The Best Dairy-Free Diet Plan for Beginners
Here is an interesting fact for you. Human beings are the only species of animal on planet Earth to drink the mother’s milk of another animal, and to drink it regularly past infancy, often for a lifetime. Does this make any sense? The milk from a cow is the perfect nutritional beverage…for a calf. That doesn’t necessarily mean it is good for human consumption.
As a matter of fact, as human beings reach adulthood, almost all of them lose the lactase enzyme required to process the sugar in dairy milk. For most of mankind, this means drinking dairy milk and consuming other dairy-based products results in poor health.
There are a small number of humans that have no problems with cow’s milk adults. However, the majority of those people live in small pockets of Africa and Northwest Europe. The lack of the lactase enzyme means that cow’s milk and other dairy products can lead to lactose intolerance.
The lactose which is contained in cow’s milk does not get digested properly. This results in digestive-related issues, and since most human illness begins in the gut, simple lactose intolerance can lead to any number of serious health problems.
In this guide ongoing dairy-free, we will first take a look at the personal and societal benefits of removing dairy from your diet. We will question the belief that you need dairy for specific nutrients, and exactly what foods and drinks you need to avoid to go dairy-free.
You will discover healthy and delicious alternatives to your favorite dairy foods, some simple dairy-free recipes, and how to deal with cravings.
Let’s get started by taking a look at the specific physical, ethical, and ecological problems the dairy industry presents.
The Problem with Dairy
First and foremost, let’s describe the word dairy. Dairy is defined as foods and beverages that contain the milk of mammals. People think of dairy products coming from the milk of a cow, but milk from sheep, camels, and goats are often used to make food products, and these qualify as dairy-based foods and beverages as well.
There are several problems surrounding the manufacture of dairy products. Let’s take a look at the most concerning issues.
If you picture a naturally idyllic dairy farm in your mind, like the ones in dairy marketing messages and on the sides of containers of milk, you need some reeducating. Dairy cows are mistreated in a number of ways. That glass of cow’s milk in front of you probably comes from an animal who has had 13 to 19 healthy years removed from its lifespan.
Because dairy cows are constantly impregnated, milked and fed steroids and other less than healthy chemicals, they only live 6 to 7 years. A cow living naturally enjoys 20 to 25 years of life.
The majority of a dairy cow’s life is spent in an individual stockade, which allows for very little movement.
The term “bobby calves” refers to a newborn calf that is usually less than 30 days old. The calf has been intentionally removed from its mother, and since cows in nature are excellent mothers, both calf and cow bleat and call out for each other in emotional agony. These young calves are usually slaughtered within the first 7 days of their lives, to the tune of nearly 500,000 per year.
These are just a couple of examples of inhumane and needless animal farming practices that go on in the dairy industry.
There are roughly 300 million dairy cows worldwide. With that many Bessies making milk and breeding, there is a serious impact on the planet. The manure produced by dairy cows is a premier cause of greenhouse gas emissions. Fertilizers and manure mix and enter the groundwater supply, degrading the health of local water.
Countless environmental areas such as wetlands, forests, and prairies are irreversibly damaged because of unsustainable and useless dairy farming practices.
The raising, feeding, and manufacturing of dairy cows require 500 billion cubic meters of water annually. Access to potable water is a topic which, has become a real concern of modern-day scientists. We are already seeing scientific models that show human beings are running out of drinkable water at an alarming rate.
Consider the following facts about how much water is needed to produce specific dairy products:
- Do you like yogurt? To make just 1 cup of your favorite Greek yogurt requires 90 gallons of water.
- It takes 109 gallons of water to make a single stick of butter
- 42 gallons to produce just 1 scoop of ice cream
- 2 slices of your favorite cheese use roughly 50 gallons of water to create it
The U.S. government, and governments in other nations, have been touting the benefits of high calcium content in dairy milk seemingly forever. In actuality, the more dairy milk you drink, the weaker your bones become.
One study, a 2005 paper published in Pediatrics magazine, showed that “… milk consumption does not improve bone integrity in children.”
A Harvard study tracked 72,000 women over a period of 18 years. They found that an increase in dairy milk consumption led to no increase in bone health nor a decrease in the risk of breaks and fractures.
Some studies show that the more milk you drink, the weaker your bones become, especially if you are a woman. Milk consumption in those studies was directly linked to more osteoporosis and other bone health conditions, and a 15 percent increase in the likelihood that you will die from any cause.
Dairy consumption has also been linked to cancer, obesity, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, as well as neurological problems. When you put down the dairy, you promote humane animal farming practices, you help the planet, and you become healthier as well.
Getting All Your Nutrients Without Dairy
One of the biggest selling points of the dairy industry is that milk delivers high levels of vitamin D. Just 10 minutes in the midday sun causes your body to produce enough vitamin D to meet your daily requirements. This gives you the vitamin D benefits of dairy milk, without the downsides mentioned earlier.
You may think you need to drink dairy milk to get plenty of calcium. Almonds and collard greens, figs and plant-based milk, broccoli, kale, and Chia seeds also deliver high levels of calcium.
Riboflavin, better known as vitamin B2, is found in high levels in dairy milk. Eggs and organ meats, asparagus and bananas, breakfast cereals and mushrooms, sweet potatoes, and peas give you all the vitamin B2 you need.
Vitamin B12 levels are often low in human beings because of our propensity to eat highly processed foods much of the time. Instead of drinking dairy milk and possibly promoting the development of cancer, obesity, poor bone health, and diabetes, you can get your recommended allowance by eating soy and rice milk, breakfast cereals, poultry, fish, seafood and lean cuts of meat.
Dairy milk is high in iodine. This is one of the many nutrients that the human body needs. Strawberries, navy beans, potatoes, sea vegetables like kelp, cranberries, fish and shrimp, Himalayan crystal salt, baked turkey breast, canned tuna, and eggs all give you plenty of iodine.
You don’t need to consume unhealthy dairy milk to get the nutrients and vitamins the dairy industry tells you are predominantly provided by their products and services. A healthy plant-based diet, a little daily exposure to sunlight, and the consumption of healthy grass-fed beef and poultry, as well as wild-caught fish, gives you all of the nutrition you need.
What to Avoid
It’s no big newsflash that a lot of dairy-based products have milk in them. This is what causes dairy intolerances and dairy-associated health problems in so many people. If you are considering going dairy-free, it is important to avoid the following foods, in addition to dairy milk.
- Cheese – If you eat a cheese that has been aged, it is going to have less lactose than processed cheeses, which contain higher levels.
- Processed chocolate
- Cream – This includes sour cream, whipped cream, and other creams.
- Dairy milk and condensed milk, buttermilk, powdered milk, evaporated milk
- Ice cream
- Cottage cheese
Additionally, it is believed that as much as 75% of all highly processed foods contain some type of dairy product. This means potato chips, fortified baby cereals, tomato sauce, chicken nuggets, and fish sticks, granola bars and all-beef hot dogs have a good chance of containing lactose, cheese or some other dairy product
By the way, the word to look for on food labels is lactose.
You discovered in the introduction that most people don’t have the lactase enzyme that allows them to process lactose properly. This is what leads to a myriad of health problems which can be mildly frustrating or very serious. Start reading food labels, and avoid any that have lactose as an ingredient.
A Guide to the Top Dairy Alternatives/Replacements
As far as what foods you can eat, fresh, unprocessed fruits and vegetables are wide open. The healthiest diets in the world recommend eating lots of fruits and vegetables, organic when you can, raw if that is possible, or at least slightly cooked.
Focus on grass-fed beef and wild-caught fish, natural nuts, berries and seeds without added ingredients, and all the fresh herbs and spices you desire.
You should also be drinking lots of water. The human body requires about 1 gallon of water daily to keep you healthy and keep your body functioning properly. Sipping on water throughout the day is a good way to keep yourself feeling full, especially if you eat a lot of high-fiber fruits and vegetables as well.
If you want specific alternatives to dairy products, check out these recommendations.
- Instead of cow’s milk – Replace with milk made from almonds, cashews, hemp, and coconut
- Butter – Nondairy margarine, coconut oil, vegetable oil, olive oil, puréed bananas, pineapples, pears and apples, nutritional yeast, and coconut butter.
- Cottage cheese – Mashed or puréed tofu
- Cheese – Smoked tofu slices, homemade guacamole, nutritional yeast, and vegetarian or vegan cheeses sold as dairy-free
- Processed chocolate – Natural, organic chocolate which is unprocessed (ingredients should only list cocoa butter and cocoa solids), and dark or semi-sweet chocolate with no lactose or dairy products on the ingredients label
- Creams – To replace half-and-half and other creams, combine silken tofu with oat, rice or soy milk, or use coconut cream and low-fat soy cream alternatives with no lactose
- Buttermilk – Combine 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice to every cup of healthy milk alternatives mentioned above
- Powdered milk – Powdered soy, potato, coconut or rice milk
- Ice cream – There are nondairy ice creams which are surprisingly delicious
- Yogurt – Look for yogurts with a soy base rather than dairy products, or choose those which are marketed as dairy-free, only after reading the ingredients
- Mayonnaise – Stores like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods offer dairy-free mayonnaise alternatives
Some Simple Dairy-Free Staple Recipes
It is important to have recipes, which are quick and easy to make so you don’t become frustrated and just reach for that dairy product you would rather not consume.
The following recipes limit the number of ingredients you need, many can be made in large batches, and they all taste delicious. Be OrganicallYou has a great collection of videos with healthy recipes. The selection is updated frequently!
Creamy Egg-Free Mayo
- 2 ripe, fresh avocados
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon of lemon juice, lime juice or apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
This is super-simple. Combine the ingredients listed above in your food processor or blender. Mix until well blended and store in your refrigerator in a sealed container for up to 2 days. It should be noted that this healthy mayonnaise replacement is most delicious when used immediately, with the freshest possible ingredients.
- 1 cup white flour
- 1 egg or 2 tablespoons water
- 3/4 cup water
- 3 tablespoons white sugar
- 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 1/2 tablespoons dairy-free margarine
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
Mix your baking powder and flour with the sugar and salt.
Melt margarine, add water and eggs, and mix thoroughly.
Combine your dry and liquid mixes, and you have your pancake batter.
This dairy-free pancake alternative works best on medium-high heat.
Dairy-Free and Decadent Chocolate Ice Cream
(requires an ice cream maker)
- 6 egg yolks (large)
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 3 cups unsweetened almond milk
- 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 5 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
- In a saucepan over medium-high heat, combine half of the almond milk and all of the cocoa powder and whisk.
- Continue to whisk while adding the rest of the almond milk slowly, bringing the mix to a simmer.
- Remove after a couple of minutes.
- Slowly add sugar and remaining milk while mixing, and then add vanilla extract and xanthan gum.
- Stir until thick, and refrigerate overnight.
- Pour the chilled mixture into your ice cream maker and mix for roughly 30 minutes.
- 2 cups oats
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- A dash of sea salt
- 2 scoops of vanilla protein powder
- 4 ounces of applesauce
- 1 egg
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 cup of your favorite nut butter
- 2 to 4 ounces of dried fruit
- 1 packet of Stevia sweetener
- Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl, and then stir in the applesauce, egg, and Stevia.
- Mix well.
- On a greased cookie sheet in a 350°F oven, shape your mixture into 8 large cookies.
- Cook for 12 minutes, let cool and enjoy.
Broccoli Hash Browns
- 4 eggs
- 2 medium-sized potatoes
- 1/4 cup almond milk
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- A half of a head fresh broccoli
- Just a pinch of pepper and salt
- Clean and grate the potatoes and flavor with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Mix well so all potatoes are covered with oil.
- Place this mixture in 8 muffin cups and cook in a 400°F oven for 15 minutes. When placing the potato mixture in the muffin cups, fill the bottom and sides of the cup, leaving the center empty.
- Wash and chop broccoli into small pieces, place in a bowl of water, and microwave for about 4 or 5 minutes. You just want to get the broccoli soft.
- Beat the eggs and milk.
- Add broccoli to your potato mix in the muffin cups, and pour the egg and milk mixture over the broccoli.
- Bake for 15 minutes and enjoy.
- 2 tablespoons cane sugar
- 1/2 cup almond milk without added sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon pink salt
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 1/4 teaspoons rapid-rising yeast
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 tablespoons vegan butter or dairy-free margarine
- Combine sugar, 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, salt and yeast in a mixing bowl. Mix well.
- Sauté butter, water, and almond milk or microwave to lightly heat. Avoid overheating, as this can destroy the yeast.
- Combine your two mixtures and add 1/4 cup flour, beating well for 2 minutes. Slowly mix in remaining flour to give your dough a soft consistency.
- Cover and leave for 10 to 12 minutes.
- Divide your dough into 10 to 12 rolls, place them in greased muffin tins, cover and leave for 30 to 45 minutes in a warm place.
- Bake at 375°F for 18 to 20 minutes.
Chocolate Vegan Cupcakes
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 cups white sugar
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 cup dairy-free chocolate chips
- 2 cups water
- 3/4 cup melted coconut oil
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Place 30 cupcake papers in cupcake tins or pans.
- Sift together the baking soda, sugar, salt, flour, and cocoa powder then mix. Add vanilla, vinegar, oil, and water to the dry ingredients and mix well. Add chocolate chips, pour into your cupcake tins, and bake for 16 to 20 minutes.
- Let cool and add your favorite dairy-free icing.
Dairy-Free Out and About
The smartest way to eat dairy-free when you are at a restaurant or a party is to ask lots of questions. Before choosing a restaurant, you can peruse the list of allergy-free dining destinations provided for free at AllergyEats.com.
The website GoDairyFree.org has a Recommended Restaurant Listings you can access for nondairy dining. Here are a few other tips for remaining dairy-free when you are traveling, on vacation, eating at a restaurant or at a dinner party.
1 – Simply follow the food avoidance tips mentioned earlier. Make the majority of your foods natural and fresh vitamins and fruits, seeds, nuts, and berries.
2 – Keep dairy-free foods on hand. When traveling, it is important to keep nondairy foods and snacks available. This keeps you from turning to food containing dairy products when you are hungry.
3 – Ask if your restaurant has a list of certified dairy-free foods.
4 – Ask if your food has been cooked in butter or oil.
5 – Beware of salad dressings. They often times contain dairy ingredients.
6 – Skip the cream in your coffee.
7 – Don’t eat the free bread and baked goods.
8 – Head to a kosher restaurant. Eating kosher means not mixing dairy and meat, and accordingly, kosher restaurants will be happy to help you avoid dairy.
9 – Go Mediterranean, choosing oil-based or tomato-based sauces rather than creamy sauces.
10 – Avoid fried food, as dairy products are found in many fried food coatings.
11 – Blatantly ask, “Is there any cheese in this dish?” Some chefs and cooks sprinkle Parmesan cheese on menu items that are sold as dairy-free.
12 – Choose a vegan restaurant. Vegans are vegetarians who avoid dairy as well as meat.
Dealing with Dairy Cravings
Believe it or not, you really can beat your cravings without indulging in dairy foods. It is possible to keep from giving into a dairy craving of any kind. One of the most delicious and widely popular comfort foods is pizza.
Some people can’t imagine not eating pizza, with mounds and mounds of cheese on top. Whether dairy milk, cheese, yogurt, or some other dairy product is causing your cravings, the following tips can help you cope.
- Drink a tall glass of water – Water is so simple yet so good for the health of human beings. It is an incredible detoxing agent, which helps remove poisons and toxins from your body. Water is constantly being removed from your body and needs to be replaced daily. When a dairy craving hits, drinking 12 to 16 ounces of water often does the trick.
The way the human body processes thirst and hunger mean those two signals sometimes get crossed. In some cases, you are just thirsty when you think you are hungry for your favorite dairy-based foods and drinks. Also, if you drink water before eating major meals, it can curb cravings before they occur, and helps you keep from overindulging.
- Remove yourself from the craving environment – When you feel an uncontrollable urge to eat something you are trying to avoid, removing yourself from the physical proximity of that food is a good idea. Your senses are related to your eating practices, so the mere sight or smell of a restricted dairy food could trigger a powerful hunger or desire.
If it is possible, remove yourself from the physical location where the craving took place. Go for a brisk walk. Exercise. Call and have a chat with a friend. Take a shower or walk the dog. Do anything to remove yourself from the proximity of foods and drinks which may be causing your craving.
- Eat all day long – When hunger strikes, it is easier to eat food you are trying to avoid than when you are not hungry. A lot of dietary advice in the 21st century talks about the benefits of eating several times throughout the day. The old “3 meals a day” advice you may have been given as a child lends itself to hunger and cravings, so you should be eating 5 to 6 times a day instead.
Eating just 3 large meals leads to mid-morning, afternoon, and early-evening hunger. If you eat 3 main meals with sensible portions and also add 2 to 3 snacks to your daily eating schedule, you don’t feel as hungry as often.
- Cut down on the stress – It is amazing how mental stress can cause physical health problems. When you are stressed and anxious, your brain orders the release of chemicals like cortisol, hormones, and other natural agents, which promote physical and mental stress. This stress cycle limits the amount of “feel good” chemicals in your body and continues the production of “feel bad” chemicals and hormones.
It is in this way that the stress in your life can lead to emotions that are easy prey for food cravings. It is much easier to give in to an unhealthy craving when you don’t feel good. Try to identify the stressors in your life, and consciously work to avoid them. Not only with this helps you deal with your dairy cravings, but it also promotes overall mental, emotional, and physical health and well-being.
- Eat protein – Eating 4 ounces of food rich in protein reduces cravings. Protein takes a long time for your body to process, longer than fat or carbohydrates. This is why eating protein is often prescribed as dietary advice for weight loss. You feel full longer than when you eat other types of foods because your body has to spend more time breaking down protein and moving it through your system.
If the dairy craving attacks, pop a handful of walnuts or almonds. Eat a slice of dairy meat, some canned tuna, or a small salmon filet. Try to keep from eating too much more than 4 ounces of protein-rich foods at one time, as that is about the limit of what your body can process at once.
- Drink a cup of milk – We’re not referring to dairy milk here, obviously. Once you find your favorite dairy milk alternative (soy milk, almond milk, cashew milk, coconut milk, etc.), keep it handy. When you crave to chomp down on some cheese or some other type of dairy-based food, drink 4 to 6 ounces of your preferred alternative milk. This is often all you need to do to control your cravings.
- Begin planning your meals – Cravings often appear as a byproduct of a disorder. You don’t eat at the same time every day, and you don’t have your meals prepared ahead of time, so you consequently find yourself craving dairy-based foods and liquids. If you establish a solid eating schedule and make your meals ahead of time whenever possible, this orderly process can keep you from “cheating” on your dairy-free diet.
Above all, listen to your body. It will tell you what it needs. If you’re not sure if going dairy-free is the right thing for you then avoid dairy for a few weeks and see how you feel. You may be surprised at the results.
Keep a diary and write down what you eat every day. Because even if you do not feel any different or better while off dairy it could be another culprit making you feel the same, worse, or better.
Maybe to compensate for no dairy in your diet, you’ve been eating more sugar. We all know the damage sugar can do to your body. At the very least if you find you just cannot give up dairy, please do yourself a favor and try just eating it once or twice a week so that it doesn’t build up in your system.