I’ve been dairy-free for about seven years now. I can honestly say that I don’t miss dairy at all, and that the benefits have been truly life changing for me and my family. When people find out that I am dairy-free, they always ask “How on earth do you do it?” or “Isn’t it so difficult?” Today I want to share with you why going dairy-free isn’t nearly as hard as you may think and offer some tips and tricks to make it work for you and your lifestyle.
WHY Go Dairy-Free?
Before we get into the how-to of going dairy-free, let’s talk about why it’s worth it in the first place. My personal dairy-free journey began when my daughter was an infant and she was having extremely negative reactions to nursing—seizures, rashes, and blood in her stool. After some investigating, we realized that the dairy I was consuming was the culprit. I began to educate myself about dairy and what it actually does to the human body. It actually makes a lot of sense when you think about it. Dairy comes from cows and is meant to feed their calves to help them grow a whopping 300 pounds during the first year of life! Now think about all of the dairy that the average American eats by way of cheese, butter, sour cream, milk, yogurt, etc. While the proteins found in dairy are great for helping cows grow, they were never meant for our human bodies!
So what does dairy do to human body? The most common effect is low-grade inflammation that upsets gut health, but it can also trigger allergies, asthma, and skin disorders. Going dairy-free has been shown to have a hand-full of really great outcomes including acne and eczema improvements, healthier hair and skin, better mood and decreased stress, and boosted respiratory and digestion health among other crazy good benefits.
HOW To Go Dairy-Free
It’s not as hard as you might think, I promise! Here are my top tips:
1. Remember the WHY:
Why are you giving up dairy? Are you breastfeeding and doing it for the health of your baby? Are you hoping to get rid of constant bloating or a skin issue? It’s important to remember what got you started on this journey, especially in the beginning when you are adjusting to living a dairy-free lifestyle.
2. Focus on what you CAN have, not what you CAN’T:
So many dairy-free options exist these days, so spend a little time researching and finding products and dairy alternatives that you love instead of lamenting all of the things that you are trying to avoid. I swear, there are SO MANY great options to replace the dairy products you feel like you can’t live without.
3. Go Cold Turkey
The best way to do this thing is to JUST DO IT. Trying to phase out dairy will just make you miserable and drag the process out—it will also cause you to continue to crave your dairy faves
4. Learn to Read Labels
You’re going to be shocked to learn just how many products are hiding dairy! It’s not just milk, butter, and creams you have to look out for. Whey, lactose, and casein are all dairy ingredients that should be avoided. Read up on products like crackers, sauces, cereals, soups, etc.
5. Plan Ahead
If you’re going to go dairy-free, you’ve got to do a little planning—especially in the beginning. If you’re going to eat out, look up the menu ahead of time and ask about dairy-free options. Don’t be shy about bringing dairy-free substitutes from home like dressings or sauces. If you’re really in a bind, just order a salad—hold the cheese, dressing on the side, and add some nuts, beans, or animal protein.
6. Stock Dairy-Free Snacks
As I mentioned earlier, there are TONS of great dairy-free products on the market, including snacks. Make sure to keep safe snacks on hand—I always have some in my car and in my purse. This way, you won’t be tempted to fall back on old favorites or consume dairy-filled snacks out of necessity.
Dairy-free living doesn’t mean you can’t have a decadent treat every once and a while. I’ve got TONS of great sweet dairy-free recipes on my blog for when you need a little something-something.
Here’s a little cheat-sheet to help you get started on your dairy-free journey. These swaps really are simple!
Swapping dairy milk for alternatives is the easiest and most important first step in phasing out dairy. Learn your milk substitutes: cashew milk, coconut milk, almond milk, soy milk, oat milk and rice milk are among the many dairy-free alternatives and taste just as good in whatever you’re making. Here are some of my favorite ways to substitute:
Swapping a plant-based spread for a dairy-based spread is easier (and tastier) than you might think. Try these:
You don’t need dairy to top off your meal. Try these dairy-free yet creamy toppings instead:
Yes, you can still treat your sweet tooth without dairy. It’s actually really easy:
Snack time doesn’t have to be a bummer without dairy. Here are some simple dairy-free options:
When eating out, be careful of these sneaky dairy hideouts:
BELOW ARE A FEW OF MY FAVORITE DAIRY-FREE BRANDS!