From bowls of cereal & milk in childhood to cheese-filled charcuterie boards in adulthood, dairy has definitely taken center-stage in many of our favorite foods. But if you are among the many who struggle to tolerate dairy and are working to eliminate it from your diet, it can feel overwhelming to find healthful substitutes! Unfortunately, many options lining grocery shelves are highly processed products that don’t offer much in the way of nutritional value.
Changing your milk is the easiest first step of phasing out dairy. Try these swaps:
- Use coconut milk in your coffee instead of whole milk.
- Enjoy almond, hemp, rice milk in your cereal instead of skim milk.
- Use coconut or almond yogurt with your granola instead of Greek yogurt.
- Make soups with coconut milk instead of cream.
Swapping a plant-based spread for a dairy-based spread is easier than you might think. Try these:
- Use almond, peanut, or cashew butter on your toast or bagel instead of butter or cream cheese.
- Spread hummus all over your wrap or sandwich instead of cheese.
- Slice avocado onto your burger instead of cheese.
You don’t need dairy to top off your meal. Try these dairy-free yet creamy-full swaps instead:
- Squish guacamole into your burrito, fajitas or tacos instead of queso and sour cream.
- Enhance your baked sweet potato with avocado, coconut oil, or tahini instead of butter or sour cream.
- Thicken sauces and soups with cashews instead of cream.
- Pile tons of veggies onto your pizza or pasta instead of cheese. (Not creamy, but still filling and delicious.)
Yes, you can still treat your sweet tooth without dairy. It’s actually really easy:
- Make ice cream out of bananas and/or coconut milk instead of cream.
- Bake with coconut oil instead of butter. (And coat your baking tins with it, too.)
- Blend a hemp or rice-based protein powder into your smoothies instead of whey.
- Use almond milk in your pancakes, muffins or cakes instead of dairy milk.
This doesn’t have to be a bummer without dairy. Here are some simple dairy-free snacks:
- Carrots and cucumbers with hummus instead of ranch dip.
- Air popped popcorn instead of popcorn drizzled in butter.
- Fruit with nuts instead of a candy bar.
- Granola bar instead of dairy-ridden cereal bar.
When eating out, be careful of these sneaky places where dairy often hides:
- In creamy soups like chowders or bisques (or even in some tomato soups!)
- In oatmeal, which is often made in restaurants with milk, not water.
- In thick dressings like ranch and thousand island.
- Omelets, sautéed veggies or anything else in a pan is sometimes cooked in butter.
- Smoothies from popular chains often include yogurt or whey powder.
- Sherbet, unlike sorbet, is made with milk or cream.
And finally, a lot of success with phasing out dairy begins in your head, even more so than in your coffee. Try these tricks:
- When you crave cheese, remember WHY you’re cutting out the dairy: to feel better, to look better, or to live better (with more energy and zest) than you do right now.
- Remind yourself that living that better way will bring you more pleasure than that bite or two of dairy.
- Start simple — pick one of the above swaps and keep with it for a week or two. When that feels easy, add another. Then another. Keep going until you’re dairy-less and energy-full!
- Don’t beat yourself up. If you mistakenly order oatmeal on vacation and realize midway though that it’s made with dairy, don’t tell yourself that you just failed and it’s all over. Instead, be happy you found out, don’t finish the bowl, eat some fruit and remember to ask next time whether or not the oatmeal is made with milk.
Talia Pollock is the author of Party in Your Plants: 100 Plant-Based Recipes and Problem-Solving Strategies to Help You Eat Healthier Without Hating your Life. She’s also a speaker, storyteller, plant-based chef, TV personality, and health and empowerment coach.
Through her popular Party in My Plants Podcast, humorous videos, and newsletter, Talia helps real, busy, everyday people skyrocket their energy so they can boldly show up in their world as their best. Her uniquely spunky lifestyle advice has been celebrated regularly on the Dr. Oz Show, Good Morning America, The Doctors, Forbes, Buzzfeed, Bustle, Success Magazine and in a 4-page spread in her small childhood town’s newspaper. She lives in New York with her husband and her goldendoodle, both of whom love kale and one of whom eats it off the floor. She really wants to email you so get on her list here.