10 Tips To Help You Go Dairy-Free!
Decided to cut dairy out of your diet but not sure where to start? First of all, congratulations on taking the first step! I'm so proud of you and I want to help you make this change, so today I am sharing my top 10 tips for going dairy-free that I used when I transitioned from a vegetarian to a vegan diet almost 3 years ago. What are my credentials, you ask? Good question!
Right up until the day I committed to being vegan I was a cheese addict. I would eat cheese with every single meal and snack. I would eat melted cheese on a bagel for breakfast. I would eat sliced cheese as a mid-afternoon snack. I would eat a bowl of parmesan cheese with a spoon for dinner. (True story). Let me tell you, my family and friends were pretty shocked to hear I was no longer on the dairy train. So how did I, as a major cheese addict, give it up cold turkey? Keep reading to find out!
On to the tips!
ONE Have a clear image of WHY you're going dairy-free.
Every change is easier with a strong motivation. What's yours? Mine was purely ethical, read here for more on that, but there are a multitude of reasons to reduce, or even better eliminate dairy from your diet for health and environmental reasons as well! I've written about these in detail on my blog, if you need a starting point in your research:
Still on the fence about giving up cow's milk and the products made from it? I encourage you, if you haven't already, to read my latest blog post, The Truth About The Dairy Industry, and peruse the resources I shared throughout. You can go now, it's ok, I'll wait! Still not sure? Comment below or send me an email at email@example.com and I'll answer any questions you may have and or chat with you, whatever you need! I want to be a support for you, so please don't hesitate to shoot me an email (or a tweet or a Facebook message or whatever social media you like using! I am on a good number of platforms. You can find links to my profiles on the right side of this page on a desktop or at the very bottom on a mobile device!)
Once you have your motivation, do whatever you need to do to keep it at the forefront of your mind. I found just having learned the truth about the dairy industry was enough for me, but you may need to write it down in your planner, or post a picture of dairy cows in a factory farm on your fridge, or have reminders pop up at meal times on your phone to keep your mind on your why. Whatever method works for you, do it!
TWO Consider your past successes.
Have you ever made a big change in your life? Were you successful? If so, take note of how you made that change. Did you do it cold turkey? Or was it more of a gradual change?
I won't tell you that one way is better than the other. Everyone is different and each individual person needs to approach their life in the way that best fosters their success! I cut out dairy in one fell swoop. No more milk, cheese, yogurt, butter, cream, etc. just like that. I won't lie, it was hard. But for me it was the very best option. I am not great with moderation; a slow transition would have left too much temptation to cheat and have "just a little bit more". My why was just too important for that.
The good thing is, no matter how you do it, you'll be making a huge impact! Even just a small reduction in your diary consumption at first will start to create improvements in your body as well as reducing the pain and suffering of animals and slowing the destruction of the environment. Do not beat yourself up if you're not a cold turkey kind of person (I'm not either *wink wink*), and don't let others beat you up for it! You're on your own journey. No one else can feel what you feel or is thinking your thoughts. You know which way is better for you and you are making a huge difference, no matter what anyone says!
THREE Tell your family and friends.
I'm not saying you should start preaching high and low, but I am saying you should hold yourself accountable. The best way to do that? Tell the people you're closest to your goal! It is especially important to tell those you find yourself eating with the most often. If the people in your life know you're off dairy, they'll give you a hard time for cheating! I found this to be one of the most helpful things I did to keep me on track in those first couple of weeks.
A caveat to this: Some people will try to derail you. Unfortunate, but true for almost any goal you could set. People feel strongly about what they put in their mouths everyday (not surprising, as we are literally made from it!) and will sometimes get defensive or feel judged, even if you didn't once lay judgement on them. It's ok. It can be very hard, but don't let them push you to go against your values or miss your goal. Maybe schedule more non-eating activities with them, or spend a little less time with them in that initial tough period while your willpower is still low. They will stop trying to make you cheat eventually, once they see you won't budge. I promise!
FOUR Try removing one form of dairy at a time.
If you're having trouble going full bore but aren't great with moderation, cutting out one type of dairy at a time could be the answer! Try removing milk from your diet, then once this has become easier add yogurt, then butter, then cheese... you get the picture. Focusing on just one product at a time can make a big goal seem a little more attainable!
FIVE Stock up on dairy substitutes.
While I don't encourage regular consumption of these products on a long-term vegan diet, dairy substitutes can be a life saver while transitioning!
Craving cheese? Here's some daiya! Need something for your breakfast cereal? How about some vanilla almond milk!
For any and every dairy product, there is a dairy-free substitute. Don't be afraid to rely on these heavily at first! I had daiya cheese daily on my salads and dinners for the first two or three weeks of giving up dairy, and it stopped me from caving many many times!
SIX Try something new!
Do you always go to the same restaurant and get the same dairy-laden dish? Maybe it's time to try something new! I suggest checking out vegan restaurants in your area (Happy Cow is a great resource for that) as there won't be any dairy in sight! Breaking your routine can really help cement the change.
You can even try this tip at home! Why not look up some new dairy-free recipes to try a couple of times a week, rather than just trying to cut out or substitute for the diary in your go-to meals? Check out these incredible blogs for some inspiration:
And check out my recipe posts!
SEVEN Eat well.
As they say, you don't win friends with salad. While I disagree (salad is awesome and so are friends!), eating foods you don't like is not going to help keep you on track. Eat well! Treat yourself to dairy-free deliciousness every single day. Don't give yourself the chance to start fantasizing about poutine. And if you do, go out and get a vegan version! (Poutineville and Fresh in Toronto both have ridiculously delicious vegan poutine!) The goal is not to deprive yourself, it's to thrive.
EIGHT Start a journal.
Not everyone likes journaling. I don't. But I really really wish I'd kept a journal before and after the switch to have more tangible proof of why I felt better. I definitely did, and could feel it, but recording my sleep, feelings, aches and pains, skin clarity, stuffiness, gas and bloating, and more would have really helped me recognize the benefits I was getting, right from the start!
Try keeping one every other day, or once a week, if your not a journal person. I promise you'll be glad you did!
NINE Don't do it alone!
Recruit your significant other, your best friend, your sibling, or your coworker to give up dairy with you! Everything is easier with a little teamwork, and making a significant dietary change is no different. You can encourage each other, go for meals together, and talk about the toughest and best parts of going dairy-free!
TEN Seek support.
This is especially important if you don't have someone to do it with you or if your closest friends and family aren't on board. Try vegan or dairy-free groups on Facebook, chatting on message boards, or reaching out to someone who has done what you're trying to do, even if you don't know them personally!
Like I said earlier in this post, I want to help you make this change. I am being 100% serious when I say you can email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or direct message me on instagram (@elizabethturn) anytime you need support! I would be honoured to be the person to help you make a positive change in your life.
Whether it's me or not, seek that support and don't be afraid to use it!
Now, go forth and go dairy-free!
Until next time,
What helped you give up dairy? What was the hardest part? I want to hear about it in the comments below!