Nowadays, there are several types of food or food groups that people avoid due to a myriad of reasons, be it an allergy or intolerance they’ve developed over the years or a diet they prefer to follow because of ethical or health reasons. Avoiding dairy is one food group that people tend to avoid for many reasons, and it’s not always the easiest of tasks to pull off.
Dairy is present in almost everything, and we’ve become accustomed to including it in our meals. You put milk in your coffee or cereal, you use butter when cooking or baking, you gorge on ice-cream after a long day, and you have yogurt for breakfast or as a snack. However, if the time comes when you have to go completely dairy-free whether it’s a preference or for your health, you might find that it’s a little difficult when dairy can be found in anything. Luckily, you’re not alone.
Thanks to the many people who are either vegan, lactose-intolerant, or simply dairy-free, there are now many ways to go dairy-free without a fuss. If you’re considering going dairy-free, read this guide below for recommendations on how to do so and what dairy alternatives you could use.
Why Go Dairy-Free?
Dairy often poses intolerance to many people and causes them to suffer from indigestion or chronic digestive problems. The thing is, dairy is quite problematic whether you’re looking at it from a health or ethical perspective. Health-wise, many people have claimed that once they’ve gone dairy-free, they’ve noticed a dramatic improvement in their health.
For starters, their digestion was much better and smoother, their acne cleared up and their skin has become clearer, and any chronic ear infection or nasal congestion has cleared up as well. Also, they’ve shed a few pounds because dairy tends to be high in calories.
Ethically, many people prefer to go dairy-free or vegan for animal welfare. Cows at farms or dairies are kept in dire conditions to preserve milk production, and it is quite appalling. Whether you go dairy-free for health or ethical reasons, here are a few tips that you could use to help you on your journey:
Understand Substitutes and Alternatives
There are many substitutes to milk currently available in the market that won’t make you feel that you’re missing out on anything. You can have soy milk, oat milk, coconut milk, rice milk, and even milk made out of cashews or almonds. Nuts will be basically your best friend in this dairy-free journey as you can use nut milk to substitute anything in your cooking to make creamy sauces. You can also go for hummus or avocado dips instead of yogurts or sour cream.
Almond butter is great for desserts while coconut milk is also an excellent choice as well. Meanwhile, when you’re craving a good old milkshake, there are many dairy-free options you can choose from. Many use vegan meal replacement shakes that not only give them energy, but they’re also low in calories and are as delicious as a non-vegan milkshake.
Currently, many manufacturers are also creating their own versions of vegan dairy-free products as well such as vegan cheese, yogurt, ice cream, and butter. These products will definitely encourage you to go dairy-free with ease. Many vegans and people who are dairy-free are making it a habit to make their own dairy-free yogurts, milk, or butter at home as well. Many recipes online provide you with the option and ease of making your own products.
Get the Right Nutrients
When you’re dairy-free, you need to understand that you’re missing out on a few essential minerals and vitamins. Which is why you need to make sure you’re getting the right nutrients from other sources as well. Milk contains around 290 mg of calcium, and an adult needs around 1,000 mg a day. You can get your calcium from vegetables like kale and broccoli, or from fruit and homemade fruit juice like orange and lemon. Almond milk or soy can provide you with the necessary Vitamin D you need.
Meanwhile, when you’re cutting back on protein, you might need to double your consumption to avoid any deficiency. If you’re dairy-free only, then that’s simple. Support your protein intake with eggs, fish, and poultry. However, if you’re vegan, you need to get your protein from other sources like nuts, tofu, beans, and quinoa.
Expect Difficulty in Weaning Off
Studies have shown that dairy is quite addictive thanks to the protein found in dairy which ends up reacting with your dopamine receptors. Because of its addictive nature, your body will crave dairy in all its forms, and you’ll find yourself dreaming of ice cream and yogurt more often than not.
So, you might experience difficulty at first when you’re cutting back on dairy or going dairy-free cold turkey. However, think of your goals as to why you’re cutting dairy in the first place. When your eye is on the prize, you’ll feel much better.
One way to avoid this tough time is by planning ahead. If you plan your meals ahead of time accordingly, you won’t be forced to impulse shop for food or order takeout. You also won’t binge on any food item that is filled with dairy. Plan your meals and shopping list ahead of time, and make sure that your home is equipped with the right dairy-free snacks. This will make you crave less.
Read the Labels
You might think that being dairy-free means you only cut out clear dairy products. On the contrary, many food products you consume today actually have hidden dairy culprits. You won’t take notice of them unless you actually read labels and become aware of the different ways dairy can be added. For example, many manufacturers actually don’t use the word ‘dairy’ in their labels, so look out for ‘whey’, ‘lactose’, or any ‘casein’. However, a lot is requested by the FDA to include the phrase “May Contain Milk or Nuts” for those who have allergies.
Going dairy-free might seem like a daunting task, but when planned right, you’ll find that it’s a breeze. You’ll end up feeling a lot better and you’ll feel healthier as well. Going dairy-free might actually be a blessing in disguise, as you’ll find yourself more open to trying out new flavors and your palate will expand.
Interesting related article: “Arnold Schwarzenegger advises vegetarian lifestyle to save the planet.”