I've had a love-hate relationship with dairy for many years. While my taste buds love the stuff, my digestive system does not, and I lived for a long time with a host of not-so-sexy side effects such as mucus, stomach cramps, bloating, poor sleep and a general lack of energy.
About 18 months ago I drastically decreased my dairy consumption, and I've never felt so good. I didn’t realize it at the time, but eating dairy was affecting my mood as well as my stomach — after a big glass of milk or bowl of yogurt I actually got a little mean!
While I still enjoy the occasional slice of cheese or butter (I don’t notice a reaction if I consume them in small quantities), my longstanding love affair with dairy has ended. If you experience any of the same symptoms that I did you may also find it beneficial to kiss the cream goodbye.
Giving up a favorite food can be challenging, but it's much easier when you can replace it with something equally delicious. Read on to learn about my five key dairy swaps that made ditching the habit simpler than I suspected:
1. Use coconut milk instead of cream in coffee.
I resisted trying coconut milk in my coffee for the longest time, but after the first sip I was hooked. Delicious taste aside, the real benefit of using coconut milk was that I no longer experienced indigestion or nausea, as I sometimes did when using cream. It’s amazing that eliminating just one tablespoon of dairy can make such a difference!
2. Eat frozen bananas instead of ice cream for dessert.
In my dairy heyday, I loved ice cream, but the cream coupled with the sugar was a recipe for disaster when it came to my stomach and my mood. These days I eat slices of frozen banana when I am craving that cold, sweet, creamy taste. It takes me back to being a kid in Australia and licking banana Paddle Pops on a hot summer day.
3. Get creative with dips and spreads.
I knew that cheese would be the hardest to let go because for me, nothing beats a thick slice of Brie on fresh bread. To fill the void and keep me satisfied, I turned to dips and spreads that packed a big flavor punch.
My top picks:
- Tahini-only hummus (blend equal parts tahini and water with garlic, lemon juice and salt to taste, until thick and creamy)
- Parmesan-free pesto (blend basil, olive oil, pine nuts, garlic and salt)
- Olive tapenade (blend olives, capers, garlic and lemon juice)
4. Start making nut or oat milks.
Once I got over the mental hurdle that nut milks have a different taste and texture than cow’s milk, I was happy to join the dairy-free milk movement. I make my own milks using almonds, cashews, brown rice or oats because it’s cheaper and free of chemical nasties such as carrageenan.
5. Use coconut oil or stock for cooking, and spread avocado on toast.
For those who say it’s easy to give up dairy, I have three words for you: buttery mashed potatoes! While I can tolerate a little butter on occasion, I usually substitute it with coconut oil or vegetable stocks when cooking, and spread avocado on my toast.
I hope you enjoy these five tips for transitioning to a dairy-free life. I'd love to hear what some of your favorite dairy alternatives are!
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