Going dairy-free is something that several people are doing. To us, it seems like so much more of a challenge than a meat-free or gluten-free diet. No more butter and cheese? No more ice cream?! It truly sounds like the apocalypse is upon us. But turns out all our drama is for naught, as not only are there perfectly sound reasons to go dairy-free, there are also so many substitutes to be used. Apocalyptic or not, we’ve written out an easy way to change the way you cook: adapting to a dairy-free lifestyle has never been easier.
A Dairy-Free Lifestyle – What Is It?
If you haven’t yet guessed it from the (fairly obvious) name, a dairy-free lifestyle means completely omitting all dairy products from your diet. This is not just limited to basics like milk, butter and cheese, but also products like yoghurt, kefir and whey. There’s many reasons people opt for dairy-free diets, one of the main ones being lactose intolerance.
For a lot of us, a heavy meal of tacos or cheesy pizzas or delicious pasta is followed by some profound laziness and a nap. Unfortunately, there’s a load of people who suffer from diarrhea, stomach aches and other much less pleasant sensations. All ye who are plagued by lactose intolerance, our hearts go out to you. Dairy is also believed to be a cause of acne. No wonder people are beginning to give it up.
Interesting: FODMAP 101 – All That You Need to Know!
When we said there’s a lot of dairy substitutes, we weren’t lying. According to a survey by Nielsen, almond-milk is one of the top dairy-free substitutes that Americans purchase.
More choices await, each with different flavors and nutritional benefits. But remember, dairy-free does not equal healthy, as these substitutes can also be heavily processed or modified. Read the labels and do your research before narrowing down on one type and brand.
Types Of Non-Dairy Milks
Plant based: Soy milk, rice milk, oat milk, quinoa milk, hemp milk, flax milk.
Nut based: Almond milk, cashew milk, hazelnut milk, coconut milk.
Interesting: 8 Nuts to Eat for Good Health
Using: Dairy-Free Milk When Cooking
When it comes to flavor, almond milk, soy milk and unsweetened coconut milk are fairly neutral. On the other hand, oat milk, flax milk and hemp milk have slightly prominent tastes. However, this will also vary from brand to brand. If you want something creamy, go for any of the nut milks or soy milk. These two, along with coconut milk, are also great as milk substitutes when baking. Nut milks can add a delicious depth of flavor when used in a soup. Coconut milk is great in curries, and is actually a staple in several Indian and South Asian dishes! On the other hand, rice milk is the thinnest milk substitute.
Of course, if plant-based milks exist, plant-based butter does too! While there’s no milking or churning involved, plant-based butters come pretty darn close to the real thing, and serve well as dairy substitutes. You’ll find several that use olive or avocado oil as their butter bases, as well as some with cashew cream and coconut oil. Bet your Betty Botters that this better butter will make any batter better!
Of all the types of dairy-free yogurts, soy, almond and coconut milk yogurt are most common. This is because their milks are naturally fatty, and thus the best to make yogurt. Unsweetened options are always available for those who want their yogurt to be as natural as possible, or just want that tangy yogurt taste. Plus, they contain probiotics just like regular yogurt does.
Alright. Every rose has its thorn, and every dairy substitute has it’s product that not so much resembles its milk-derived counterpart as much as it seems like a slightly shoddy imitation. Cheese is quite distinct in flavor and texture, which is why dairy-free cheese won’t exactly taste “cheesy”. Nonetheless, it does taste pretty good, though some of you will have to do a cheese tasting before you find the one you’ll gorge on. The good part is that just like dairy cheese, non-dairy cheeses also come in different forms. From spreads to slices to shreds, you can definitely find one that gives you that pizza topping yumminess, or that mac-n-cheese melt of your dream.
Dairy-Free Ice Cream
Ice cream’s fame and popularity means that dairy-free versions are widely available, even at good old Ben & Jerry’s and fancy-shmancy Haagen-Dazs! No complaints about the taste or texture here – these hit the spot and are certified authentic. You’ve got your fix for your next post-breakup crying-over-a-tub-of-ice-cream sesh.
Whole Food Substitutes For Dairy
That’s right! The food world keeps on surprising, as even those on a whole-foods no-dairy diet have somewhere to go! Whole foods, processed as little as possible, are healthy to eat. These whole foods serve as smart substitutes for dairy, whether it is in flavor or texture.
Nutritional Yeast: Available in the form of powder, flakes or granules, nutritional yeast is… well… nutritious. Fantastically so. It works as a great substitute for cheese, adding a cheesy flavour to whatever you use it for. Sprinkle some on toast, eggs or popcorn for that cheesy tang, or simply mix it into your pasta sauce.
Sun dried tomatoes: Filled with a wonderful saltiness that is never too overbearing, use this in place of cheeses like feta when looking for a salty punch.
Avocados: Sure you can get dairy-free cream cheese, but avocados are literally known as the ‘butter fruit’ – not buttery in taste as much as texture. Blend it up for an irresistible topping for your nachos and enchiladas, or as a creamy dip for your chips.
Olive Oil: Those of you who are suckers for a warm slice of buttered toast, take comfort. Olive oil mixed in with some herbs and crushed garlic is mind-blowingly delicious. You’ll never want to have your bread any other way after this.
Coconut Oil: Coconut oil can be used as a substitute for butter when baking. Just ensure you have a pure, unprocessed type and you’re good to go.
Also Read: 4 Bread Alternatives- Best Substitutes
Adapting To A Dairy-Free Lifestyle
Now that you’ve taken the decision to go dairy-free, it’s time to actually act on it. But this may seem like quite the challenge at first. After all, going dairy-free goes much deeper than just cheese and ice cream cravings. From being commonly used ingredients to nutritional benefits, dairy plays a big part in our lives. Hopefully these two points should help ease things for you.
Transitioning: Starting out and making the change is when you will face the most difficulty. Above all else, you’ll realize that you need some detailed meal planning, racking your brains about how to replace dairy or rushing off to the non-dairy section of the supermarket. So, focus on cuisines and dishes that don’t have any dairy to begin with. Some basic options are Asian dishes, like stir-fries and curries. You can also easily dish out some delicious soups without ever needing to use dairy products. Until you find feasible replacements for all things dairy, start with this.
Nutritional Value: An important part of making any dietary changes is ensuring your daily value requirements for nutrition are met. Dairy is one of the biggest sources of calcium, and you must make sure you compensate for that drop in diet. Increase your consumption of dark leafy greens, broccoli and beans. Almond milk is a good source of calcium, so ensure you have your fill.
Who’da thunk there’d be a day that a dairy-free lifestyle would be so seamless to change into? With these many substitute products, each nutritious and beneficial and what-not, it certainly is one that doesn’t require too much adapting. Oh, one last point, there’s dairy-free cheesecakes available too. You’re definitely rushing off to get your hands on the nearest one right now so we’ll leave you to it.