So, you want to go dairy-free. Maybe someone told you that it might help with your skin issues. Maybe you have noticed that you get gas and bloating after you eat dairy and your bowel movements are looser. Maybe dairy doesn’t seem to agree with you as well as it did when you were younger. Maybe you have decided to go vegan. Maybe you are celiac and you are suffering from cross-reactivity. Maybe you have a casein allergy. Or maybe you watched a video on conventional dairy farming and you have decided to give up milk for good. Whatever the reason, many more people are deciding to go dairy-free.
This is evidenced by the fact that the dairy-free trend is growing rapidly, as we have seen with the rising availability and selection of nut and seed milks and ice creams and dairy-free cheese alternatives in grocery stores. Most people know that dairy causes problems for people who suffer from lactose intolerance (in fact, 75% of the world’s population has a decreased ability to digest lactose after infancy) but it has also been associated with constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, skin problems like acne, and eczema, and chronic ear and sinus infections. Plus, many people are choosing to go dairy-free for ethical reasons as well.
Unfortunately, most of us grew up believing that we need to consume dairy in order to get adequate amounts of calcium, which is a critical mineral for healthy bone growth and development. The truth however, is quite different. We can get plenty of calcium from green vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds (see below for a list of high-calcium foods), so don’t let a fear of inadequate calcium stop you from ditching the diary. Plus, you may be doing your body a favour by abstaining from dairy because it is high in saturated fat and sugar, has no fibre, and is acidic in the body.
Now the idea of going dairy-free may seem daunting. My experience in working with hundreds of clients has taught me that no one ever wants to give up cheese! People dread giving up cheese even more than they dread giving up bread when they decide to go gluten-free. Second, it can be incredibly hard to give up because even if you have the best intentions, dairy is such a common food ingredient and additive that it is often hidden in unsuspecting places.
The good news is that with just a bit of knowledge, it can be much easier to shop and eat dairy-free than you may think. Plus, to make it easier for your to transition to a dairy-free way of eating, I have created helpful lists to help you transition away from dairy, as well as a round-up of my favourite dairy-free recipes, which include substitutions for your old favourites like parmesan cheese, cream cheese, pesto, mac n’ cheese, ice cream, cheesecake and even chocolate mousse!
So, to start you off, here are some common dairy-containing foods and their alternatives:
|Foods that contain dairy||Dairy alternative|
|Butter or ghee||Coconut oil|
|Baked goods such as breads, scones, pastries, etc.||Dair-free breads or pastries|
|Buttermilk||Nut or seed milk mixed with apple cider vinegar|
|Cheese (including cream cheese, curd, sour cream, and cottage cheese)||Cashew cheese, cashew cream cheese, or cashew sour cream|
|Coffee creamer||Coconut, almond, or soy creamer, or cream scooped off of a can of full-fat coconut milk|
|Cream–based soups||Puréed soups using a potato or arrowroot flour to mimic creaminess|
|Heavy cream||Cream scooped off of a can of chilled full-fat coconut milk|
|Dessert such as custard tarts, crème caramel, etc.||Cashew cream|
|Ice cream and frozen yogurt||Almond, coconut or cashew ice cream, banana nice cream (blended, frozen bananas)|
|Milk||Nut, seed or oat milk|
|Parmesan||Nutritional yeast, or grated nuts, or a combo|
|Puddings||Avocado pudding or chia seed pudding|
|Spreads and Sauces||Spreads and sauces made with cashews, coconut cream, nut butters, or arrowroot flour|
|Whey or casein protein powder||Vegan protein powders|
And here are some non-dairy foods that are high in calcium (a cup of milk has 300 mg of calcium):
|Food||Amount of calcium per 1 cup|
|Almonds, whole||378 mg|
|Blackstrap molasses||660 mg|
|Black eyed peas, canned||370 mg|
|Bok Choy, chopped||74 mg|
|Broccoli, chopped, raw||43 mg|
|Brussels sprouts, cooked||60 mg|
|Carrots, cooked, sliced||40 mg|
|Collard greens, cooked||268 mg|
|Edamame, cooked||98 mg|
|Figs, dried||242 mg|
|Kale (curly), raw, chopped||137 mg|
|Mustard greens, raw, chopped||60 mg|
|Okra, cooked, chopped||82 mg|
|Pinto beans||80 mg|
|Salmon, canned||480 mg|
|Seaweed, raw||126 mg|
|Sesame seeds||1440 mg|
|Tofu, chopped||868 mg|
|Turnip greens, chopped, cooked||197 mg|
|White beans, canned||191 mg|
See, as long as you are consuming the above-listed foods on a regular basis, you should have no problem achieving your recommended daily intake of 1000 mg of calcium per day. However, if you decide you absolutely, positively cannot live without dairy, then for ethical and health reasons, I at least recommend switching to organic diary from grass-fed cows.
Cows are meant to eat grass and not grains, and by being allowed out to pasture, they can obtain natural vitamin D from the sun and omega 3’s from their food, they live longer and are healthier than conventionally-raised cows, which translates into healthier milk as well. Plus, because these cows are raised ethically, they are not given hormones to make them grow faster and they do not require antibiotics because they rarely get sick.
Finally, here are some of my favourite dairy-free recipes:
- Raw Vegan Cheesecake
- Mac N’ Cheesy Pasta
- Vegan Parmesan Cheese
- Perfect Pea Pesto
- Vegan Nacho Cheese Sauce
- Coconut Panna Cotta
- Vegan Chocolate Mousse
- Coconut Whipped Cream (scroll to the bottom)