“I don’t eat cheese.”
Who knew such a statement would feel so controversial to people? About six months ago, I started a dairy free diet. Which also means I stopped eating cheese. Did your world just end imagining not eating cheese? Yeah, I know. I love cheese. It kinda makes everything better. But, every time I ate cheese or any other kind of dairy, I felt horrible. I’ve had an insensitivity to it for awhile (cue me popping Lactaid pills!), but it wasn’t until after I had my second daughter that it seemed so much worse. So yeah, I’m lactose intolerant and it’s a huge bummer.
Before I fully claimed my diet as “dairy free,” my favorite foods were literally pizza and ice cream. There are other favorites that I get to keep eating like sushi, but these were more everyday favorite foods and it’s a definite loss to me to have to stop eating them. Not only that, giving up dairy (and cheese in particular) is not a popular decision. I didn’t really tell anyone at first. It bothers me when other people feel the need to tell you over and over about whatever diet they are on. I’m totally supportive of whatever it is you’re doing, but let’s talk about something else, ok? So, I quietly didn’t eat dairy and chose not to announce that I’m on a dairy free diet at every meal. When I finally did tell people, there were mixed reactions. It was like I was denouncing someone’s religion. No cheese?!?
I’ve entered a new non-dairy world. If you’re in the same boat or think that removing dairy from your diet might make you feel better, I thought I’d offer some tips from my experience.
- Start exploring non-dairy alternatives. I have found almond milk and soy milk ice creams that do pretty well as a substitute for the real thing. I even tried non-dairy cheese which I can’t say I loved, but it helped me transition away from cheese when it was too hard to remove it completely. I also have tried lactose free products like milk and ice cream that just remove the lactose. Spoiler alert – the ice cream doesn’t taste as good.
- Map out the restaurants and coffee shops that offer milk alternatives. For me, this is mostly about coffee, but also smoothie places. Starbucks offers soy milk or coconut milk. The Coffee Bean offers this amazing coconut almond milk as an alternative. In smoothie shops like Jamba Juice, just watch out for those that include milk or yogurt. You can either get all fruit or enjoy a soy or almond milk alternative.
- Find restaurants with lots of non-dairy options. I’ve found that certain types of food are more likely to be dairy free like Thai or Chinese. It’s much harder at Mexican or Italian restaurants. You can also ask for cheese to be removed from sandwiches, salads, etc. So easy!
- Revamp your recipes. I’ve found many vegan focused blogs and cookbooks are helpful for me to find tasty new recipes. You could always add meat if you want to. Get ready to eat lots of recipes with coconut milk (don’t worry, it’s good!!) as that is a great substitute for milk or cream in recipes. Some of my favorite resources are Minimalist Baker and Oh She Glows. I’ve also found some dairy free-friendly recipes on Cooking Light which has always been a favorite of mine.
- Be flexible. At times, you may end up eating a tiny bit of dairy as it’s in so many things that aren’t even labeled at restaurants or other packaged foods. I love good food so sometimes I just deal with it in order to get to enjoy tasting something new.
Do you have any food intolerances? How do you handle them?