I've been dairy free for over a year now, and I can honestly say that I don't miss it a single bit. Whether you're eliminating dairy for allergy reasons, because you're breastfeeding and dairy is upsetting your infant (been there!) or for other reasons, have no fear!
I'll walk you through my very favorite dairy-free foods, 10 tips that will keep you going on your dairy elimination journey as well as a few fun things that every dairy-free gal needs.
First, watch this video to see why you won't be missing cheese (or butter) anytime soon!
Yes, I totally eat butter with a spoon. And I talk about crapping my pants. Don't miss this one!
My Dairy-Free Journey
The first time I gave up dairy was in 2007 when my first child was born. He was a little fussy, and the doctor suggested I give up dairy while breastfeeding.
It was hard.
The second time I gave up dairy was in 2009 when my second child was born. She had colic, and the doctor suggested I give up dairy while breastfeeding.
It was hard.
The third time I gave up dairy was in 2011 when my third child was born. He had horrible eczema, and the doctor suggested I give up dairy while breastfeeding.
It was hard.
The fourth time I gave up dairy was after seeing a new doctor in 2012. Her policy was that all new patients had to give up dairy and gluten for six weeks and note any positive changes.
Eliminating dairy didn't seem to make a huge difference in my life at the time, so I went back to eating dairy again.
The FIFTH time I gave up dairy was after being diagnosed with a full-blown dairy allergy in 2017. I'd been having some pretty bad symptoms (we won't go into ALL of the crappy details), but I was so glad to have a solution to my problems that I didn't really mourn the loss of dairy.
Instead I was so excited to start feeling better.
And I do feel SO MUCH BETTER. And I don't miss my favorite foods at all. There are so many amazing dairy-free and vegan products on the market, that I can always find a substitute.
All of this to say that I completely understand if you're feeling bummed or upset about having to eliminate dairy. And also to reassure you that you will be just fine (and hopefully BETTER than fine!) Keep reading for more tips, books to read and links to my favorite foods and products for your dairy-free life.
10 Tips for Going Dairy Free
No matter how hard it feels to eliminate dairy from your diet, I have no doubt that you will be successful! These 10 tips will help you on your dairy-free journey.
1. Focus on WHY.
Why are you giving up dairy? What is your motivation?
Whether you're breastfeeding and need to eliminate dairy to benefit your baby or you just want to stop crapping your pants, your motivation is going to be an important part of your success.
Find ways to focus on the benefits of your lifestyle change. The first three times I gave up dairy, I focused on the benefits of breastfeeding, and that helped keep me motivated to say NO to dairy.
The final time that I eliminated dairy, I was so focused on feeling better, that saying no to dairy was super simple.
2. Identify the many names of dairy
Dairy is tricky because it can hide on food labels under names like casein and whey.
In order to truly eliminate ALL dairy from your diet, you will need to become knowledgeable about these names.
Here is a super helpful dairy ingredient list to help decode those labels.
3. Don't phase it out - go cold turkey!
Don't delay the inevitable.
Once you have decided to go dairy free, DO IT!
Phasing it out will only prolong the process, and it could make you have cravings for your go-to comfort foods.
4. Try not to cheat.
I'll admit it, back when I was breastfeeding my kids, I cheated a couple of times - sneaking a piece of cheese here and a spoonful of ice cream there.
I paid for it with super fussy babies and sleepless nights.
Try not to cheat.
If you're the type of person that will eat it if it's in your house, then get it out of the house. Or, if that isn't possible because your family will revolt, store your food separately (like in a mini fridge!) so you won't be tempted by going to your family fridge.
Note: Another option is to replace all of your dairy products with dairy-free versions. Keep reading for links to my favs!
5. Take this opportunity to learn new recipes
I have a tendency to get in a MAJOR rut with my recipes and end up making the same meals every week.
Giving up dairy actually gave me the opportunity to learn new recipes and really expand my palate.
6. Plan ahead
Speaking of meals, take some time to sit down and plan all of them out for the week.
Yes - all meals - breakfast, lunch and dinner. It may sound like a lot at first, but you will be thankful that you did.
By planning ahead, you won't be scrambling before meal times, and you're less likely to fall back to a recipe that has dairy in it.
If you are going out to eat, look up the menu in advance or call and ask about dairy-free menu options so you won't even have to look at the menu upon arriving (and perhaps be tempted by an old favorite meal!).
And feel free to bring your own dairy-free substitutes in your fridge. Yes, I have been known to carry a tub of vegan butter in my purse.
7. Have snacks readily available
I remember going to a wedding after my first baby, and they didn't have a dairy-free option for the meal. I was a hungry, overtired, breastfeeding mom - it was a scary situation.
It is essential to have snacks on hand when dairy-free options aren't available or when hunger pangs strike. The more prepared you are, the less likely you will cheat and fall back on your progress.
8. Build a team of support
Making a lifestyle change can be difficult, especially at the beginning.
That's why you need to build a team of support.
Make your family and friends aware of your switch to dairy-free foods and ask for their help. Sometimes even something as simple as a friend asking how you're doing without dairy can mean a lot.
9. Don't forget to indulge
Treating yourself is a must - and there are so many dairy-free desserts that are the perfect solution!
With each new milestone met, don't forget to indulge! Search for dairy-free recipes or vegan recipes for some great dairy-free treats to indulge in.
10. Keep a Journal
This ties in with number one, but if you're giving up dairy for health reasons, it might be hard to remember just how bad you were feeling as you start to feel better.
I can remember feeling SO MUCH BETTER after eliminating dairy for a month. I felt so much better that I convinced myself that maybe I hadn't felt as bad as I thought. So I didn't tell our server that I had a dairy allergy and took my chances.
Within about 30 minutes I was reminded of how I used to feel at least once a day. I was miserable.
Keeping a journal of signs and symptoms before you eliminate dairy and afterwards can help you see the progress you're making and help you stick to your new lifestyle.
My Favorite Dairy Free Foods
In case you missed the video earlier (I can't believe you missed my awesome video earlier), here are a few of my very favorite dairy substitutions. This is NOT sponsored in any way - it's just what I always keep stocked in my fridge and pantry.
Dairy Free Required Reading
I'm sure you've been all over the Internet checkout out advice and ideas for eliminating dairy. While you're compiling your research, here are a few books that I recommend reading.
Go Dairy Free
This book will help remind you of the health benefits of eliminating dairy while also offering tips, ideas and recipes to help you stick with it.
Eat Dairy Free
This is the cookbook companion to Go Dairy Free.
The Recipe Hacker
Just in case you're like me and have to give up more than just dairy (I'm allergic to dairy, eggs, coffee, sugar, wheat and corn!). This is the cookbook for you!
Daily Food Journal
Yes, you can just use any old notebook to track your food and potential symptoms, but a daily food journal makes everything seem so much more official. Don't you think?
My Favorite Dairy Free "Merch"
Are your kids as obsessed with "merch" as mine are? Kids these days!
Whether you call it merch or gear or stuff or just see it as a way to shop instead of eating your feelings, here are my favorite dairy-free T-shirts.