Going (and staying) dairy-free
Whether you have decided to limit or restrict it completely, going dairy-free has its pros and cons. For some of us it becomes an obvious choice because our bodies just decide to stop tolerating it in mid-life…. or perhaps we never noticed previously how much of an adverse effect it was having on us. One things for sure, it is hard to give it up completely. Sometimes only cheese will do! Dairy is kind of up there with carbs with regards to being ‘comfort’ food; it’s hard to replace the taste, texture and versatility of dairy with anything else isn’t it, certainly with something else that’s supposedly better for you.
I find I go along just fine for a while, maybe even for a couple of months or more. Then along comes a day when I wake up from a dream that includes blue cheese. Randomly during the day ice cream pops into my mind, and at night I crave a hot, milky, spicy drink to ‘comfort me to sleep’! I love herbal teas and am happy 99% of the time to be drinking them just with hot water. But on that other 1% day I just want something with more substance, something… well, creamier! I know it’s not worth it. I will be coughing for days and not able to breath freely through my nose if I succumb to the cravings… but still I have to fight off the pictures of cheese on toast that keep playing in my mind, and the little voice that says ‘just this once, then back on track’.
I love the fact that my skin is better without dairy. A sure sign your body cannot tolerate dairy is when you constantly break out around the jaw line. I also like the fact that apparently I am assisting myself to live longer, and potentially improving my chances of living longer without cancer. However, there are some down sides to passing on the creamy stuff too. Dairy is one of the best sources of calcium, and for women in menopause and beyond, osteoporosis and fractures are a key concern. However, I’ve been told more than once that a good diet should still provide the necessary amounts of calcium. And if not, then supplementation is an easy option. I used to think it would assist with a little weight loss but I’m not so sure anymore. I’ve been suffering for a year with tummy issues; bloating and pain, changed bowel behaviours, weight gain around the middle…. frustratingly being able to go up a whole size from one day to the next sometimes…. and never knowing what I can eat to get through a day without uncomfortable bloating (even foods on the Low FOD Map can be irritants). I am beginning to wonder if ditching dairy to aid my throat and nose issues has in turn caused issues in my gut, whereby the good bacteria have been reduced too far. It’s such a fine balance isn’t it? Why was everything so easy when we were kids, we ate everything and functioned just fine!
Years ago when I first started to limit my dairy intake, I did what most people did, I went for soymilk in my coffee and on my cereal. However, more recently there has been a lot of bad press about soy. Word is that soy impairs your absorption of minerals, prevents proper digestion of protein, inhibits thyroid function and increases oestrogen levels to almost dangerous proportions. Not such a great alternative! And you have to be so very careful because soy is found in most packaged foods, including foods that are labelled as healthy; like health bars and cereals.
So if dairy is out and soy is out, what’s in?
And how can you have that comforting drink with substance and creaminess?
Almond milk is in. Coconut milk is in. Rice milk, hemp milk, oat milk…. all in. Coconut yoghurt is really quite lovely and available in supermarkets. You can make cashew cream (from cashew nuts). Nut butters are huge right now. I recently tried vegan cheese, which really did have a cheddar flavour and satisfied my need for the texture (and thought) of cheese. It got me through the craving without having a slip up. My local health shop, and even supermarket, have non-dairy chocolate available. More brands and flavours it seems almost every week. Raw healthy sweet treats are also the latest trend; dairy-free, sugar-free, wheat, gluten and white flour free…. You can make your own chocolate with cacao or cocoa and coconut oil. It certainly has got much easier being dairy-free. This week I found almond milk ice cream in the supermarket freezer!
Here’s a couple of useful articles on substitutes for cheese, butter, milk, yoghurt, cream and chocolate:-
And here’s some satisfying milky drinks to keep the cravings at bay….
Chai Tea (pre-bed immune system booster)
Add coconut milk to a small saucepan or milkpan.
Add ground cinnamon, ground ginger and honey to taste.
Coconut Spice Tea
Add coconut milk or cream to a small saucepan.
Add ½ cup filtered water.
Add turmeric powder, cardomon pods, a piece of fresh ginger and a cinnamon stick.
Add 2 tblsp of coconut sugar or honey, and a pinch of sea salt.
Warm gently for 10 minutes. Strain. Add 2 tblsp of cacao powder and a ½ tsp of vanilla extract.
Cinnamon Cashew Milk
Soak ½ cup of cashew nuts in water for 3 hours. Drain.
Add to a blender with 3 cups filtered water, 1 tsp cinnamon, ¼ tsp ground ginger, ¼ tsp vanilla essence.
Add 3 fresh pitted dates (or 2 tsp raw honey).
Blitz until milk consistency/creamy.
Cover and refrigerate until icy cold.
And…. a substitute for cream or whipped cream, great for with cake or fruit….
1 cup cashews
4 fresh pitted dates
½ tsp vanilla powder
Blend all in a food processor. Add water if necessary.
Kombucha fermented drinks
If you think that your tummy has paid the price of a low intake of probiotics due to reduced dairy, then up your good bacteria by drinking kombucha. A variety of fermented, lightly effervescent sweetened black or green tea drinks that the Chinese called the “Immortal Health Elixir”, kombucha is renowned for its good gut bacteria benefits. If you really get into it then you can even make it yourself; google buying kits online.
There are more ways to go dairy-free, and more alternative products popping up in health stores and supermarkets every month. Cooking shows, books, e-books, Pinterest and Instagram accounts are hot right now on wonderful desserts and sweet treats that are ‘raw’ and dairy-free. There’s more information out there than ever before.
But perhaps, as with so much in life, the best practise is to limit dairy and consider it a ‘treat’, rather than cut it out altogether. Having something occasionally means you are more likely to be able to go 80/20 or all the way up to 99% if that’s what you choose to do. But as soon as you tell yourself that something is off limits completely, then you will find it hard to stay cold turkey…. just how we are wired, we want what we cannot have, and the pull of cheese on toast can be a powerful thing!
I allow myself to have goats cheese or halloumi cheese on a salad when I feel like it. It is something to be savored and looked forward to 🙂