Dairy-Free Recipes, Foods, and Life Hacks

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.

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Dairy-Free Alternative Brands

Daiya Foods

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.

Silk

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

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.

Enjoy Life

I purchase Enjoy Life’s vegan chocolate chips to use for baking, and they’re great!

Country Crock

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.

Miyoko’s

A dairy-free friend recently served me some pizza with Miyoko’s mozzarella cheese and it was really good!

Other Brands

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?

Day In My Life, October 2019

Monday, October 14, 2019 (a pretty typical example of a day in my life right now!)

This morning I got out of bed at 10 A.M., ate a few waffles, and spent too much time on hold with my primary care physician trying to get my pain medicine refilled. Then I got to work! First I filmed a video tutorial for an email marketing client; I had a little too much fun designing an Alaskan travel-themed email to use as the example for said tutorial. Then I sat on my balcony in the LOVELY weather, tried not to fall asleep because I was SO exhausted, and smiled at the cute dogs on an adjacent balcony as I wrote my cycling newsletter (subscribe here–it comes out three days a week).

Appetite (meaning lack thereof) has been a big issue for me recently, but thankfully today I was coming off of a (relatively small) GI flare-up and I was very hungry! I had a big salad with French bread and a dairy-free chocolate pecan brownie for lunch while watching a YouTube video. After taking a shower, it was back to work for a couple more very sleepy hours to write a blog post for a pet insurance company and work on one for an Instagram growth service, then watch a few more YouTube videos before I had to leave.

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Late afternoon, I headed to the theatre for rehearsal; tonight I was only needed from 5-6 to go over two numbers. We rehearsed our Razzle Dazzle tap dance and then a slightly different group of us worked on our Grecian Urn (from Music Man) skit. I love going to rehearsal and it’s crazy that this show is so soon.

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When I got home at 6:30, I wanted to go straight to bed because #chronicfatigue, but I forced myself to stay up and make oven-baked tacos (mix refried beans, ground beef, tomato sauce, and taco seasoning and bake it in tortillas). Pro tip, it’s easier to make this recipe if you have a can opener, which I didn’t. Lol. But I figured it out.

I finally ate dinner around 7:30, caught up on dishes, and was in bed with a book (The Weight of Feathers) by 8 and had the lights out by 9:30. As days in my life go, this was a pretty good one–and productive, too, because Monday is the day of the week when I have more energy than normal after resting all weekend!

What does a day in your life look like right now?

September 2019 Monthly Wrap-Up

The first two weeks of September were great! I started writing a novel again, went to dance class/rehearsal for the show, went to a new small group, and hosted a Bible study. The last two weeks were pretty awful—my health flared up big-time and I was in so much pain I couldn’t sleep and so nauseous I couldn’t eat. I basically didn’t leave the house for two weeks and had to cancel my trip to South Carolina for a writing conference. However, I did go to some new doctors and take some steps forward.

Fun stuff this month (in addition to dance and Bible studies): The Wises and my family came over to cook out and swim for Labor Day. I went to an artisan market with my favorite two-year-old. I babysat at church, took my pastor’s daughter to lunch, and saw Mamma Mia! with my dad.

 

This month I’m…

Reading: Little Heathens, Mildred Armstrong Kalish. The Silence Between Us, Alison Gervais. Alex Approximately (reread), The Anatomical Shape of a Heart (reread), and The Lady Rogue, Jenn Bennett (reread). Somewhere Only We Know, Maurene Goo. More Than We Can Tell, Brigid Kemmerer (reread). Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour, Morgan Matson (reread). The Land of 10,000 Madonnas, Kate Hattemer (reread). Loki: Where Mischief Lies, Mackenzi Lee. The Downstairs Girl, Stacey Lee. Hope and Other Punchlines, Julie Buxbaum. 12 total. (I also speed-read and reviewed four nonfiction books for work.)

Watching: Thor: Ragnarok (showed it to Joshua and we laughed so loud we kept scaring the cat). Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part 1. Girl Meets World season four (rewatch–my fave show ah). Roommate Hunters with my family. Do All Disabled People Think the Same?. Tom Holland Goes Undercover on Reddit, YouTube, and Twitter. As/Is YouTube channel. Hadestown Broadway.com vlogs and other random theatre videos. Shawn Mendes Tour with Alessia Cara: The Final Week (and SOBBING).

Listening to: SO BEYOND OBSESSED WITH ALESSIA CARA’S NEW THIS SUMMER EP, especially October (#emotions) and OKAY OKAY (dance party!). All We Know and Growing Pains (Acoustic), Alessia Cara. What A Time, Julia Michaels/Niall Horan. Teeth, 5SOS. What a Wonderful World, Brooklyn Duo. When I Grow Up, Matilda the Musical. When You’re An Addams, The Addams Family. Livin’ it Up on Top and When the Chips are Down, Hadestown. Cell Block Tango, Chicago. Bad Reputation (MTV Unplugged), Shawn Mendes. Home, Gabrielle Aplin. Holding Out for a Hero, Footloose. Money, Money, Money and Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!, Mamma Mia. Love Has a Name album, Jesus Culture.

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Loving: Champion School: Inside USA Cycling’s junior development program, VeloNews. Pregnant on Broadway: “Beautiful” Star Kara Lindsay on the Shocking Realities, Backstage. Grace Anne’s Tuesday email newsletters.

Writing: The floodgates opened and a novel–the YA contemporary road trip novel I started last year at this time–emerged. I wrote 15,000 words of it during the first two weeks of this month and also hired an editor, so I have to finish it now, lol. I had so much stamina and felt like I could write the novel in a week! I also wrote 3,000 words of fanfiction this month.

 

Work happened, too. But between my poor health and my fun creative hobbies, freelancing isn’t really my primary focus anymore; I just do the bare minimum I have to do to pay the bills.

Eating: Organic champagne raspberries. Stir frys with meat and fresh green beans. Then for the last two weeks of the month, either nothing or nausea-friendly foods like pudding, bagels/peanut butter, smoothies, and Cheerios, lol.

Grateful for: SPIDER-MAN IS BACK IN THE MCU (thanks Tom Holland). Sitting on the grass feeding Noah raspberries while he signs “please.” Sweet thoughtful letters from a friend at college. Meeting people and instantly connecting with them. Feeling very confident. Writing a novel! A man at church stopping to bring us popsicles.