Making the decision to go dairy-free can at first seem daunting. You might ask: “How am I going to adjust my cooking and my meals?”
It may not be as hard as it seems. I have been dairy-free for a while now and do not feel deprived. It is much less work than I expected it to be, and the adjustments really were quite simple.
Why would you or I go dairy-free? There are many different reasons that we might make this decision. Many people become “lactose intolerant,” where their body does not know how to process the lactose. Or they may just be sensitive to the dairy proteins because of “leaky gut syndrome.” Others may be frustrated with the practices performed by the dairy industry, the health dangers caused by the processing of the milk, and the antibiotics/hormones the cows are fed – but they don’t have access or the ability to afford raw local milk or to own their own livestock.
From a nutritional standpoint, dairy is not necessary. Milk has 300 mg of calcium, but a cup of spinach with an ounce of sesame seeds has 520 mg. And there is as much protein in an ounce of almonds as in an ounce of cheese. Contrary to what the FDA and dairy industry want us to believe, a glass of regular store-bought 2% milk has more health risks than it does benefits.
Things may taste very different, but using substitutes for milk is a legitimate way to adjust. However, I have found most milk replacements to be full of genetically modified soybeans, and to be over-processed and expensive. I find almond milk to be a great substitute myself but I think the most important thing when substituting dairy is moderation and balance. For example, if you like soy cheese, get most of it certified organic to avoid the GMOs, and to balance out your soybean intake use coconut milk.
However, I prefer simply cooking without dairy instead of finding or making substitutes. This is what a day is like using some of my favorite recipes:
Scrambled eggs or a veggie and meat omelet, fluffing the eggs with a half teaspoon of baking soda (trust me, you don’t taste it) instead of milk and cooking them in a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil.
Dairy-free whole wheat pancakes.
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp melted virgin coconut oil
1 cup water
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tbsp baking powder
Dash of salt
You can then add nuts, berries or spices of your choice. Pour onto a griddle or frying pan at medium heat and cook for 3 minutes or until all bubbles pop. Then flip them over and cook for another minute. You can top the pancakes with thawed out-frozen berries and honey or maple syrup.
Cut fruits and vegetables with peanut butter or hummus.
Salad with my homemade dressing (olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and Italian seasonings) and grilled chicken on top.
Garlic bread made by spreading virgin coconut oil with Italian seasonings and garlic on a piece of toast.
Zucchini, onions and mushrooms sautéed in olive oil with cooked pasta mixed in and steak on the side.
Dairy-free soft ginger cookies.
6 tbsp virgin coconut oil
Dash of salt
½ tbsp fresh grated ginger root
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ tsp vanilla extract
4 tbsp coconut flour
Spoon onto baking sheet in 1-inch balls, placing them half an inch apart and cook at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until edges brown. If replacing brown sugar with honey, add 1 tbsp of coconut flour. These happen to be grain-free as well as dairy-free.
This is an absolutely delicious day of meals for my family and me. Eating eggs instead of cereal, salad instead of sandwiches, and sautéed veggies instead of macaroni and cheese is such a healthy change yet still quite satisfying.
I love using virgin coconut oil in place of butter, as it is extremely healthy and has even more uses than butter. It becomes solid anywhere under 76 degrees, but has a high burning point. It’s sweet but when you add a little salt it loses its sweetness and becomes savory. It is a little more expensive than butter, but totally worth it.
So if you just decided to go dairy-free, do not despair. Don’t worry about nutrition. As long as you eat your fruits and vegetables, you will be just fine. With a willingness to change and a little effort, you can really enjoy the experience.
What dairy-free tips do you have? Tell us in the section below: