Lactose intolerance. Milk allergy. Casein-free diet. Whatever your reason for going dairy-free, it might seem like a scary prospect at first. Dairy is in so many favorite foods and recipes. But with a little know-how and effort, you can cut the dairy out of your diet and still eat really well.
Most importantly, you should know that you aren’t alone. For many reasons, there’s a growing number of people who are choosing dairy-free lifestyles to avoid allergens, live healthier or even manage other conditions. Milk allergies are among the top eight food allergies in the United States. And like other food allergies, the symptoms can range from mild to severe.
Foods to Avoid
The first step in a dairy-free lifestyle is adjusting your diet to cut out dairy-filled foods. You should avoid everything that contains dairy including milk, cream, milk-based cheese, butter, some margarines, cream cheese, cottage cheese, sour cream and ice cream. You’ll also want to be careful with chocolate – milk chocolate is off limits, and so are certain other chocolates like semi-sweet. Be sure to read the ingredients list before eating.
If you can identify the reason for your reactions to dairy – a full-blown milk allergy, a casein allergy, or your average lactose intolerance, as examples – you will have a clearer understanding of the foods you need to avoid. Learn more about the different kinds of intolerance to dairy products by reading, “The Difference Between Lactose Intolerance and Milk Allergies” by Joshua Flebowitz.
It’s also important that you be careful to avoid hidden sources of dairy. These will appear on nutritional labels as things like curds, whey, ghee and lactose, among others.
If going dairy-free is part of a casein-free diet, there are additional foods to avoid in addition to all dairy.
Now that you are up to speed on what to avoid, what can you have? Lots, actually. There are limitless possibilities for delicious foods with grains, fruits, vegetables and more.
But moreover, you don’t have to go without. Your favorite recipes can still be part of your repertoire, even if they call for dairy. Simply substitute dairy-free options when making the recipe. For instance, if you are craving a grilled cheese, you can still have it. Simply purchase dairy-free cheese at the grocery store and use a dairy-free buttery spread. (Note: if you are casein-free, you’ll probably have to avoid non-dairy cheese.)
To learn more about dairy-free alternatives, check out Gluten Free & More’s handy Substitution Guide. It includes options for replacing milk, buttermilk, yogurt and butter with flavorful alternatives.
Favorite Foods with a Dairy-Free Makeover
Missing your breakfast parfaits? With Dairy-Free Yogurt, you can have them again.
And if you are really looking for something indulgence, reach for a slice of Dairy-Free Cheesecake and it’ll hit the spot.