In honor of the 21-Day Dairy-Free Challenge, I was invited by So Delicious to share my top dairy-free tips. The advice below is intended to help you on your journey with useful facts and appetizing ideas for living dairy-free.
Alisa’s Top Dairy-Free Tips
#1: Know the Enemy
Milk is a confusing and sneaky food. It lingers on labels under names like caseinate and whey. Yet ingredients like caramel color and cocoa butter are typically dairy-free! See and print my Dairy Ingredient List for instant label decoding help.
#2: Stash Plenty of Snacks
The downfall of a change in diet is often hunger. If your stomach is rumbling and there aren’t any good options in plain view, the temptation to grab something old and familiar can easily win out. Keep an assortment of fresh fruit, trail mix (with nuts and seeds), homemade granola bars, dairy-free chocolate coconut milk beverage (yum!), cut vegetables with dip, healthy cookie bars, and nutritious vegan chips or crackers. See this post for more ideas: 10 Good Healthy Snacks for Sweet Cravings.
#3: Be Cautious of Non-Dairy
Did you know that under federal labeling laws, a product can be labeled as “non-dairy” as long as it contains less than .5% milk protein by weight. Though “dairy-free” is not a regulated term, most food producers unofficially use this phrase to represent products that are actually milk-free. For example, most brands of non-dairy creamer contain some dairy, but this entire line of dairy-free creamers is made without a drop.
#4: Don’t Assume
And while we’re on the topic of milk’s sneakiness. Even store-bought bread, chips, and deli meat aren’t immune to a dairy invasion. On the flip side, some creamy foods that might seem dairy-rich are almost always milk-free, like mayonnaise (vegan or regular) or coconut milk. And yes, there ARE numerous brands of real dairy-free chocolate.
#5: Go Cold Turkey
Just like any food, if you continue to eat it in any way shape or form, you will most likely continue to crave it. If your goal is to go dairy-free, then cheating could easily derail your efforts. Of all dairy foods, cheese seems to have the most common addiction cycle. Just something to be aware of!
#6: Be Sweet to Yourself
A true blessing in disguise, most restaurant desserts are not dairy-free. This has probably saved me more than a few unwanted pounds, but sometimes my cravings don’t subside after viewing those enticing post-meal menus. For those predicaments, I keep rich, creamy dairy-free ice cream on hand (I love the almond-based ones, my family loves this cookie dough flavor)and have mastered a few quick dairy-free dessert recipes, like 5-Minute Mint Chip Vegan Mug Brownie Sundae and Raspberry-Infused Chocolate Pudding.
#7: Be the Ring Leader
Host the parties, pick the restaurant to meet up at, and suggest a walk in the park rather than meeting for ice cream. Most friends will appreciate not having to host, you making the decisions, or getting some exercise rather than inhaling unnecessary calories. When you host, you control the food. When you pick the restaurant, you can review the menus, ask questions in advance, and select the best option for you. When you skip the food meet-up, you have more time to focus on the friendship while getting your body moving!
#8: Expand Your Palate
Milk is just one food. Sure, our society has whipped it into a myriad of applications, but there are thousands of other foods, ripe for the picking. Add new seasonings to your spice cabinet; trial different grains; experiment with fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds; and think globally. Cuisines of Asia, for example, (such as Japanese, Thai, Chinese and Vietnamese) are nearly dairy-free, naturally.
#9: Savor Substitutes
These days, there is at least one substitute for just about every type of dairy on the market. I adore cashew milk with granola and in smoothies, coconut milk beverage for cooking and baking, rich coconut milk for a cream substitute (yes, it whips!), and almond milk ice cream or Greek-style coconut yogurt for a light treat. My husband loves coconut milk creamer in his morning coffee (no sweetener required!). If you must, there are even substitutes for sour cream and all types of cheese – just be aware that they are not identical to their dairy counterparts.
#10: Keep it Simple
Enjoy favorites that are naturally or easily dairy-free for a seamless transition. Examples include stir-fries, spaghetti, peanut butter sandwiches, fried rice, burgers (meat or veggie), fajitas, grilled skewers, your favorite protein with roasted vegetables, and chili. For more ideas, see my post for 5 Easy Dairy-Free Meals and the recipe links in dairy-free tip #11.
#11: Plan for Success
When first starting out, or simply in a rut, meal plans can be a lifesaver. At the beginning of each week, plot out your breakfast, lunch and dinner, and stick to it. With time, the diet will become second nature and you’ll be prepared to cook on the fly. For some tasty ways to fill up your menus, enjoy recipes from following resources:
- Over 2000 Go Dairy-Free Recipes
- More Recipes from So Delicious Dairy Free
- Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook
#12: Know What You’re Missing
A nutritious diet without dairy is more than feasible. In fact, enormous healthy populations around the world are dairy-free. But since our society tends to use dairy as a primary nutrient source, make sure your dairy-free diet and lifestyle is well-rounded with Vitamin D, B12, calcium, magnesium, and protein. Some dairy-free milks step in to provide all of the above!
What are some of your favorite dairy-free tips? Please do share for others in the comments!
This post was sponsored by So Delicious Dairy Free and the 21-Day Dairy-Free Challenge. But the dairy-free tips provided are my own, and I purchase (with my own cash) and recommend all products mentioned and linked to!