Every summer when I was younger, my family and I would trek to a famous (and enormous!) ice cream shop about an hour from my hometown. I’ll never forget one specific adventure when all five of us were packed in my mom’s 1998 forest-green van. My mom was buckling me in while holding a banana split when my brother accidentally bumped her elbow, and the entirety of the sundae (read: ice cream, extra chocolate sauce, extra nuts, whipped cream, and cherries) came tumbling onto my head. Rather than making a big stink about it, I simply used the opportunity to double my ice cream intake for the evening, using my tongue as a spoon to properly wipe up the mess.
I was faced with a new food sensitivity.
And this is how I prefer my ice cream: in abundance and all over/around me. So it was a huge blow to the system (quite literally) when I discovered via a blood test last year that I have a dairy sensitivity. Before committing to the permanent elimination of dairy, I gradually began lessening my consumption of it—first switching to an almond nondairy beverage with my coffee in the morning and making overnight oats with coconut nondairy instead of regular milk. These small decisions continued to steamroll, and I both felt better and had fewer mysterious breakouts. I then started to reach for coconut-based ice creams and nut-derived cheeses.
During the summer, however, I am bombarded with nostalgia of my family trips to the ice cream parlor. One evening, I caved and had my favorite—peaches and cream on a waffle cone—only to wake up the next morning to hives covering every square inch of my body. And this is when I realized I had to wave a tearful goodbye to my old friend dairy.
My journal kept me accountable.
As with any elimination diet, I highly recommend starting a detailed food journal. This way you can begin to recognize patterns when you have symptoms surrounding certain meals or foods. The goal is to get to know yourself a little better and learn to discern which symptoms could be stemming from certain foods. Food intolerance symptoms are vast and range greatly: bloating, sinus congestion/postnasal drip, acne, headaches, joint aches, skin rash, depression, anxiety, and fatigue, to name a few. The unfortunate part about food sensitivities is that it sometimes takes up to 48 hours for symptoms to manifest. By keeping a detailed journal, you’re able to much more easily figure out what it is that could be causing a headache or breakout.
For all you worrywarts: You don’t have to be concerned about your calcium intake when avoiding dairy. Foods like dark-green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, collards, bok choy), blackstrap molasses, almonds, oranges, white beans, sesame tahini, sea vegetables, and sardines or salmon are all great sources of calcium. Pairing calcium sources with vitamin-D-rich foods also increases the likelihood of absorption, so try eating foods high in vitamin D like portobello/brown/cremini/white-button mushrooms, eggs, trout, salmon, sardines, cod liver oil, oysters, and shrimp.
It's time to ditch the dairy.
Here are a few more easy ways to go dairy-free:
- Start small. Splash your coffee with an oat or coconut nondairy beverage in the morning as opposed to regular milk.
- Make decadent drinks using nondairy beverages—like an iced almond joy latte. Simply blend 2 cups Pacific Foods Organic Unsweetened Original Coconut Non-Dairy Beverage, 1 tablespoon cacao powder, 1 tablespoon coconut butter, ¼ teaspoon cinnamon, and 1 to 2 dates for desired sweetening. Pour over ice.
- Make your own cheeses by soaking cashews overnight and blending them in the morning with 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast, 1 clove minced garlic, ½ teaspoon rosemary, Himalayan pink sea salt, pepper, and the juice of half a lemon, hemp seeds, and a splash of Pacific Foods Unsweetened Hemp Original Non-Dairy Beverage.
- Have some go-to creamy texturizers on hand: Adding avocado or tahini to a salad dressing or frozen coconut milk cubes/cauliflower/bananas to make a smoothie thicker are some easy swaps.
- Rather than dumping a banana split onto your head, make fun dairy-free ice pops for the whole family! Peach-coconut ice pops using Pacific Foods Organic Coconut Original Non-Dairy Beverage and fresh farmers market peaches are one of my favorites!
Peaches & Cream Dairy-Free Ice Pops
- 1 cup full-fat coconut milk
- 1 cup Pacific Foods Organic Coconut Original Non-Dairy Beverage
- 3 peaches
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- Sauté peaches in coconut oil, maple syrup, cinnamon, and nutmeg until soft and wilted.
- In a separate bowl, mix full-fat coconut milk and Pacific Foods Organic Coconut Original Non-Dairy Beverage together.
- Combine peaches and cream mixture.
- Add mixture to ice-pop molds and freeze until hardened, about 4 hours.
While the idea of going dairy-free may seem overwhelming at first, it’s much easier and more delicious than you’d think. I can say this with confidence as a previous ice cream addict. Just try it for a day and see how you feel using the above tips—I dair(y) ya!