Ready. Set. Go.
We’ve heard that phrase. From sports to backyard games, it’s a way to get you moving. When you hear those three little words, your brain is getting ready to do something important at that moment.
It can also help when making long-term decisions. And today, I’m talking giving up dairy.
Giving up dairy can be hard. It’s like one of the hardest things I’ve had to do more than once. I say “more than once” because I’m uhuman and have gotten on and off that wagon for years.
Let’s set aside the complications that are ever so present in the making of dairy products and let’s just talk about why it’s so hard to give up. It’s all about the flavor. Cheese, without fail, adds a specific element to any dish that completely enhances it for the better, right? It’s so darn delicious. And with so many varieties from all over the world, it’s no wonder people become cheese connoisseurs.
And that’s just cheese! Add ice cream, sour cream, sauces made with milk, and more and you have yourself a long list of dairy products that are so ingrained in our everyday diet and culture. How can we ever give it up?
When You Have to Give Up Dairy
So what happens when you discover you just can’t digest dairy? Or if you’re able to digest it, but you have other issues arise because of it like chronic inflammation? You have to do what’s best for your body and figure out ways to move past all the “benefits” of eating dairy.
About 30-50 million Americans suffer from some kind of lactose intolerance. And if you’re reading this, I’m going to take a guess and say that you are too. I feel your pain. It sucks. But the positive in all of this is that you get to figure out a new way to live that’ll only give your body the energy and fuel it needs to do what you love best.
Eat cheese (I kid!) … What I really meant to say is that by giving your body the right foods that bring life into it rather than take from it, you’re giving your body something no-one else can do like you: Respect.
That’s when you have to find a way to come to terms with your new predicament and tell yourself “Ready. Set. Go.”
Step 1: Get READY to Make a Plan
No one can predict the curveballs life throws at you. And you know exactly how that feels. For the things that you can foresee, it’s important to come up with a plan that’ll work best with your life, schedule, and desires. In the case of giving up dairy, it’s thinking about the situations you’ll find yourself in:
What About Social or Workplace gatherings?
You might have a dinner planned with friends and want to be sure that you’re prepared before heading to the restaurant. Take a look at the restaurant’s menu beforehand. And if you’re able to pick out the restaurant yourself, then even better! Make sure you pick a place you know has options.
What if you’re heading to someone’s house for dinner or have an office potluck party? Make sure you’re bringing a hearty dish that’ll keep you full if that’s the only thing you’d be able to eat. Another idea is to eat a little at home before going so that you’re not hungry and just eating everything in sight.
This is where the magic happens. If you end up sneaking in some dairy in the two types of gathering’s above, well, this is where you make everything better. Your meals on a daily basis need to be on point. Again, planning ahead makes all the difference. Whether you make a crockpot meal that can be converted into several meals during the week or you prefer to prep easy recipes daily, find what works best for you and stick to it.
So what if you don’t have a five-star meal every day? All you need is to have an idea of easy foods to prep and cook. Once the weekend comes around and you have a little more time, go ahead and experiment a bit with your meals. When you have more time on the weekends, experiment and make something new!
Step 2: SET Yourself Up for Success
Any negativity you feel about your recent (or not so recent) discovery of your lactose intolerance needs to go out the window. You can have your moments of feeling sorry for yourself (I know I have), but remember to snap out of it. Yes, food is delicious. And it’s awesome to NOT have to think about what you have to eat. But it’s also amazing to know every single ingredient that you ingest and understand how it’s going to work for YOU.
Do you have any long or short-term goals that are absolutely essential to your life’s fulfillment? If so, think about how your body has to be in optimal form in order to really have your mind in the right place. Do you notice when how your brain and body feel after you eat certain foods? There are so many food items that are made to give you nutrients and others to strip them away. Know what’s in your food and feel empowered by it.
In order to accomplish any goal, you have to feel great. Your body, state of mind, and overall disposition are affected by what you eat. Keep that in mind and hopefully, that’ll be enough to push forward.
Step 3: GO for it!
Don’t start giving up dairy until you have everything you need in your kitchen to succeed. First, pick a day that you’ll want to dedicate to “dairy cleaning”. It’s like Spring cleaning, but for your kitchen!
You’ll want to get rid of all your dairy-filled condiments, pre-packaged foods, and perishables and restock with items that serve as replacements. Then, you can make a list of foods that you love and that are in line with your new dietary lifestyle, look up dairy alternatives to add to your list, and head to the grocery store.
To help you get started, here are some of my favorite dairy alternatives:
This is the most legit brand I’ve come across. It uses real ingredients and thanks to their use of enzymes, you get a real dairy flavor – well as real as it can get! My personal favorite line is their ricotta cheese.
I put one of these cheese wheels out at a party once amongst other real cheeses and no one knew the difference! In fact, this cheese was the first to go! It truly is the best brand that tastes the most like real cheese. Trust me!
Follow Your Heart
This brand has excellent sliced cheese. My favorite? The pepper jack one, of course! They’re irresistible. Try their other flavors and let me know what you think!
Make your own cheese
I haven’t successfully made a really good batch, but I’ve tried a few times. A great blog post by The Green Plate that gives wonderful options for making your own dairy-free cheese.
From smoothies to using alternative milk in the batter of English style fish, these dairy-free milk options offer a 1:1 replacement for regular milk. Make sure you’re using unsweetened to avoid added sugars and preservatives.
Even though I’m recommending all of the above today, it doesn’t mean these products can always be trusted. Food companies often change their ingredients so read ingredient labels. That way you can feel confident that your dairy replacements are good, healthy replacements.
During your in your food journey, just know that you can reach out to me with questions or other products you discover. And you know what else can help? Every single recipe on this site is dairy-free. Doesn’t that feel amazing?