This past May, my GI issues flared up big time. As part of that, I discovered at the age of 20 that I’m hugely lactose intolerant (as in, eating a slice of cake with butter in it put me in bed with GI issues for five days), so I cut out all dairy from my diet. Today I thought I’d share a post with some life hacks I’ve learned so far.
This won’t be a terribly comprehensive post because I’ve only been dairy free for about 3-4 months. So if you’re dairy-free too, feel free to add your own tips in the comments. Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor and everyone’s body is different. This is just my personal experience, so take everything here with a grain of salt.
Dairy-Free Alternative Brands
I heard a lot of good things about Daiya Foods — a brand that creates products free of seven major allergens — and I was so excited to try their mac n cheese. Unfortunately, the rice noodles and non-cheese cheese powder just didn’t do it for me. I had some Daiya shredded cheese on homemade pizza recently and it was decent, but that’s as far as my experience with Daiya goes.
I love Silk’s almond milk and almond yogurt. Although I don’t eat the yogurt straight (I don’t really like yogurt), I use it to make smoothies, while I buy the almond milk to take all of my pills with because I can’t take pills with water (I know, I’m weird). I’ve also used the almond milk for baking.
So Delicious has a wide range of dairy-free products. I bought a carton of So Delicious dairy free ice cream every week this summer and absolutely loved it — my favorite flavor is cookie dough. Some of the brand’s ice cream flavors are made with coconut milk, while others are made with cashew milk, giving different flavors a different texture. I like it better than normal ice cream! When it comes to dairy-free ice cream, I’ve also tried Halo Top and Talenti sorbetto.
I purchase Enjoy Life’s vegan chocolate chips to use for baking, and they’re great!
My family has been buying Country Crock as our “butter” since I was little, and I didn’t fully realize until recently that it’s a dairy-free, plant-based spread. I still use it for my dairy-free muffins, bagels, and toast.
A dairy-free friend recently served me some pizza with Miyoko’s mozzarella cheese and it was really good!
These are dairy-free brands that friends have recommended to me, but so far, I haven’t had the chance to personally try:
Dairy-Free Cooking Tips
It’s been pretty easy for me to cook dairy-free food at home. A lot of the meals I eat are dairy-free anyway; I eat a lot of scrambled eggs, salads, and stir-fry type dishes with meat and vegetables cooked in a skillet. The only thing I really don’t cook anymore is any dish that involves cheesy pasta (which is sad). Cashew milk has a slight cheesy taste, though, meaning it can be a great substitute to use in savory pasta dishes.
I save almond milk for baking because it’s very sweet. I also substitute either coconut oil or canola oil for butter and use vegan chocolate chips. I was excited to recently discover brownies are dairy-free anyway (they’re normally made with oil instead of butter) so they taste the way I remember them.
When it comes to snacks and store-bought foods, I’ve made a few small changes. I buy a new brand of granola bars now (Cascadian Farms or KIND bars instead of Sunbelt). There are several foods that I didn’t realize are dairy-free, too; most potato salad, for instance, is safe. Jell-O pudding mix apparently is dairy-free and I made some with almond milk when I was too nauseous to eat much. Peanut butter is dairy free and has been a good source of protein on days when I can’t stomach meat. Even Oreos are dairy-free!
Eating Out While Dairy-Free
I’ll be honest: I don’t have a lot of tips here, because since cutting out dairy in mid-July, I’ve eaten out less than half a dozen times. Dairy is in so many foods that eating out can be really difficult, and plus, I just have zero appetite these days anyway because of my new GI symptoms.
But when I do eat out, I typically go for a salad; as long as you ask them to leave off the cheese and you make sure the dressing doesn’t have dairy in it (I love vinaigrettes, which are often dairy free), you’re good to go. I’m weird and I like to eat French fries with my salad too, so sometimes I’ll get fries on the side. Chicken is also a safe option offered at most sit-down and fast-food restaurants alike, and any menu options marked “vegan” are generally safe.
One other thing to be aware of is that many restaurants cook their food in butter, so that’s something to ask about before you dive in; they may be able to substitute oil instead. Grilled meat is typically safer than fried or baked foods. And depending on how sensitive you are, it might be best to stay away from eating any type of bread just in case.
Some examples of dairy-free meals I’ve eaten out include:
- A Green Goddess salad at Panera Bread and French bread (I know their bread doesn’t bother me)
- A hamburger and fries at Steak n Shake
- The North Atlantic Cod Dinner at Culver’s (their website says this meal includes milk, and while I did go into a huge GI flare-up the day after eating this, I don’t think it was related, but… take this with a grain of salt)
- Lemonade at Dairy Queen (lol… sometimes there’s nothing you can do!)
Although I haven’t eaten at restaurants much lately, I have been to a lot of potluck events and get-togethers with friends. Those are often even more difficult to navigate! (Never take someone’s word regarding what’s in the dish they brought — ask to see the recipe or just skip it, because people can easily forget an ingredient or not realize something is an issue.) Typically, I’ll eat beforehand, stick to fruit or salad at the event, and/or make something yummy to bring that’s dairy free.
Dairy Free Recipes
I love using the following websites (in addition to Pinterest) to find dairy-free recipes:
Specific recipes I’ve enjoyed making for people include this lemon blueberry cake and these pumpkin muffins. If I ever have an appetite again, I plan to get a little more ambitious and try some dairy-free cheese sauce and other recipes.
Dairy-Free Is Doable
Eating dairy-free can be hard sometimes, but honestly it’s not that bad. There’s definitely something more going on with my stomach than just lactose intolerance, but still, a severe dairy sensitivity is part of it — so I’m glad to have found so many dairy-free foods!
A big thank-you to Aleigha for helping me brainstorm this post! Are you dairy-free? What are your best tips?