If you're vegan or lactose intolerant, by this point, you're probably a seasoned pro at eliminating dairy from your diet. However, if your plan is to eliminate dairy as a weight-loss method or just to eat cleaner, the journey to a milk-free life may seem like a bumpy road. It's tough to pass up a cheesy slice of pizza or a heaping bowl of ice cream, but with a couple of easy substitutes, we promise it can be done.
Many celebrities like Megan Fox and Giselle Bündchen opt to live dairy-free to keep their weight down and avoid the hormones, but nixing dairy has benefits for your skin, too. Dairy increases the sebum production in your skin, which results in breakouts and can even cause dark circles and under-eye bags. To that, we say, "So long, dairy!" But if you're wondering, How will I get the calcium and nutrients from dairy if I no longer eat it? we have good news.
Keep scrolling to learn how to (easily, happily, and healthfully) lead a dairy-free life.
According to Maria Bella, founder of Top Balance Nutrition, the daily value for calcium is 1000 milligrams for adults and children ages 4 and over. To get the recommended amount, try eating the following: calcium-fortified tofu (215 mg in 1/4 cup), salmon (180 mg), collard greens (135 mg in 1/2 cup cooked down), spinach (135 mg in 1/2 cup cooked down), hummus (65 mg in 1/2 cup), calcium-fortified soy or rice milk (300–370 mg), calcium-fortified almond milk (300–450 mg), and almonds (70 mg in one ounce).
Byrdie associate features editor Amanda Montell says that although she's now vegan, she's loved dairy her whole life. "I love expensive cheese, processed cheese, cheese on pizza, cheese on bread, cheese on its own. And frozen yogurt is my WORLD. But here's the thing: Once you wake up to what dairy really is, it becomes very difficult to stomach, even for someone as devoted as I was. Of course, we all know that dairy comes from cows, but when you stop and really think about the fact that milk is intended to turn a baby calf into a giant grown cow, it's no wonder it leads to weight gain in humans. Not to mention, there's just something intrinsically creepy and unethical about robbing a baby calf of its mother's milk just so that we humans, living things of a totally different species, can turn it into ice cream and grilled cheese." Hear, hear.
As such, Amanda's found some yummy substitutes for her once-beloved dairy products. "Treeline Tree Nut Cheese [Ed note: only available in the U.S. The Vegan Society has rated the top 10 vegan cheeses, here). Admittedly these cashew-derived cheeses do not taste exactly like dairy cheese on their own. But layer them on top of a little baguette crostini with some olive tapenade and sun-dried tomato, and oh my goodness, heaven. Though they're a bit pricey, you're not spending more than you would on regular gourmet cheese.
Want a vegan ice cream alternative? Try The Coconut Collaborative Mango Snowconut (£4).
However, you may become so acclimatised to not eating dairy that you won't need to find substitutes. Says associate editor Victoria Hoff, "The number one thing people always ask me after finding out that I'm vegan—I swear—is 'Don't you miss cheese???' Actually, dairy is the one thing I have never missed, even when I was living in France and surrounded by glorious butter-filled pastries. It's super easy to give up—almond milk is incredibly versatile and nutritionally superior to dairy milk anyway, and I usually just use coconut oil as a butter substitute or commercially made vegan butter in a pinch. But for me, adopting a plant-based diet has never been about mimicking what I was eating before in vegan form—I'm not the person reaching for fake cheese and soy chorizo. I've never felt the need to replace dairy—I just love filling my plate with any kind of healthy, sustainable food, and that's it."
Hoff also found that eliminating dairy has changed her body. "I have never experienced such internal relief than right after I quit dairy. My body immediately de-bloated, my digestion started whirring smoothly again, I got a huge boost of energy, and just felt well. It was actually the catalyst for going completely vegan, since after giving up milk, cheese, and yogurt, the only animal product I was still eating was eggs."
According to Phillip Goglia, celebrity dietitian to the stars (the Kardashians, Chris Pratt, Ryan Gosling, and Emilia Clark), dairy isn't even really a good source of protein anyway. Says Goglia, "While many people consider dairy to be a protein, the body will utilise it first as lactose, or milk sugar. Therefore, people who believe that they can get sufficient protein in their daily diet from eating dairy products are misinformed." Instead, try foods such as lean meats, fish, lentils, peanut butter, nuts, tofu, edamame, green peas, and quinoa.
Goglia notes an alarming fact that most all people are unable to properly digest dairy (surprising, right?). "Another important consideration is that nearly all adults have an inherent inability to utilize dairy products and are, therefore, lactose intolerant. Aside from possibly elevating cholesterol, a diet rich in dairy products such as butter and cheese is going to create digestive difficulties." Try giving dairy a break and see if you have a better time digesting your food (we have a feeling you will).
Do you steer clear of dairy? What are your reasons for forgoing the food group? Please tell us below!