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FD Healthy: Ditched Dairy… Now What?

By: Jenna Baker

There are many reasons why one might decide to ditch dairy in their diet. Among the most common is lactose intolerance. If you’re shelling out at Costco for Lact-aid by the case, you might like to know there are a whole slew of other health benefits from making this minor switch.

A Happy Belly

Most adults no longer produce the enzymes necessary to digest lactose, leading to symptoms such as stomach cramping and irritable bowel syndrome. We often become accustomed to these minor symptoms as part of daily life, treating them with over the counter remedies. Long term, this stress on your body systems can cause bigger problems.

Clear Skin

Many dermatologists recommend dairy-free as first course of action against acne and eczema.

Relief from seasonal allergies and chronic sinusitis

Yep, dairy is a culprit in excess mucus production. Folks commonly report relief from these symptoms after going dairy-free

Cancer Prevention

The research is solid with many significant studies showing strong links between dairy intake and several hormone related cancers. It’s not surprising that these studies aren’t mainstream. The dairy industry is powerful and we are still teaching in our schools that milk is a health drink.

Ok, so you don’t need convincing? You’ve decided to forgo the fromage. Now what? Here are a few of my fave tips for surviving the switch beyond the aisles of milk substitutes.

Cream for your Coffee

This is often the first crisis faced in the challenge. There are a whole bunch of dairy-free creamer products on the market now, but most contain ingredients you may also be avoiding. Why consume loads of sugar, artificial flavors and questionable thickeners when you’re trying to make a healthier choice? Now enter the mighty cashew…the vegan answer to all things creamy!

Making your own cashew cream is simple (I promise) and so much tastier than anything on the market shelf. (Recipe to Cashew Cream)

Ice Cream

Can’t live without it? You don’t have to. There are more dairy-free varieties than ever on the market and they have really upped the bar on quality. If you are also avoiding soy and excess sugar there are still lots of sa-weet options. My personal fave brand is Coconut Bliss. Runner up is So Delicious Cashew Milk Ice Cream. They even make a coconut milk version that is sweetened with stevia! These brands have made their way to mainstream markets so no need to endure that post ice cream bellyache ever again.

Nut-based Cheese Products

With rising interests in the benefits of eating a plant-based diet, the market has responded. (Yay for the power of the consumer!) Most dairy-free products used to be geared towards imitating cheese for those with allergies, and contained artificial ingredients…much like Velveeta EW! Now we are seeing new companies working with real artisan cheese making methods to produce cheeses from plant-based milk. My favorite, Kite Hill, produces an awesome almond milk cream cheese that spreads on a bagel just as well as its dairy counterpart. Their ricotta style cheese will make lasagna even your Italian grandma wouldn’t know the difference in. My favorite yogurt comes from Forager project and is made with cashews and live cultures…cashewgurt if you will.

Pizza without Cheese???

Whaaat? Well, yes. It takes a little reframing of the mindset to let go of the idea of stringy melty mozzarella on your slice, but once you’ve experience the physical benefits of living dairy-free, you won’t want to go back and eventually won’t even be appetized by the smell of what is usually a pretty low quality cheese anyway.

When ordering pizza sans cheese, go heavier on the toppings to make your pie flavorful. In addition to the usual veggies, try adding pesto, mushrooms, olives, artichokes, beans and even top with avocado. Better yet, make your own at home! Pizza night is pretty easy to make part of your dinner routine and so much fun. (Recipe to Pizza Dough)

Nooch

Nutritional Yeast. The vegan answer to cheesy taste. You can find this in most markets or natural grocery stores. If you’re trying it for the first time, use sparingly. Toss on popcorn, add to pasta sauce, sprinkle on pizza and use in place of Parmesan in recipes.

Eliminating dairy is arguably the easiest singular change you can make in your diet to get the most noticeable positive results. It can take several weeks to adjust to the point of relief from cravings, but most people report that after an extended time living free from dairy, they no longer have any desire to go back to it.

I hope these tips are helpful and support you in journey to feeling your best!

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