Milk

How I Maintain a (Mostly) Dairy-Free Diet

I found out I was lactose intolerant halfway through high school, thanks to my irritated stomach every time I consumed milk. Yet, I still felt fine eating cheese and yogurt. Unfortunately, it did not last very long. I had reactions to cheese and dairy after a couple of years. A lot of the time, I sacrificed those effects simply to taste cheese. Later, I discovered the world of vegan alternatives. As a cheese lover, these products saved my life.

I’ve taste tested a variety of vegan cheese brands over the years. The best brand I’ve found is Violife. I’ve tried both sliced and shredded cheese from this brand as well as their mozzarella and cheddar cheese flavors. I first tried this brand while studying abroad in the U.K. and was thrilled when I found out upon my return that Publix sold it. Granted, this brand is the unhealthiest, but serves as a good treat. Violife also has a really good tasting cream cheese, which tastes similar to normal cream cheese. I no longer have to eat regular cream cheese to enjoy a bagel.

Another brand I frequently purchase is Trader Joe’s vegan shredded mozzarella. The taste is similar to regular mozzarella cheese, and it makes a great addition to pasta.

I’ve also tried Follow Your Heart. This cheese tastes similar to Trader Joe’s mozzarella. I used to be skeptical of the brand Daiya. I once tried their macaroni and cheese, and it tasted nothing like normal macaroni and cheese. So, I was skeptical to try their packaged shredded cheese. The cheese tasted awesome and melted great once I tasted it, so maybe I’ll give it another go in the future. Unlike Violife, most other brands of vegan cheese contain fortified nutrients such as calcium.

Since going dairy-free, I’ve also had to find milk alternatives. The two alternatives I drink are coconut milk and oat milk. I found out that I was allergic to soy and most nut milks like almond or cashew. I know some people who are lactose intolerant use lactose pills. Eat lactose pills before consuming a dairy product to help counteract the negative effects.

Going dairy-free has its challenges, but with the increasing popularity of dairy-free milks and cheese both in stores and restaurants and coffee shops, it is no longer that difficult. Adapting to a new diet was tough, but ultimately what I needed to feel healthy. I haven’t completely gone dairy-free with my diet. But when there is a dairy-free option, I take it, even if there is an upcharge.

Consuming dairy-free products has been a nonstop adventure for the past six or seven years. I just discovered oat milk and am still finding more ways to eat dairy-free. Lactose intolerant or not, going dairy-free has benefits such as reducing acne and helping with digestion. Am I perfect at eating dairy-free? Absolutely not. Most of the time, I’m surrounded by people who are not lactose intolerant and can eat dairy as freely as they want. I splurge on dairy during those times, because I cannot miss out on pizza or ice cream – for now.