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Going Dairy-Free? Here’s what you need to know…

With the new year well into its first month, a lot of us have made new years resolutions involving health overhauls. A lot of friends have asked me how to reduce their dairy intake. There are a lot of reasons people choose to cut out dairy… First of all, a large proportion of the world’s population are indeed lactose intolerant (many do not even know!), causing nasty symptoms such as digestive upset and skin irritations. Further, dairy is highly acidic, making it worthwhile to ditch during a health reboot (we want to consume more alkalising foods). Another good reason is that many dairy products, particularly non-organic varieties, are loaded with hormones and antibiotics, administered to the livestock and inevitably passed on to the consumer. Yuck! And of course, those consuming a vegan diet cut dairy out entirely.

Despite all these reasons to limit dairy intake, people are generally quite attached to it – we love our butter, pastries, cakes, ice cream, yoghurt, milk in our coffee, cream, cheese, milk shakes etc. And we often don’t even realise what contains dairy… Most candy bars, baked items, condiments and even supplements contain traces of dairy! It’s not until you can’t have it do you really think about how much it is (unnecessarily) in. But I promise you, with these helpful tips and healthy alternatives, it really is not so daunting. These easy swaps make going dairy-free a delectable breeze!

Almond Milk

Better than cows milk! Find my recipe here. I use this in everything from oats and baking to smoothies and teas. It is a one-for-one milk replacement, so feel free to use it in anything you would use milk!

Nutritional Yeast

Rich in protein and B vitamins, nutritional yeast is a power-packed superfood that brings a cheese-like flavour to meals. Sprinkle it on top of salads, pasta, bean-based meals or in wraps, rolls and sandwiches. I also like to add ½-1 tsp to salad dressings or dips. Try this vegan walnut caesar dressing using nutritional yeast on your next salad.  

Cashew Cheese

Use as a replacement to white cheeses like ricotta, cottage cheese or goats cheese. It is great as a dip with crackers, spread on toast or a sandwich/wrap, atop a pasta or zoodle dish, or dolloped on top of veggies. It is generally made from a blend of soaked cashews, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, dijon mustard, salt, pepper, garlic and water.

Brazil Nut Parmesan

Just 1 tbsp of this will be your daily dose of selenium, a mineral rich in antioxidants and required for immunity and normal thyroid function. Process 1 cup of Brazil nuts with 2 tbsp nutritional yeast, zest of ½ lemon, 1 clove of garlic and a pinch of sea salt. Use as you would parmesan cheese. Add smoked paprika for a smokey variety.

Cashew Cream

Delicious on top of pancakes, healthy baked goods, porridge or fresh fruit – use it as you would regular cream or custard, and enjoy every second! You can make your own simply by combining 1 cup soaked cashews, ¼-½ cup filtered water, maple syrup or sweetener of choice and vanilla bean. Blend and drizzle.

Coconut Yoghurt

A good coconut yoghurt is the answer to all dairy free prayers! Some can be a bit heavy, so a little bit goes a long way. Find one with no sugar or that only uses natural sugars. And as with regular yoghurt, the natural unflavoured varieties are always best to avoid artificial flavours and excess sugar. Try my tasty Spiced Coco Berry Bliss Smoothie.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is great for cooking both sweet and savoury dishes, rather than butter. It is a good baking oil as it has a higher smoke point than some other oils, meaning its nutrition stays in tact and it doesn’t turn carcinogenic. Macadamia oil is even higher. Coconut oil can also be spread on toast, if desired. Look for organic cold-pressed varieties. Another alternative for that buttery texture is avocado.

Tahini

Instead of using mayonnaise to bring creaminess to your dressings, consider adding calcium rich sesame spread aka tahini. If you aren’t fond of the taste and prefer something sweeter, almond butter does the trick! Try my creamy tahini cumin dipping sauce here.

Chocolate

Telling someone to cut out their beloved chocolate is definitely not a comfortable conversation. But there is an alternative! In Australia we have Pana Chocolate, a decadant raw vegan chocolate brand. Otherwise, an easy homemade recipe is simply: ½ cup raw cacao, 2 tbsp xylitol, ½ cup coconut oil, tsp vanilla essence, melted on the stove then freeze it in a baking dish or container. You can add raspberries, nuts, seeds, coconut and/or sea salt. You can also try my completely dairy-free chocolate mousse recipe here. So creamy!

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If you notice dairy has any effect on you – bloating, flatulence, stomach pain, break outs, mood swings, sleep disturbances – perhaps this is something you could consider? Try cutting it out for a period of 7-14 days and see if you notice relief from any of your symptoms. It might seem like a challenge, but the benefits will be so rewarding!

What about soy?

A common question I receive is “what about soy?” Personally, I limit my soy intake to fermented soy products such as tempeh, tamari and miso as non-fermented varieties tend to be very processed, full of unnecessary additives, and contain phytic acid which interferes with the absorption of important nutrients like iron. If I am out however and tofu, soy sauce, or soy milk is on the menu I will make the exception. When selecting these options, organic is always best.

Calcium 101

Another regular question is, “where do you get calcium from?” Aha! This is a favourite of mine to answer! Did you know that dairy actually increases calcium loss from the bones due to it’s high acidity? Put simply, the body tries to counteract the acidic conditions dairy (and other animal products) creates by releasing minerals that neutralize the situation. Calcium is a mineral that is actually a fantastic acid-neutralizer, and as such is released from the bones (where it is predominantly stored) and subsequently excreted! What’s more, plant sources of calcium are actually much more absorbable than that from dairy – approximately 30% of calcium from dairy is absorbed by the human body, compared to 40-65% absorption rate from plants! Isn’t it crazy that we have associated bone health with dairy for so long?!

Bottom line: meet daily calcium requirements through a variety of sources (preferably plant-based), cut out inhibitors and maintain regular exercise for strong healthy bones.

Plant-based Calcium Sources:

  • Collard greens
  • Broccoli
  • Bok Choy
  • Kale
  • Almonds/Almond butter
  • Sesame seeds/Tahini
  • Figs
  • Navy beans, black beans, white beans
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