There are many reasons why you might want to reduce the amount of dairy in your diet, or even cut it out completely. For some, the reason is allergy-related (like my daughter), for others it’s healthy-eating related.
Whatever the reason, in order to go dairy free it’s important to realise what the term “dairy” technically refers to. Simply put, it can be said that a dairy product is one that is made from the milk of cows. That means that sheep’s and goat’s milk products are NOT dairy.
Going dairy-free can seem a difficult task at first. However, it really isn’t that hard. With a few basic tips on alternatives, you can enjoy a dairy-free diet without sacrificing too many of the things you love to eat.
Cooking At Home
Cooking at home is the biggest challenge for anyone attempting to go dairy-free. So many of our staple meals include dairy ingredients, and that just makes it seem so much harder to manage. However, there are many dairy-alternatives which can be used to replace dairy products in home cooking. Here are a few examples:
Sheep’s milk and goat’s milk: Sheep’s milk and goat’s milk can both be used in place of cow’s milk. Although they don’t taste the same – goat’s milk for me tastes the most like regular cow’s milk – they are still suitable replacements in many cases.
Soya milk: Often, soya milk is a better option than sheep’s or goat’s milk. It has a milder flavour which tends to leave dishes tasting fairly similar to the standard dairy versions. Soya milk can, for example, be used in sauces with a flour and milk base. It also tastes good in porridge, or even when drunk alone.
Soya or rice cream: The most common dairy-cream alternatives come in the form of soya or rice cream. Neither of these taste exactly like normal cow’s milk cream, but both can be used in many cases as a great alternative. As they are both quite mild-tasting, they are ideal in pasta sauces, and other cream-based recipes.
Sheep’s, goat’s and soya cheeses: It’s possible to buy cheese made from both sheep’s and goat’s milk, as well as soya-based cheeses. Sheep’s and goat’s cheeses have actually been pretty standard for as long as cow’s cheese has been around, but we often neglect the cheeses in favour of cow’s. Most large supermarkets will offer a selection of both of these. Soya-based cheese is newer. It doesn’t taste quite the same, but can still be used in many meals. Some supermarkets and most health-food stops will stock a selection of soya cheese.
Vegetable or soya spread: Instead of butter, you can use various vegetable or soya spreads. These work great on toast, but can also be used in place of butter for cooking.
Coconut cream and coconut milk: This is my favourite out of all our dairy substitutes and one that I often use in shakes. Coconuts are rich in potassium and are a great source of good fats. Most health food shops and even majority of the larger supermarkets now stock coconut milk, coconut yoghurt and coconut cream.
Sweets and treats
For many, the thought of going without dairy ingredients in a meal isn’t too bad, but the idea of not being able to eat chocolate or ice-cream is far worse! Don’t worry though, there are plenty of dairy-free alternatives. For example:
Dark chocolate: One simple alternative is to seek out good quality dark chocolate instead of milk-chocolate. Many dark chocolates do not have any milk in them.
Dairy-free chocolate: If you really prefer milk chocolate to dark chocolate then it’s still possible to find tasty alternatives to regular chocolate bars. Most health food stores will stock a range of dairy-free chocolate bars. These can be just as good as their dairy counterparts!
Ice-cream: Ice-cream seems like something that can’t really be replaced with a non-dairy alternative. However, there are actually a number of great options. For a start, there are plenty of soya ice-cream products available that taste really good.
You could also consider sorbet as an alternative to ice-cream. It’s another sweet and cold dessert, but doesn’t have any dairy ingredients in it.
Eating out dairy-free is actually really easy. All you need to do is order dishes that are not cheese- or cream-based (bad news if you’re a big carbonara fan!) You’ll need to look out for dishes that might include butter as an ingredient too. There will usually be plenty of other dishes that meet your needs. For example, most tomato-based pasta dishes will be dairy-free. Chinese food rarely includes dairy ingredients either.
So, there you have it, a diet free of dairy. If I’m honest there are times when I consume dairy, usually butter, but for the majority of the time I stear clear of dairy whenever possible. It’s certainly not the end of the world and that’s coming from someone who used to drink gallons of the stuff as a young lad.