Earlier this year, I decided to cut the majority of dairy out of my diet. I had been dealing with sort of nagging stomach issues for quite a while and it finally got to the point where the bloating and discomfort, gas and constantly running to the bathroom was getting in the way of my daily activities. I thought about going to the doctor but first I wanted to see if I could make some changes and make it better on my own.
When I started to make this diet change, I really wasn’t expecting much of a difference. When I’d see people saying that they didn’t eat dairy, I sort of scoffed at it as a trendy thing, so I was definitely skeptical. But I was also at my wits end with how I felt, so it was still worth a shot.
I’ve always liked milk with certain dinners and in my coffee and I’m a huge cheese and ice cream fan. And I always said I would never cut dairy out because I liked it too much. I said the same thing about carbs, but after Clint and I started making substitutions for that, I figured that I could at least try it for dairy, as well.
What I Don’t Eat
I started off by simply just not drinking milk in my coffee. I tried almond milk or coconut creamer, which took some getting used to but I found that I would feel better in the mornings once that became a habit.
I no longer eat milk-based ice cream. This one is kind of a bummer to me, but I tried it with a dessert after being off of dairy for a few months and I bloated up like a balloon and was SO uncomfortable. I’ve also found great substitutes here, but now that I haven’t been eating it, I really don’t crave it like I used to.
I just don’t drink milk now. I also don’t crave it like I used to with spaghetti dinners or some other food that really “calls for milk” as the beverage. I do feed 2% milk to the boys because I do know it is good for them and they have never seemed to have a problem with it. So, we always do have it in the house, I just don’t find myself reaching for it anymore.
What I Still Will Eat + Substitutions
In my coffee, I use the So Delicious plain coffee creamer. I just do a little splash of it and I like both the taste and texture of it. They make flavors too but I’m weird and hate sweet coffee, so I like the plain. If I’m out of it or I’m somewhere that doesn’t have coconut, I do almond. I, personally, have tried to stay away from soy as a substitute in most cases so if that’s my only option for coffee, I’ll usually grab a tea instead.
I use almond milk in my smoothies always now and in a lot of recipes that call for milk. I really like the Be Well By Kelly smoothies and have gotten in a really good green smoothie routine where I have one almost daily. I have found that I really don’t miss regular milk and the almond milk for me is a decent substitute.
I do still eat butter, and that seems to be fine so far. If I’m putting butter on toast or something, I like the Kerrygold Salted Butter and I only need a little bit. I bake with normal butter and don’t really try to avoid it when it’s in things. At restaurants, I will ask for no butter if they finish steaks or fish and things with it, but otherwise, it doesn’t seem to bother me (or not very much anyway!).
Cheese. Oh delicious cheese. One of my clients always does cheese platters for her events and I definitely do pick at them. I probably don’t eat as much as I used to, but I don’t skip it altogether. That being said, it’s incredibly infrequent. At home, I do buy non-dairy shredded cheese to eat on things like tacos, eggs or chili and I really don’t notice the difference except in how the cheese melts. It’s not EXACTLY the same, but the taste is there and I’ve gotten used to it.
I also really like the Kite Hill brand of cream cheese and almond milk Greek style yogurt! This has been a great substitute for me and they both taste very much like “the real thing.”
For desserts, the So Delicious Cashew Milk Ice Cream (in dark chocolate truffle) is my favorite so far. Halo Top also makes some good Dairy Free options and I’ve been happy to have those around. So Delicious Coconut Milk Ice Cream is also not bad, but I like the other two options just a bit better, if I had to pick.
When it comes down to it, I don’t have an allergy and I’m not lactose intolerant, but I just find that my body functions and feels better without much dairy. My stomach issues are considerably better with this change (and they’re even better when I’m good about limiting my sugar intake, as well).
I’ve also been very consistently taking a probiotic. I love the TULA Daily Probiotic and have found that it makes me feel so much better when I’m taking it. I’ve forgotten it on vacations a few times and I can tell the difference.
I know people say that eating dairy has caused skin issues for them. I, personally, didn’t have that as an issue before and haven’t noticed a change in my skin specifically due to diet. I have tried to be more consistent with my skincare at the same time as making this diet change, so those two things combined together may have worked in partnership for better skin.
If this has been something you’re considering, my advice is start with baby steps like just changing the way you take your coffee. It may make a difference, and it may not. I wanted to share what works for me because it seems like a very common conversation with my girlfriends and online, so that’s my two cents on it!
I’d love to hear ways that you all have changed your diet or routine to make yourself feel better and be healthier, so please feel free to share in comments. AND if you have any good dairy free product recommendations, I would love those too!