The thought of going dairy free can be both daunting and exhilarating all at the same time. I am giving you my best tips on how to go dairy free that really helped me when I finally decided it was time to break up with dairy.
You are going to learn about all how to quit dairy, including dairy free foods to keep on hand to help easily keep you on track.
After learning about all of these tips for how to let go of dairy, you are going to be prepared to take the leap into the wonderful world of going dairy free.
This post is all about how to go dairy free that everyone considering a dairy free diet should know about.
How to Go Dairy Free
1. Know Your Motivation
The first thing you need to know before you make a life change as major as going dairy free, is why you are even considering this in the first place. We are surrounded by dairy at every turn in our modern day times, and going dairy free is much more challenging without a firm why in place.
Whether it’s for your personal health, a close family member’s health, animal rights, the future of the planet, or all of the above, figuring out your own personal motivation ahead of time will make everything that follows so much easier.
I wanted to go dairy free for many years, but couldn’t quite figure out why it would be worth it to make the sacrifice. I always knew I would want to do it for health reasons, and the moment I was sent over the edge from “maybe I should do this” to “I’m definitely doing this” was while I was watching a free webinar by Dr. Brooke Goldner on the truth about dairy. I then went on to watch the documentary Milked on YouTube, and found even more reasons to let go of dairy beyond my own health.
Once you know your motivation for going dairy free, you will be ready to move on to identifying dairy free foods.
2. Dairy Free Foods
There isn’t one right way to do this. You might want to cut back on dairy for a while, slowly trying dairy free foods and learning about making the transition while continuing to eat dairy. That’s what I did for many years. I dabbled in dairy free alternatives and found a few things I really liked, but still ate dairy regularly.
One of the biggest things I came to realize after cutting out dairy was that while it’s fun to try different intentionally dairy free alternatives, sometimes they just aren’t necessary. There are foods you likely are already eating happily that can fulfill the need for cheese. For example, hummus, avocado, and guacamole are all satisfying in their own way and can stand apart all on their own merit without needing to claim to be dairy free. They have always naturally been dairy free and always will be. And they add creaminess to sandwiches and recipes or simply as dips or toppings for crackers and chips. If you like any or all of these, I highly recommend finding your favorite varieties and ensuring that you have them on hand on a weekly basis.
When it comes to legit dairy alternatives, here are my current favorites:
- Nut Pods Almond & Coconut Coffee Creamer: I started using Nut Pods coffee creamer for years before I finally started to go dairy free. When I first tried it straight in the coffee without the dairy I was used to, I definitely felt that something was missing. So I went for half dairy creamer, half Nut Pods creamer for a long time, before I finally realized that I didn’t need or miss the dairy.
- Kite Hill Cream Cheese Chive: I also discovered Kite Hill cream cheese with chives years before I quit dairy. I genuinely felt that it was an adequate replacement for cream cheese. I did not feel the same way about the plain version — I needed the chives to make it work. My kids also love it and they have no idea what dairy free means. This product is a bit pricey and by no means necessary, but I have found it to be a great alternative if you love cream cheese.
- Miyoko’s Creamery products: I have found that I enjoy the Miyokos brand of butter, and really loved the Roadhouse cheddar. I haven’t tried any of their other products yet, but this company is doing amazing things and makes me feel that their style is the wave of the future: actually creating cheese through true cheese-making processes with dairy free nut milks. Miyoko is an incredible woman if you are interested in learning more about her story here.
3. Learn About Dairy Free Restaurant Options
The idea of letting go of dairy can seem overwhelming and even scary and sad, because many of us have likely eaten dairy our whole lives and the idea of going without it can seem like severe deprivation at first glance. That’s just not the way it is though, fortunately!
Think about the cultures and cuisines that don’t traditionally use dairy, or that naturally have dairy free options, such as Asian (Chinese, Japanese, Thai) and Indian. If you already like some or all of these, you can already see that many dairy free options naturally exist without even the slightest hint of deprivation or sacrifice.
Some cuisines might be a bit trickier, such as Mexican or Italian. But that doesn’t mean it’s not possible to enjoy these cuisines just as much as before. If you know ahead of time that you will be ordering in pizza, many restaurants now offer vegan cheese, so you might be able to order yours with nondairy cheese and carry on as usual (although I will admit the taste is not exactly the same at this point in history, but it is certainly adequate). Same goes for Mexican. Avocado and guacamole go a long way in making a Mexican meal completely satisfying, along with many other delicious toppings, veggies, and spices that add flavor.
4. Know What to Avoid
Start by focusing on what you can enjoy before getting too intense about what you can’t have. Just letting go of cheese might be enough to start, before you start worrying about reading ingredient labels of your favorite treats. Going dairy free is a marathon, not a sprint. If you approach it that way, you realize this is your own personal journey and that you answer to no one but you. So you get to decide when you are ready to let go of what foods.
5. Learn Dairy Free Recipes
There are so many amazing dairy free recipes freely available on the internet, it’s mind-blowing. This one takes some trial and error, but it can be fun to experiment.
Consider starting with the meals you already make that are already naturally dairy free, or that would be easy to make dairy free by simply omitting the shredded cheese topping. Then you might make your way into the world of cashew-based “cheese” sauces. Or learn how to cook a completely different dish from a culture that naturally doesn’t use or limits dairy, such as an Indian Curry (something I never made before but have grown to love!).
6. Give Yourself Permission to Enjoy All Other Foods
When I realized I was ready to go dairy free, I decided that I would focus on sticking to that one change for a little while. I gave myself permission to enjoy all other foods that I wanted to eat, even if that was something I normally wouldn’t be so lenient about.
The transition period won’t last forever, and eventually you will find your new normal — a way of eating that you truly feel good about and love. Sometimes a little extra dark chocolate can be even more satisfying than a piece of cheese ever was!
7. Don’t Beat Yourself Up for Imperfection
No one is perfect. Perfection doesn’t need to be the goal. If you have some dairy cheese or whipped cream or milk chocolate, that doesn’t mean you can’t continue to work on avoiding dairy the majority of the time if that is what your goal is.
It’s so exciting that we have so many options today to avoid dairy while still getting to truly enjoy food. This doesn’t need to be an exercise in will power or sacrifice. Avoiding dairy can be a journey focused on all the wonderful foods and recipes that exist beyond dairy.