If you're trying to crowd out dairy, you may be overwhelmed with all the dairy substitutes available.
As more and more plant based 'milk', 'cheese' and 'yogurt' options arrive at your grocery store, keep these things in mind to make the healthiest choice for you.
1. Read the ingredient list. You want it to read more like a recipe (including foods you recognize and would have in your kitchen) and less like a science experiment. The less ingredients the better. Many dairy alternatives are filled with thickeners and preservatives.
2. Choose unsweetened. Many dairy free milks, yogurts and sauces have a lot of sugar.
3. You don't need a lot of substitutions. Choose whole, natural, real foods as often as possible. Use mashed avocado instead of mayo, olive oil in place of butter and cashews to make a creamy sauce (more on that below).
Here are the dairy substitutes I keep in my kitchen...
Oat milk is my go-to - it has a nice, neutral flavour and is great in smoothies and to cook and bake with. Cashew milk comes in at a close second - it's creamy and I love it in my matcha latte. When you're looking at plant based milks, try different ones - almond, coconut, hemp, oat or cashew and pick what works for you. Always choose unsweetened - the others are filled with unnecessary sugars and read the ingredients - the less the better. The brand I choose is Elmhurst (pictured above) because they don't use any fillers or preservatives - the ingredients are just nuts or oats and water.
The probiotics in yogurt support a healthy gut which keeps everything in your body in working well. For many years I simply gave up yogurt because the dairy free options were full of sugar and fillers. Recently I discovered Silk brand unsweetened coconut yogurt. It's creamy, delicious and has a pretty clean ingredient list. I love the vanilla flavour in my smoothie or on it's own with fresh berries and seeds or this Cinnamon Ginger Granola.
Founded by a fellow Canadian woman, Nuts for Cheese is an organic, cashew based, fermented vegan cheese. It comes in a variety of flavours that are delicious and are 'shreddable, spreadable and meltable'. It's great for your plant based charcuterie board, spread on a wrap or toast or shredded on your veggie pizza. It's made with all natural ingredients and many contain superfoods like turmeric and spirulina.
Don't be turned off by it's terrible name - nutritional yeast has a cheesy flavour and is high in plant based protein and B vitamins. You can be use it just like you'd use parmesan cheese - sprinkled on pasta, salad, baked potatoes or roasted veggies.
When cooking, I use olive oil as much as possible, but sometimes you just need a 'butter'. I like the soy free Earth Balance. It spreads, cooks and bakes just like regular butter.
You can make a neutral tasting cream out of raw cashews. It can be made into a sour cream for your baked potato, nachos or tacos by adding lemon juice and sea salt. Or stir it into your favourite tomato sauce to make a creamy 'rose' sauce'. You can also add in herbs and spices to make a delicious dip. To make the cream, boil water in a kettle and pour it over ½ cup of raw cashews in a shallow bowl. Let them soak for 20 – 30 minutes then drain them. Put them in a small size high-speed blender or food processor with ¼ cup of fresh water and blend for a neutral tasting ‘cream’. Get the recipe for Sour Cream here.
I love dairy free coconut or cashew ice cream - Coconut Bliss and So Delicious are my favourite brands. I try to have it only as a treat, because even though they're dairy free, they still have a lot of sugar and thickeners. A healthier solution? Frozen bananas. Slice up a ripe banana and freeze it for at least 5 hours. I keep frozen bananas in the freezer all the time for smoothies, baking or this ice cream. Blend the frozen banana slices in a high speed blender with a splash of plant based milk and any of your favourite flavours - cinnamon, vanilla, peppermint, berries, nut, dark chocolate. You can also use them to make a dairy free milkshake by adding more plant based milk and a dash of raw honey or pure maple syrup.
I'd love to hear from you...What's your favourite dairy alternative? Have you crowded out dairy and noticed some any changes in your health and how you feel? Let me know in the comments below...