You may have noticed that dairy-free food and drinks options are popping up everywhere. From oat milk lattes at the neighbourhood cafe to dairy-free choices at the local supermarket, alternatives to traditional dairy products are becoming the norm. Consuming dairy products in moderation if you enjoy them and your body tolerates them certainly isn’t harmful. But, research is always advancing and with it awareness is too.
Dairy products are hard for our bodies to digest. It’s common for people to notice discomfort after consuming dairy. If this is you, or if you want to explore dairy-free options, we’ve got you covered. These simple lifestyle adjustments and options will help you live dairy-free without feeling like you’re missing out.
1. Ease into It
For many, dairy products are dietary staples – and much-enjoyed ones at that. Even though eliminating dairy from your diet may seem daunting, the good news is that you can ease into it. Take stalk of your diet for several days. You may find that you regularly eat cow’s milk, yogurt, butter, cheese, and cheese-containing meals such as pizza, quesadillas, or lasagna. Then, consider which of these you truly enjoy indulging in and which you consume out of habit. Once you identify dairy products you can happily live without, ditch them! Without these products in your diet, you’re well on your way to adopting a dairy-free lifestyle.
For me, giving up butter, yogurt, and cheese containing meals was painless enough, but I really missed cow’s milk (especially in my coffee). So, I continued to enjoy my daily latte while I tested out alternatives. Instead of going cold turkey, I was comfortable with this approach because I was able to test the waters without giving up the things I loved.
2. Find Alternatives
So, you’ve eliminated run-of-the-mill dairy products from your diet, which is great! But, simply cutting out all dairy-containing foods probably isn’t sustainable in the long run. Instead, think about replacing them with non-dairy substitutes. Love butter on your bread or added to your veggies? Try a vegan margarine like Earth Balance, or simply use olive oil instead. Can’t start your day without yogurt? Coconut yogurt does the trick for me, but there are also several options for yogurts made with soy and almond milk on the market.
When it comes to substitutes for cow’s milk, however, I’m reminded of my latte conundrum. I’ve found that almond milk and coconut milk hold up fine when added to oatmeal, smoothies, and as a substitute for cow’s milk while cooking and baking. Personally, however, I found it really difficult to find a suitable milk substitute that actually tastes good in my coffee. I know many people enjoy almond milk and coconut milk lattes, which are popular dairy alternatives. However, they just weren’t for me.
Enter oat milk, which I discovered on a trip to the grocery store when I was feeling particularly dejected. It caught my eye as I was browsing the dairy-free milk options, wondering if my quest for a tasty cup of dairy-free coffee was hopeless. The verdict? Delicious. I have to admit that, when paired with coffee, it isn’t quite the same as cow’s milk – but it comes pretty darn close. It’s also tasty when added to chai lattes.
3. Keep the Flavour
A common complaint when dairy is not an option is that dishes lose their creaminess. To replicate the creamy taste and texture in your smoothies, try avocado or nut butter instead of yogurt. Similarly, hummus or avocado make great spreads on sandwiches, and you can use cashews to thicken sauces instead of cream.
4. Do Your Research
Eating dairy-free at home is painless enough, but eating out can be discouraging due to the abundance of dairy products found in restaurant food and drinks. Quite frankly, this is where a dairy-free lifestyle gets tricky. But of course, no one wants to be housebound or miss out on coffee dates, drinks, or dinners out with friends and family, so taking the time to plan and scour menus beforehand is your best option. Dishes that use the words “creamy,” “cream sauce,” “pudding,” and “custard” almost always contain dairy. Calling the restaurant beforehand and asking them to prepare a dish without the dairy can absolutely be done – and I’ve always found staff to be very accommodating.
5. Give it Time
Living dairy-free is a lifestyle change that takes some getting used to. You may not take to it right away, and that’s OK! But, give it time, paying close attention to how your body feels without dairy consumption. You may find that your tummy is less bloated or your skin is clearer. At first, I missed my old dietary habits. Now, though, I actually crave the dairy-free alternatives that I’ve come to enjoy.