What’s the Deal with DAIRY FREE?

Let me just complain for a sec.

If you want something badly enough, you can take all the time in the world, experiment all you want, and go at your own pace until you make it happen.

Something that kills me a little is when someone complains about excess bloating, feeling too uncomfortable after eating something cheesy/creamy, or being unhappy with the results they are seeing while eating dairy frequently.

Now that there’s so much evidence to back up the connection between dairy consumption and symptoms such as bloating, indigestion, long-term chronic health issues, and general illness, it’s worth experimenting with a dairy-free lifestyle.

“BUT… CHEESE… PIZZA…. MOZZARELLA STICKS!!!!”

I knowwww, dude. I was devastated when I realized that some of my favorite foods were slowing down my results and making me feel worse than I needed to.

So this blog is for the girls who are OPEN to trying something new in order to feel incredible. Here’s what I can tell you about MY own changes to eating dairy-free, and why it’s helped me so much.

There are a few reasons why people choose to eat less dairy or go dairy-free. Digestion is one, since many of us are a little intolerant to lactose without even realizing. Bloating is another, as many dairy products are processed and include chemicals and sodium that contribute to bloating. Healthy weight is another, as dairy contains SOME vitamins & benefits, but they are wayyyy overpowered by the damages dairy can do to us and our long-term weight + health (read more about this here).

I guess I’ll mention the animals, too. I’ve become more and more conscious about how my choices are affecting the environment and causing unnecessary harm to animals & the communities affected by animal agriculture, so it made sense for me to try and reduce my consumption.

I can’t speak for everyone, but when I was trying to lose weight, I hit a plateau after about 8-9 lbs lost. I had gone vegetarian and included SO many more greens into my diet. But I didn’t think I could really go more plant-based than that. Cheese, mac & cheese, pizza, coffee creamers… you name it, I loved it.

The thought of “giving something up” was more powerful to me than the idea of hitting my goal and FEELING my absolute best.

But after some time feeling like I was “settling” and that I really might be able to feel even more amazing… I committed to just trying the dairy-free thing for a month.

Andddddddd I haven’t stopped since.

Of course, there have been some foods and scenarios along the way where I made an exception, didn’t plan well, or didn’t notice. But these have been farther and fewer as time goes on and I’m so thankful I didn’t quit or think I “ruined it”.

I reached my goal and lost 17 lbs, I found foods that were just as delicious and didn’t make me feel gross after, and I was able to focus MORE on plant-based foods, which of course helped me get more toned, more energetic, and overall more confident.

SO in this blog post, I felt like I wanted to show you some of the hacks and easy swaps I made that helped me really ditch dairy products. You don’t have to do it all at once, but I highly recommend that your OVERALL way of eating includes less and less dairy. You’ll thank me later. 🙂

Here are my favorite hacks & vegan swaps that I’ve found so far. Everything is linked so you can do your own research & figure out where to start:

COFFEE CREAMER:

Califia is my DREAMMMM creamer when I make coffee at home. It’s just as creamy as dairy AND they have flavors you can pick from. You can also decide if you prefer coconut milk, soy, almond, etc. My personal favorite is the Pecan Caramel one. All day long. When I go to Dunkin, I order an iced coffee with almond milk and when I go to Starbucks, I order an iced coffee with soy milk.

MILK:

Almond milk alll the way. I’ll either use Califia’s plain almond milk or Silk’s vanilla depending on what I’m using them for. These are great for cooking things like vodka sauce, making cereals, and blending into smoothies. For something heavier, you might want to use soy milk because when it cooks, it thickens pretty well. For pancake batter, I’ll mix almond milk or soy milk and a little vinegar and let it sit to become a “buttermilk”. I also will use coconut milk when I’m making something like a curry.

ICE CREAM:

I’m actually not a big ice cream girl but I do miss it sometimes. One thing I’ll get in the summer are these coconut almond ice cream bars. They’re really the only ones I’ll get for home, but then I recently tried the Ben & Jerry’s new vegan flavor and 10000% approve. THANKYOUUU B&J.

CHEESE:

Okay so this one’s complicated, but I make it work. I never liked plain cheese slices, but I hear awesome things about the brand Follow Your Heart. I can’t really review anything from them since I’ve never tried them, but my vegan friends seem to use them a lot. For pastas and meals where I want parmesan, I use this alternative and it’s pretty delish. To season things like roasted veggies and random meals like soups, I love using nutritional yeast because the taste is a bit cheesy and it contains vitamin B12, which you need (especially if you don’t eat animal products). Mac & cheese: I use Daiya brands…. it’s basically the same as the dairy kind – you make it in a box and it’s gooey/delicious.

PIZZA:

One of the restaurants by me will make a full “veggie pie” if you ask ahead of time – veggies like eggplant, broccoli, tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, garlic, sauce, on a crust with olive oil and seasonings. That’s the IDEAL dairy-free pizza for me, where it’s REAL food & not as processed. When I’m in the mood for something more like junk food, I’ll use Daiya Margherita frozen pizza. 

CONDIMENTS:

So I really loved dressings like Ranch, Caesar, etc. But honestly, so many brands are moving towards the plant-based lifestyle anyway so you really CAN find an alternative that tastes similar. To be real though, the dressing I make for myself basically every day is just oil, vinegar, lemon juice, and salt/pepper. I would recommend that because it’s probably the least processed out of most options you’ll see. If you’re looking for brand ideas though, try this vegan ranch or some of Daiya’s flavors.  One last thing I’ll put into this category is butter. I love using vegan butter when I’m indulging a little, and Earth Balance has been the one I’ve used since I switched over.

SNACKS

SO many kinds of chips, crackers, and snacks contain some sort of milk/cheese in them for flavor. BUT like I said before, brands are getting the hint and giving us what we luvvvvvvv. I’ve recently been obsessed with these quinoa puffs (be careful bc they ARE a little spicy), these cheesy chickpea puffs, and vegan popcorn (I was dreaming of this day). One last thing I’ll mention is chocolate – if you’re dairy free just be on the lookout because milk chocolate and some dark chocolates do contain dairy, so it depends on how serious you are about what’s in it. One healthier option is actually cacao nibs, which are WAY better for you and I sprinkle them in things like oatmeal, granola, smoothies, etc.

WOW that was way longer than I expected. I just feel like I had a really hard time getting  organized when I was trying to go dairy free and I realized I’ve never actually made a list like this, even though you guys ask me for the hacks all the time. Please let me know if this helps you out and which ones you try out along the way. I actually now have a pretty long list of ALL the hacks in one place right here if you want to follow as I add more when I find good ones.

I’ll update this if you guys still have questions or need swaps for anything else dairy-related. I’ve got youuuuuu.

What tips can you give someone reading this who’s trying to go dairy free?

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