A couple of weeks ago I shared my reasons why dairy-free living is important to me. This week I wanted to give you some tips for going dairy-free.
I think any food intolerance or allergy diagnosis can be incredibly overwhelming at first. It helps tremendously to have someone to help you navigate the waters, even just a little.
We’ve been living dairy-free for almost 8 years now – I’m basically a pro. My older kids do have dairy from time to time, but this is quite recent. They were dairy-free for a number of years, but the reintroduction of a little bit of dairy has been fine for their systems. Feeling socially normal was super important to my eldest and in my opinion, that comes in to play for his mental health. It’s all about balance, right? That’s another really long post that I might get to one day.
Fortunately, for those of us who need to live without dairy, there are an increasing number of dairy-free products on the market. There is a sub for every kind of dairy product you can imagine. My main beef (pardon the pun) with a lot of these substitutes is the amount of ingredients and processing that goes into them. But that too, is another really long post that I might get to one day.
My SIX Tips For Going Dairy-Free:
- Become an expert label reader. I’ve said this before, and I’m saying it again (and again, and again). You have to read labels and familiarize yourself with ingredients. If you can’t pronounce it, I’m not sure you want it in your food. Plus, make a note of where sugar is in the ingredient list. The earlier it is listed; the more sugar is in the product.
- Find a good cheese substitute, or give it up completely. My only problem with cheese alternatives is the heavy processing that goes in to making them. I’m not comfortable living off of processed foods, and this includes most of the cheese alternatives that are on the market. That said, it is nice to have a substitute once in a while, especially for kids.
- Get calcium from your food! Here are some of my go-to sources of calcium: almonds, greens, broccoli, and seeds.
- Try goat cheese. It’s a good alternative for those of you who aren’t vegan. Goat protein is slightly easier to digest and there are an increasing number of goat milk products on the market. We buy a locally made goat yogurt, cheddar cheese, feta cheese, and even goat milk curds.
- Find a good yogurt alternative. My kids really like the YOSO brand of dairy-free yogurts. They have plenty of flavor options, and the processing is fairly minimal compared to dairy-free cheese alternatives.
- Find a good unsweetened milk that you or your kids like to drink, use on cereal, and use in your baking. I buy unsweetened almond milk and also make coconut milk (recipe below), cashew milk, and almond milk on a regular basis. It tastes so much better than store-bought dairy-free milks, and has fewer ingredients. Buyer beware – you do not need sugar in your dairy-free milks.
I make homemade milks almost every day. The fl
avor just does not compare, and it’s really quite simple to do. If you’re used to sweeter milk, you’ll like coconut milk. Plus, you can add a pitted medjool date, or even a tablespoon of maple syrup for more flavoring. You might want to add a teaspoon of vanilla, the options are endless.
I like making coconut milk because it’s super simple. I don’t need to pre-soak the coconut shreds, unlike when you’re making a nut or seed milk.
Homemade Coconut Milk
Yield 4 cups
- 1 ¼ cups shredded unsweetened coconut
- 4 cups filtered water
- a pinch of high quality sea salt
- Combine all ingredients in your blender. Blend on high for 2 minutes – you may need to blend longer if you’re not using a high-speed blender.
- Place nut milk bag into a large pitcher or jug. I secure mine with an elastic band.
- Pour blended mixture into nut milk bag. If you don’t have a nut milk bag, you can use regular old cheesecloth. Secure a piece over the opening of a jug or a bowl. Make sure it’s on tight as the pulp might cause the cheesecloth to fall in.
- Let sit until all of the liquid has run through. You can squeeze and use some of the liquid right away, or you can leave it to sit.
- Remove nut milk bag or cheesecloth and store your milk in the fridge.