Need Help Going Dairy Free? 6 Delicious Alternatives for you!
If you're reading this, you likely are or are considering going dairy-free. You may have an intolerance, have been told to eliminate dairy, or just want to have less of it.
There are a lot of misconceptions about dairy and it’s “need” in our diet that a lot of people struggle with, especially when it comes to eliminating it. Most often I hear people ask about where they’ll get their calcium? Or enough protein?
For those who have an allergy or intolerance to dairy in some form or another (whether it’s the casein, whey, lactose), I wrote a more in-depth article about the differences between the different types that you can read here: Blog Post: Dairy Intolerance: Is it Lactose? Casein? or Whey? This article also talks about calcium intake and alternative sources.
Whether you want to remove dairy because you want to or have to, the good news is that either way, dairy is not an essential nutrient. There is nothing in dairy that you can’t get from other food sources. And the best part is that there are lots of things you can have instead and, in my opinion, they taste great too!
These include not just milk, but also yogurt, butter, parmesan, and even pudding and ice cream!
Dairy-free products are becoming more and more popular. Nowadays you can easily find them in the grocery store. But read your labels! Some contain way too much sugar, or other ingredients you may not want to eat or drink.
If you love to experiment in the kitchen, you’ll love these recipes! I've put together some simple recipes to make delicious dairy-free foods right in your kitchen below.
But before we talk about substitutes, I wanted to touch base on a few health reasons (other than allergies or intolerances) that you might want to consider going dairy free for.
As you might have figured out by now, I’m a HUGE believer in the importance of gut health for overall health and wellness (even when it comes to mental health and emotional health!). And keeping your gut lining healthy (ie. no leaky gut) is key in digestive health.
So how does dairy impact gut health and leaky gut? Well there are a few ways this happens. Dairy contains protease inhibitors which are protein enzyme blockers. They block your body’s ability to break down proteins. This decrease in protein enzymes can increase your body’s production of trypsin which can weaken the tight junctions in our digestive system creating holes (ie. leaky gut). Having a higher value of undigested protein also stimulates our immune system (80% in the gut) creating an inflammatory response. There is then an increase in antibodies formed which could create more allergies/intolerances down the road.
If you have an allergy or intolerance to gluten, there is a high probability that you also have an allergy/intolerance to dairy as well. The protein molecules in dairy, gluten, and other grains or pseudo-grains look very similar. If you’re having a reaction to one, there is a high probability that the others are also creating a reaction as well.
Although not all the grains have equal reactivity, and of course every person is unique, but the highest culprits for cross-reactivity are dairy, gluten, yeasts, instant coffee, and corn.
For anyone suffering with digetive imabalnces, autoimmune disorders, and even chronic pain, considering eliminating any cross-reactive proteins can be very helpful in the healing process.
Fact: Did you know that 84% of people with IBS tested positive for antibodies against milk proteins? Just in case you needed extra motivation to try dairy alternatives!
Honestly, unless you’re a healthy person with no food intolerances, no autoimmune diseases, and no other digestive issues, you should be perfectly ok to have dairy in your diet. Of course, consuming organic, full fat, and fermented sources are best to limit your exposure of all the “extras” that go into dairy products (like food colouring, sugars, flavour enhancers, growth hormones, etc).
But for those who are struggling with health issues (ie. most people I see!), eliminating dairy can have a great positive impact on your health.
A reliable way to monitor how you feel after eating certain foods is to track it. After every meal or snack, write down the foods you ate, and any symptoms so you can more easily spot trends.
Symptoms may not start immediately following a meal. You may find, for example, that you wake up with a headache the morning after eating dairy the day before.
You might be surprised what links you can find if you track your food and symptoms well!
IMPORTANT NOTE: When you eliminate something, you need to make sure it's not hiding in other foods, or the whole point of eliminating it for a few weeks is lost. Restaurant food, packaged foods, and sauces or dressings are notorious for adding ingredients that you'd never think are there. You know that sugar hides in almost everything, but did you also know that wheat is often added to processed meats and soy sauce, and lactose can even be found in some medications or supplements? So make sure you read the labels.
When in doubt you HAVE to ask the server in a restaurant about hidden ingredients, read labels, and consider cooking from scratch.
Ok, so if I’ve convinced you to try cutting dairy out of your diet to see how it impacts your health, go ahead and try my dairy substitutes. Don’t be shy! Let me know what you notice.
Delicious Dairy-Free Milk
Dairy-free milk is so easy to make and flavour yourself. You can make milk out of just about any nut or seed. You can even make alternative milk out of grains like rice, oats, or quinoa. And you can flavour them too.
It just takes a high-powered blender, some water, and cheesecloth to filter out any remaining bits.
For flavouring, you can add a pinch of cinnamon, cardamom, or vanilla extract. You can also sweeten your milk with soaked dates, maple syrup, or honey.
To make a super-simple dairy-free milk just soak ½ cup of almonds, coconut, or even hemp seeds for a few hours (if you have the time). Soaking is optional, but it makes the blending process easier and the final milk creamier. Then drain the soaking water, rinse, and add to a blender with 2 cups of fresh water. Blend on high until smooth (about 1 minute). Add your flavourings, if desired. Then strain through a nut milk bag, fine mesh strainer, or a few layers of cheesecloth.
If you want to make a dairy-free cream, just blend your nuts, seeds and/or grains with 1 cup of water instead of 2 for a thicker, creamier, dairy-free milk.
Delicious Dairy-Free Yogurt
Technically, with the right yogurt starter probiotic culture, you can make yogurt out of any dairy-free milk. The most common one to ferment into yogurt is coconut milk. But you can use almond milk or other nut or seed milk.
The trick here is with the fermentation. If you buy a yogurt starter culture, follow the instructions on the label.
I personally love to make coconut yogurt. I put a can of full fat coconut milk in the fridge overnight. The next day, drain the liquid milk and put the solid coconut milk in a jar or bowl. Add in 1 probiotic (I like using HMF Multi from Genestra) and leave on the counter for 24hours. Place in the fridge after that to allow to harden more. And then you can enjoy delicious dairy-free yogurt in a few days!
Delicious Dairy-Free Butter Alternatives
Nut and seed butter is a fabulous substitute for dairy butter. Plus, they have the bonus of fibre, protein, and other nutrients that real butter doesn't have.
Have you tried coconut oil? It’s a great dairy-free substitute for butter. You can fry with it, or even bake with it. You can even use it to pop popping corn in a pot on your stove.
I love the mild flavour of coconut oil in anything I bake with bananas. It tastes better than butter anyway. If you’re not a fan of coconut flavour, you can try aroma-free versions as well.
Delicious Dairy-Free Parmesan
If you haven’t tried nutritional yeast, you will be pleasantly surprised at how much it tastes like grated parmesan. It’s also full of great nutrients including many B vitamins, selenium and iron!
It’s a salty, cheesy, flaky powder that you can use wherever you want to add a pop of savoury flavour to any dish.
TIP: After you've popped your popcorn, sprinkle it with a bit of nutritional yeast for a salty, cheesy flavour.
Delicious Dairy-Free Puddings
Did you know you can make a delicious and thick pudding without dairy? That's right; the plant kingdom has some natural thickeners that are full of fibre.
You can make a chocolate pudding with avocado. Take one whole avocado and blend it up with ¼ cup cocoa powder, ¼ cup dairy-free milk, 1 tsp vanilla extract, and honey or maple syrup to taste. Then add dairy-free milk to thin if desired.
For chocolate chia pudding, use ⅓ cup chia seeds and place in food processor with 1.5 cups dairy-free milk. Wait for 5-10 minutes until the seeds soak up the liquid. Then add ¼ cup cocoa powder, tsp vanilla extract, and honey or maple syrup to taste. Blend into a smooth pudding.
Delicious Dairy-Free Ice Cream
N’ice cream is another delicious dessert made with frozen bananas. Check out this recipe for a Chocolate Almond N’ice Cream:
2 bananas, chopped and frozen
1 tbsp cocoa powder, unsweetened
2 tbsp almond butter, unsweetened
Add chopped frozen bananas to a food processor. Pulse or lightly blend until almost smooth. Add cocoa powder and nut butter. Pulse or lightly blend until mixed. Serve immediately & enjoy!
Tip: Try different nut and/or seed butter. Or instead of cocoa powder and/or seed butter, use just the bananas with a ½ cup of frozen berries. The recipe combinations are endless.
Are you unsure if you're reacting to dairy? Is it just the lactose or is it the whey and casein too? Or maybe gluten or another grain is the culprit? If you’re not sure what you're reacting to and want some help to identify what your intolerances might be, using the BIE Process can be very helpful.
Sign up below for my free 30 min consultation and get your Whole Body Health Profile to see what underlying problem could be affecting you and if BIE can help.