5 Tips On How To Go Dairy Free
If you’ve made the choice to try a dairy free diet either due to allergy or curiosity, you may be feeling a bit stuck and overwhelmed.. I mean, how are you supposed to avoid cheese?! But learning how to go dairy free and eliminate it from your diet can be done.. and you can still enjoy your food (check out these amazing dairy free almond butter cups, or muffins, or cookies!). While I’m not strict about it, I have picked up a few tips almond my way to healthier living!
Making the choice to eliminate dairy from your diet can be a huge step. While dairy is common place in our society, there have been studies showing a lot of adverse effects regarding dairy- inflammation being the least of the severe.
Personally, we opt to eat a very low dairy diet but do not consciously try to eliminate it unless there’s a specific issue occurring. That said, we also don’t rely on milk to get our protein 😉 we don’t have dairy every day and when we do, we chose the best quality we can.
But 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 eliminate or reduce it and need some help- It’s not always straight forward on how to go dairy free!
It may seem overwhelming but below are some easy tips, tricks and swaps you can implement to work towards a dairy free lifestyle.
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How To Go Dairy Free – Switch Up Your Milk
This is perhaps the biggest and the most obvious swap. If you’re learning how to go dairy free 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 healthy granola, 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 one brand we use Silk Almond or Cashew Milk. 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.
Coconut milk is one of our favorites but it’s decadent. I love using coconut milk in smoothies and recipes to make everything creamy (like this Strawberries & Cream Parfait) but it’s not interchangeable with cows milk. It’s much thicker, creamier and hardens when cold. It’s amazing at creating a creamy, decadent texture though so use it when you want an indulgence!
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). It is however 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.
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, specially 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 on how 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.
Update: since writing this, Daiya has also released a dairy free, PLAIN Greek Yogurt and I freaking like it. Super thick and creamy and tastes yummy even plain.
Regardless, at least you have some options!
Cheese is perhaps the biggest hurdle when looking to eliminate dairy. 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. These work well for omelets or wraps if you really need it.
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.
For cooking or baking you’ll be looking at using nutritional yeast. This is actually one of my favorite products because it comes with so many health benefits including B vitamins! Nutritional yeast is a superfood and helps add a “cheesy” flavor to sauces, popcorn or baked goods.
Lastly, Earths Island actually makes a tasty sliced cheese! I tried it not too long ago and unlike other vegan cheeses it didn’t have a gritty texture but melted into a cheese like substance #win
Be it for your coffee, cupcakes or any other random concoction you feel you’re missing out on, there is 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
If ever there was something I refuse to give up it’s 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!
Read The Ingredients.. Not The Label
This one may seem like a no-brainer. But 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.
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!
Don’t forget to pin these tips on how to do dairy free
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. 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!