauces, popcorn, and baked goods.
Be it for your coffee, cupcakes or any other random concoction you feel you’re missing out on, there is a solution: coconut milk. Really! Coconut milk makes the perfect cream replacement as it’s thick and decadent. And my newest find: coconut milk powder works even better because it dissolves in the warm water! I actually did a video on coconut milk powder because I love it so much 😉
It works well to thicken, to use as a creamer, and to make whip cream. I personally haven’t used actual cream in years simply preferring the deliciousness of coconut milk.
However, there are a ton of dairy-free products like frosting on the market today. So if you’re not into making your own, it’s pretty easy to find a store-bought version.
Going Dairy-Free: Chocolate
If ever there was something I refuse to give up its bloody chocolate. Seriously, that’s not even an option! and thankfully, I’ve learned to work around it.
Making your own chocolate-based products is simple thanks to cacao powder (and check out the amazing benefits of this awesome powder, as well as tasty chocolate recipes here!). Buuuttt, having a dairy-free stash of store-bought chocolate is necessary too.
For chocolate chips, I use the brand enjoy Life brand but I also keep a stash of straight dark chocolate squares too. in my experience, anything 80% normally doesn’t have dairy in it because they use cacao butter as the base. These chocolate squares are probably my favorite!
There’s been an explosion of this year when it comes to dairy-free ice cream. It seems people are actually catching on! while many brands simply offer their usual ice cream but with a lactose alternative, I prefer something different.
So Delicious is my preferred brand of ice cream. Specifically the cashew-based one. The coconut one is like flaked water. The cahsew ice cream though is creamy and in texture much more similar to the norm.
Be Thorough When Eliminating Dairy
It’s one thing to make swaps to your most used products. It’s another thing to begin reading labels! However, if you’re eliminating dairy due to an allergy this is crucial. In order to really avoid dairy and dairy-like products, you’re going to have to do some reading.. and not just the label.
I’ve long since learned that marketers have fun sneaky ways of getting around a health claim only to add another ingredient in its place that should be there. So spend some extra time reading the ingredient lists to be sure, it’s the only way you can really learn how to go dairy-free is to figure out what ingredients are just hidden forms of dairy.
More often than not, items like crackers are made with “milk powder” or whey.
Since I apparently can’t tolerate even trace amounts, I’ve learned that dairy is sneaked into an alarming amount of crackers (even when no direct dairy ingredient is present….) as well as anything “snacky”. Read labels and when in doubt, use a digestive enzyme if you need to!
Great Resources For Dairy-Free Cooking
Much of the struggle when cutting out dairy is learning to make new renditions of your classic recipes (and using coconut oil in place of butter!). Obviously, you can scroll through my website here to get a list of dairy-free recipes (they’re all dairy-free!) to help give you some new baking ideas.
However, below are a few of my favorite dairy-free blogs also:
Don’t forget to pin these tips On How To Go Dairy-Free With Ease
Making the choice to omit dairy will force you to change your habits. But there are lots of alternatives, swaps, and tricks you can implement while still enjoy delicious food. Furthermore, if you haven’t made the full choice yet, hopefully, you have a few more ideas on how to go dairy-free- I promise, it doesn’t mean horribly bland food!