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dairy-free creamy pasta with fresh local tomatoes, basil, green beans & potatoes

It’s so nice to see you’ve returned for my second post in my Dairy-Free Series.  My last post described my family’s experience with dairy and our decision to remove dairy from our diets.

If you’ve ever felt discomfort from dairy (bloat, diarrhea, constant throat clearing, chronic sinus and bronchial infections…) and think it’s time to do something about it, please keep reading.  This post is going to cover the “how to” portion of removing dairy from your diet, or as I would prefer to call it “how to feel better, stronger, healthier and breathe more clearly by eating amazingly delicious nutrient dense foods instead of dairy.”

I’ve published this topic next because I don’t want to lose you! I want you to see all the options available to you and show you that you will not miss dairy.  (Well, I can’t guarantee that.  It is addictive, you know…, but a girl can do her best and offer what’s worked for her.)

I think it’s important that we look at this change as a shift in the way we think and eat in a step toward better health and NOT as depriving ourselves of something we love.  It may take time transitioning to different foods, but if you are committed I can guarantee you will love it and wish you had done it earlier. 

Remember how you loathed that last sinus infection or had a lingering chesty cough that wouldn’t quit? Depressed at the thought of seeing your toddler running around with a nose like a faucet all winter?

I think removing dairy from your diet may help with many ailments in those people who are sensitive to it.*  Are you with me? 🙂

I would also like to mention that in our transition to dairy-free my objective was to find whole foods substitutes for dairy, rather than regularly using the many processed dairy substitutions.

OK, now onto the main principle that has gotten me past the stage of “I miss dairy” with no looking back!

Crowding Out:

I learned the concept of Crowding Out during my 30 Day Vegan whole foods workshop in March 2011.  While I was already dairy-free at the time, I had transitioned using this method and I didn’t even know it! Crowding out is finding delicious substitutes for the foods you would like to cut out of your life, leaving no room for them.  It’s all about satisfying yourself by a shift in thinking, rather than depriving yourself of something you love and “can’t do without.”  Trust me, I NEVER thought I would give up dairy, cheese, ice cream, cream cheese, butter, yogurt…you get the picture.  I do not eat those things any more and I AM FITTER, HAPPIER, MORE PRODUCTIVE.  (Yes, those are lyrics from a Radiohead song, but the sentiments fit.)

For instance, here are some foods I have added to crowd out dairy.

hummus on a veggie burger

  • Hummus – Oh my, the flavor combinations are endless.  Hummus is rich, creamy, full of protein and some fat (if you use tahini or oil), immune boosting (if you include raw garlic) – need I say more? Grab some veggies and dip away.  I also like to dip pita chips or rice crackers in hummus.  Dreena Burton’s Eat Drink and Be Vegan cookbook has an entire chapter devoted to hummus!
  • Cheesy Dips – There are so many great cheese-like dip recipes.  One of our all-time favorite dips is Kristen Suzanne’s Cheesy Hemp Nacho Sauce.  Make this and serve it at any sporting event buffet and I swear you’ll have everyone asking for the recipe.  This is a delicious, nutrient dense dip – lots of protein from the hemp and cashews, B12 from the nutritional yeast, plus anti-inflammatory properties from the cayenne and turmeric.  This dip can also be used as a salad dressing.
  • Guacamole – This rich dip satisfies the high fat salty craving you might get for cheese.  My simple recipe is:  one avocado, a half lime, sprinkle of sea salt.  Mix and eat.

kale pineapple smoothie with coconut milk

  • Smoothies – the right combination of ingredients using one of the many non-dairy milks (or just water) will yield you a luscious, thick drink with so much flavor you’ll forget about Baskin Robbins (John Robbins, the dairy-free son of the chain’s co-founder Irv Robbins, did and he says he’s much happier for that).
  • Creamed Veggies – again using a cashew cream sauce you can have luscious, creamed kale, collards, broccoli, cauliflower without dairy.

Here are some foods that I use to substitute for dairy.

  • Almond Milk (instead of cow’s milk) – Use in place of cow’s milk (can also use hemp, oat, soy, hazelnut, etc.).  I prefer to make my own almond milk (almonds, water, date, pinch of salt) because it’s fresh and has no additives.
  • Coconut Oil (instead of butter) – Used sparingly instead of butter it adds a rich taste to stir fries, baked goods and popcorn.  We also use coconut butter (different than coconut oil) on our toast.

dairy-free saag paneer with coconut yogurt

  • Coconut/Almond/Soy Yogurt (instead of yogurt) – While non-dairy yogurt does take some getting used to, it’s workable.  I make homemade soy yogurt using Edensoy with a short ingredient list of organic soybeans and reverse osmosis water and a non-dairy vegetal culture.

enchilada with light sprinkle of daiya

  • Daiya Cheese (instead of shredded mozzerella or cheddar) – This shredded “cheese” is made from tapioca and pea protein, amongst other things.  It is a processed food, so we don’t use it regularly, but it’s perfect for pizza and quesadillas.  My kids love both of those foods and when we switched to Daiya they didn’t know the difference.
  • Nutritional Yeast (instead of parmesan) – We sprinkle nutritional yeast on pasta dishes instead of parmigiano reggiano.  Delish with an extra boost of B12 (if you use Red Star’s or Bragg’s vegetarian support formula).

pina colada banana ice cream

  • Banana Ice Cream (instead of dairy ice cream) – This is such a decadent “treat” made from ripened, frozen bananas! So easy to make and can be customized to satisfy your favorite ice cream flavor craving.  My fourth post in this series will feature a video/tutorial of me making banana ice cream.
  • Cashew Cream (instead of heavy cream) – Raw cashews blended with water can turn into “cream” and can be flavored for dips or used in soups; it can also turn into a nice thick “creamy” cheese.
  • Coconut Milk (instead of whipping cream) – Coconut milk blended on high speed will turn into rich “whipped coconut cream“.  I use Native Forest (BPA free can lining) or make my own with unsweetened shredded coconut.

There are many other dairy substitutes such as Earth Balance (margarine) and Tofutti (cream cheese and sour cream).  I have used both of these with great results, but they are not ingredients I turn to regularly.

A popular dairy-full dish (especially with the kids) we make occasionally as dairy-free:

decadent dairy-free mac-o, geez (aka mac n cheese – only better)

  • Mac-O, Geez! (instead of mac n cheese) – this recipe by Dreena Burton is absolutely decadent.  It’s made with a blended cashew sauce (no non-dairy cheese).  If it were up to the kids they’d eat it everyday, but it’s still just a treat for us.

A tip on cream sauces.  I realized recently while making a dairy-free fettucine Alfredo (from this beautiful online magazine my husband introduced me to called Chickpea) that dairy is traditionally used in sauces as a fat, providing texture and acting as the carrier base, but not necessarily for flavor.  So, when you’re in the mood for a cream sauce, don’t be fooled into thinking that you need heavy cream to give you the rich sauce you are looking for.  Just blend cashews, or any other creamy nuts, with some water and flavorings such as lemon juice, garlic, nutritional yeast, salt, etc. and you’ll have a most delightful sauce.

Finally, I would like to talk about the psychological aspect of going dairy-free.  This transition may be hard for some people because dairy is addictive, and it is also everywhere you turn.  It will take some diligence on your part to read labels and ask at restaurants and friend’s houses.  But, it’s OK.  It’s important to view this change in your life as honoring the one body that you have…seeking a higher quality of life each and every day.

Also, every person’s journey is different.  I felt better after one week of being completely dairy-free.  You may feel better after one day or one month.  I remember using up the last of my greek yogurt in a muffin recipe after about a week of being dairy-free.  Within minutes I could feel the back of my throat change and that is when I knew what I was dealing with and the longterm change I needed to commit to.

I am committed to staying dairy-free, in fact I have to pinch myself to prove that I’m not dreaming now that I am breathing so freely and clearly.  I am here for you at any step in the process if you have questions, or might be up against some stumbling blocks.  I hope this post will help you see that giving up dairy is not only possible, but it’s a truly wonderful way to live.

If you’ve read this and feel going dairy-free is a step in the right direction for you, won’t you take my hand? Like I said, it won’t hurt.  I promise.

Come back next week for my third post containing information I’ve gleaned from a multitude of experts and associated links to either web sites or books I would recommend on the topic.  Plus, I will be featuring some stories from dairy-free friends!


There are so many amazing dairy-free recipe blogs and books available to us.  Once you enter the kingdom of dairy-free you will be astonished at all the options at your fingertips!

Here are some of my favorite resources.

Web sites and blogs:


(*Just a reminder that I am writing these posts from my personal experience.  I am not a doctor, nor a nutritionist and you may wish to consult one before changing your diet.)