When I gave up dairy (almost 10 years ago) amazing things happened – my fairly severe cystic acne cleared up (this took about 6 months), my digestion issues went away (this happened within 2 days) and I had more energy and less brain fog and exhaustion. I know! Amazing, healthy changes from crowding one item out of my diet!
I thought it was going to be impossible! I adored a cheese pizza, cereal and milk were my go to breakfast and I loved a good mint chip ice cream. Oh, how times have changed!!!
At first it was really tough! The cravings came on hard and fast. I literally would drool over someone’s creamy, cheesy food – (please let me at least smell it). I stuck with it because I knew it was the key to feeling (and looking) better. The more research I did, the more I realized how much I didn’t want it in my diet. I began filling my plate with beautiful fresh vegetables, protein rich seeds, nuts and beans – delicious, clean, healthy foods. The funny thing is, after about 6 or 7 months, the cravings went away, it became a non-issue – like dairy didn’t even exist in my life. This is the beauty of crowding out foods – a concept I work on with all of my clients. When we focus more on the healthy foods we can and should be eating and learn ways to enjoy them, we focus less on elimination and it takes on a whole new feeling! A habit that becomes easy to stick with.
Are you ready to take dairy out of your diet? Learn more on the amazing healthy reasons to start today with Is It Time For You to Ditch Dairy?
At the time I went dairy free, there was not a huge number of dairy alternatives – of course there was trusty almond milk, some rice milk and a lot of soy options which I don’t care for. Fast forward to today and going dairy free is easy, delicious and full of plant based options!
As you know, my main focus is on a HEALTHY plant based diet. Yes, it is easy to go to the store and stock up on very processed, sugar filled alternatives - but that's not really the point of going plant based. And you most likely aren't going to see the positive affects. Yes - you are making a healthy choice by crowding out dairy and meat products but filling that space in your diet with unhealthy alternatives isn't going to be beneficial to your wellness. Remember plant based means eating mostly PLANTS ;-) Your first choices should always be whole, natural foods like fruits and veggies, nuts, seeds, whole grains, beans and lentils. Then you fill in the small gaps with the healthiest alternatives you can find. Always read your labels - go for low sugar, a short ingredient list and one that reads more like a recipe than a science experiment. Ok, I'm done with my soapbox!
Ps. if you need help navigating a healthier diet, I'm here to help as your nutrition and health coach! Check out my individual coaching programs here.
Below are my current favourite dairy alternatives…
Almond is definitely my favourite plant based milk. I always choose unsweetened to avoid extra sugar. I tend to go back and forth between the Califia brand which tastes amazing and has no carageenen (a thickener used in many dairy free products) and the Earth's Own which is also delicious and fortified with vitamin B12 and D. I'm not one to drink a glass of almond milk but I do use it in smoothies, baked goods, to cook with and sometimes in my oatmeal.
The probiotics in yogurt promote a healthy gut which literally keeps everything in your body in working order. For many years I simply gave up yogurt because all the dairy free options were full of sugar and fillers. It was actually this past year that I discovered the Silk brand coconut yogurt. I love the unsweetened vanilla flavour - creamy, delicious and a pretty healthy ingredient list. I like to put some in my smoothies or simply have it as is with some seeds and fresh fruit.
Created by a fellow Canadian and awesome entrepreneur, Nuts for Cheese is an organic, cashew based, fermented plant based cheese. They come in a variety of flavours that are honestly all delicious and are 'shreddable, spreadable and meltable'. They also look gorgeous on a plant based charcuterie board! They are made with all natural ingredients and some contain superfoods like turmeric and spirulina!
Yes, it has a terrible name but it is a really healthy food! It has a cheesy flavour and can be used to sprinkle like you would parmesan - on pasta, salad, baked potatoes or roasted veggies. It is absolutely full of energizing B vitamins and also contains protein! Learn more about it and how to use it: Ingredient Spotlight - What is Nutritional Yeast?
Earth Balance is the brand I have used from day one. I choose the soy free option. You can cook and bake with it just like you would butter and it is delicious on a piece of sprouted grain or gluten free bread. I serve it to my whole family and no one notices the difference.
This is really the ultimate, healthy dairy alternative. Soak 1/2 a cup of raw cashews in boiling water for 30 minutes. Drain, rinse and blend them with 1/4 cup of water in a high speed blender. It is a calcium, protein rich cream that has a neutral flavour. You can mix in lemon juice and apple cider vinegar to make it sour cream - delicious on baked potatoes or you can add vanilla extract and cinnamon to make it a sweet cream. It can be a base for any sauce you can imagine with any herbs, veggies or flavours you like. So simple and so delicious!
I do occasionally enjoy a store bought coconut or cashew ice cream - Coconut Bliss and So Delicious are my fav brands. I do try not to keep it in the house too often because if its here, I will eat it and although they are dairy free they still have quite a bit of sugar and thickeners. The healthier solution? Frozen bananas. Slice up a ripe banana and freeze it for at least 5 hours. I keep them in the freezer at all times to cut down on wait time. Then blend them in a high speed blender with your favourite flavours - cinnamon, vanilla, peppermint, dark chocolate...the dairy free ice cream world is your oyster! You can also use them to make a dairy free milkshake with your fav plant based milk and a dash of raw honey or pure maple syrup.
Creamy Recipes to Try... (trust me - you won't miss the dairy)
I would love to hear from you! What is your fav dairy alternative? Have you given up dairy and noticed some amazing, healthy changes? Let me know in the comments below...