When I gave up dairy 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 food group out of my diet!
At first it was really tough! The cravings came on hard and fast. I literally would drool over someone’s creamy, cheesy food. 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 that it isn't a beneficial part of a healthy 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 clients and I work together on in their programs. When we focus more on the healing, healthy foods to eat and learn simple ways to enjoy them, we focus less on the actual elimination and it takes on a whole new feeling! A habit that becomes easy to stick with.
Many years ago there were not a lot of dairy alternatives – there was trusty almond milk, some rice milk and a lot of soy options. Fast forward to today and going dairy free is easy, delicious and full of plant based options!
Dairy free alternatives aren't all necessarily healthy. Yes - you are making a healthy choice by crowding out dairy products but filling that space in your diet with overly processed alternatives isn't going to be beneficial to your wellness. Plant based means eating mostly PLANTS ;-) Your best choice is always 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.
Below are some of my current favourite dairy alternatives that I think you will like…
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 in my oatmeal.
The probiotics in yogurt promote a healthy gut which keeps everything in your body in working order. For many years I simply gave up yogurt because 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 it in my smoothies or simply have it 'as is' with seeds and fresh fruit.
Created by a fellow Canadian and awesome entrepreneur, Nuts for Cheese is an organic, cashew based, fermented vegan cheese. They come in a variety of flavours that are 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.
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...