How to (Easily) Cut Dairy Out of Your Life

Dairy: a guilty pleasure, a somewhat abusive relationship, a rollercoaster love affair, but, nonetheless, an American staple. You’d think that with 65% of the population having a “reduced ability to digest lactose after infancy,” (U.S. National Library of Medicine) that we all would have given up dairy products sooner. And though so many of us are "lactose intolerant," we don't seem to be intolerant enough to give up our Dominos Pizza or our Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, or even our Grande whole milk lattes. You may be one of "us", the one who groans at dinner parties that the Fettuccine Alfredo is "going to hurt later," the one who assures everyone that your intolerance is real even though you’re two grilled cheeses deep into lunchtime, sometimes you might make the responsible decision to leave off the cheese of your bacon cheeseburger, but other times you add extra parmesan to your carbonara, and don’t look back. I get it. Giving up your love of milkshakes, and ice cream sundaes, and extra cheese pizzas is difficult. It’s the heartbreak you are never prepared for. But this breakup is much easier than you think. And even if you are a part of the lucky 35% who can process lactose, there is, believe it or not, still a need to give up the milk, and cheese, and yogurt we know and love. These cappuccinos and parfaits are not only hurting our stomachs, but our planet too. In fact, according to One Green Planet.org, “the global water footprint of animal agriculture is 2,422 billion cubic meters of water (one-fourth of the total global water footprint), 19 percent of which is related to dairy cattle.” So if you aren’t entirely convinced the switch is worth it for you, think about all the cows and gallons of water you’ll be saving. With that, my disobedient, lactose intolerant and eco-friendly friends, let’s make the adjustment you should have made a long time ago. Break up with dairy milk, and join the almond milk family: here's how.

1. Adopt a mindset of adding, not subtracting. 

You have to view your new dairy-free lifestyle as an addition to your life, not a loss. And much like any other diet, viewing your new eating habits as a sacrifice will only lead to a mid-diet depression. Think about all the delicious new products you'll be adding to your fridge (do I sound like an infomercial yet?) 

 

2. Start with the easiest transition: Dairy Free Butter 

Butter is essentially the accessory of foods. It goes with toast. It's great with pastas, and muffins, and is hidden inside your favorite desserts. But, I can almost guarantee that you have never stopped mid bite of a cupcake and thought, "damn, what delicious butter." Which is why it's the easiest dairy-free transition to make. Some dairy-free/vegan butters are NOTICEABLY different, and even have the slight aftertaste of Play-Doh. But my favorite, Smart Balance Buttery Spread tastes almost exactly like normal butter/margarine. And don't worry, you can find in every local grocery store, even Walmart, who couldn't give a sh*t about the vegans and dairy-free people of the world. And the best part yet, is that it's not expensive like other vegan products. It's the same price as your precious I Can't Believe It's Not Butter that you store in the back of your fridge, and you can use it in the exact same ways: greasing pans, baking treats, on breads, etc., etc. 

 

3. Then face the scariest/most heartbreaking transition: Dairy Free Ice Cream 

I know it's devastating to think about replacing your rocky road, binge-friendly tub of ice cream with a non-dairy alternative...but it's not nearly as hard as you think. Dairy-free ice cream does, inarguably, taste different than your tub of Breyer's mint chocolate chip, but some people think it tastes even better. Although there are some downsides to making this vegan/non-dairy transition. Sadly, non-dairy ice cream is significantly more expensive than your favorite $2.50 gallons of ice cream.  But the freedom this vegan alternative gives you to eat an entire pint, without having to deal with the grueling stomach ache after may make the extra $2 it costs worth the venture. And because so many people are making the switch to non-dairy products, manufacturers are adding new varieties, flavors, to the non-dairy market every day. My personal favorite  is the So Delicious brand, cashew milk ice cream because it still has that rich creaminess of regular dairy ice cream, just minus the acne breakout that follows.

3. Then move on to the non-dairy switch you should have done a long time ago: Non-Dairy Milk 

Non-dairy milk is something that is very near and dear to my heart; some might even consider me a non-dairy milk extremist. But despite my militant stance against whole milk, I, too, was once a milk fiend. I used to drink a glass of whole milk with every meal. I'd have it in cereals. With cookies in milk. I'd even drink it alone as an after school snack *shudders*. But with so many non-dairy milk alternatives: almond milk, soy milk, cashew milk, rice milk, etc., you really have no excuse to still be using dairy milk. It's 2018 people, let go of your beloved 2%. I always recommend that people start with sweetened almond milk, because it has the same creaminess and thickness of milk, just with more sugar. If you remember anything from this article, remember this: do NOT begin your non-dairy transition with unsweetened dairy alternatives. Just like you would never start drinking coffee with a black, unsweetened dark roast, you should never jump headfirst into the non-dairy game with the, sometimes frightening, unsweetened non-dairy beverage. The added sugar is your friend. Once you get used to the taste of almond milks and cashew milks, feel free. Be brave. There are still delicious unsweetened milks. But, it is not for the faint of heart, nor the doubtful dairy enthusiast. 

 

4. Chocolate Non-Dairy Milk is Your Best Friend 

You will never drink chocolate dairy milk again once you get your hands on the heaven-sent of dark chocolate almond milk. Give it to your toddlers. Have it for a treat after dinner. Sure, you may be consuming 45 grams of added sugar, but who cares? You transitioned to non-dairy milk and are saving the planet (and your stomach). You deserve it. 

 

 

4. JUST PUT NON-DAIRY MILK IN YOUR LATTES/FRAPPES ALREADY 

With all the sugar and flavorings the modern specialty beverage contains, you won't even realize you're drinking non-dairy milk when you order your hazelnut latte with almond milk. You'd be hard pressed to find a cafe that doesn't carry non-dairy alternatives, in this day and age. So next time, try your caramel Frappuccino with almond milk or soy milk instead. There's really no reason not to, since all those pumps of caramel drizzle will mask any hint of a nutty milk taste. 

5. Follow this non-dairy milk guide

So you may be wondering, if there are so many non-dairy milk alternatives, which one do you use for which purpose? Which one is the best in cereals? Which is the best one in coffee? Which one pairs best with homemade cream sauces? Look no further. Here's your comprehensive guide. 

Cereals: Unsweetened/Sweetened Almond Milk 

Curries: Coconut Milk 

Pastas/Cream Sauces: Unflavored Soy Milk 

Baking: Almond or Cashew Milk 

Waffles & Pancakes: Almond Milk 

Coffee: Up to your own personal preference

 

7. Finally, buckle your seat belts for the hardest switch of all: Non-Dairy Cheeses 

While some websites and Youtubers might try and convince you that non-dairy cheeses really aren't that bad, this is a complete and total lie. There are some pretty, well, funky non-dairy cheeses, and 99% of the time they taste NOTHING like the cheeses you love. However, I do have some vegan cheeses on hand that I can mask in grilled Paninis (my personal favorite is the Follow Your Heart brand) But trust me when I tell you that you should never make a sandwich where vegan cheese is the star of the show: add meats, veggies, and other spreads to liven up (or hide) the flavor of non-dairy cheese. 

8. Accept that sometimes 50% Dairy Free is OK 

Because I know how difficult it is to incorporate and enjoy non-dairy cheeses. Sometimes, you'll just need to settle for some good Kraft Singles (especially when you consider how pricey vegan cheeses are). You can't judge yourself or others for these exceptions. Something is better than nothing. For example, if you can't seem to put non-dairy cheese in your homemade Mac N' Cheese, sprinkle in some good ole' fashioned cheddar, BUT substitute the dairy milk for soy milk, and add vegan butter (as the vegan butters and milks have a more subtle flavor). Even the smallest efforts to a non-dairy life are worth praising. 

 

9. Recognize that cheat-days are also OK 

Yes, it's very difficult to be 100% dairy free, especially when you consider college budgets, family parties, and being under the will of what your immediate family likes to eat for dinner, when you live at home. So enjoy your cheat days. Don't beat yourself up. If you didn't enjoy a good dairy-filled Carbonara every now and again, what a sad world that would be. Go out to eat at non-dairy and non-vegan restaurants, and order the pizza. Just keep your consumption to a minimum, and the planet (and your stomach) will thank you. And when you do decide to cheat, try the Lactaid pill, which has natural Lactase that helps you digest your favorite dairy products. 

 

 

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