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How to Live Without Dairy Products

Jump to:-   General Advice  |  Warnings  |  Tips 

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Go to:-   Dairy Free Recipes  |  Food and Health

Whether you're lactose intolerant or have an actual allergy to dairy products, it's important to review your eating habits and determine which foods may aggravate your condition. This article is aimed at helping you avoid accidental intake of dairy products, whether at home or eating out and also outlines some important nutritional issues to consider when cutting out dairy products.

General Advice

  1. Hone your willpower. This may sound obvious however if you love cheesy pizzas, cream soups and ice cream it can be hard to resist those favourite foods in the beginning. You'll just have to keep telling yourself  "It's just not worth the agony of eating dairy."

  2. What to avoid. Avoiding dairy isn't as simple as no longer drinking milk. Here's what else might no longer be on your list of safe food items:

    • butter and most margarines (contain whey, casein, or lactose)

    • most baked items

    • some breads

    • most flavours of crisps (except plain )

    • cream sauces

    • cheese in all forms

    • ice cream and some gelato and sherbet

    • most chocolate (including most dark chocolate )

    • whey protein powder

    • non-dairy coffee creamer (casein)

    • some mayonnaises, mustards, and other condiments

    • Be wary of chicken and turkey, sometimes they are injected with butter (especially the breast)

  3. Alternative Dairy products. There are now many dairy substitutes available including:-

    • Milk: based on soy, rice, almond, hemp seed, and oat, fortified or not, are available in such flavours as plain, chocolate, strawberry and vanilla

    • Cheese: based on soy, rice, and hemp, are available. Be careful with cheese as even vegetarian brands can contain milk products, usually in the form of caseinate. Goat's and sheep's milk cheeses seem to be okay for those with relatively mild intolerances.

    • Ice Cream: based on soy, rice, and hemp with many flavours to choose from

    • Yogurt: soy and rice based with a small selection of fruit flavours

    • Margarines: there are a few good alternatives to butter. Vegan websites often maintain a list of dairy-free margarines. Unrefined coconut oil can make a nice substitute.


  4. Eating Out. Unfortunately Italian is pretty much off your list as is Indian food because ghee (clarified butter) is a common ingredient.  However Chinese, Thai, and Japanese food are generally speaking free of dairy, but always ask about the ice cream, as it's not always made of soy. Vegan restaurants are reliable for not using dairy ingredients and most vegetarian restaurants have non-dairy alternatives. It is also possible to eat out at chain restaurants. Steak, grilled chicken, fresh fruit, and steamed vegetables are usually on the menu and are acceptable. If you are unsure of ingredients and seasonings, ask. Salad bars are an excellent option - just bypass the cheese and choose a dairy-free dressing, such as oil and vinegar.

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  • Watch for hidden dairy ingredients: whey, lactose, casein, and caseinate.

  • While you do not have to drink milk or eat dairy products to be healthy, you don't want to make yourself sick by eating an incomplete diet. Make sure you're getting a good balance of proper nutrients in your diet.  Get Enough Calcium. Luckily fortified nut and grain milks offer similar key nutrients as dairy milk. You can also buy calcium fortified orange juices. This is also a good time to get acquainted with some calcium-rich foods like dark leafy greens (kale, bok choi, collards, broccoli), sardines, and almonds.

  • A caution about getting on the soy foods train: too much of anything is bad, and there have been some claims of adverse effects from eating excessive amounts of soy foods (veggie meats, soy cheese) especially with children. Do not use soy products as your sole dairy replacement. Not only are they highly processed and nutritionally lacking, but they're often quite expensive as well.

  • Although there are lactose-free milks, read the label carefully. Most of these milks actually contain the lactose, but contain the lactase enzyme to help you break them down more easily. This will not help you if you're allergic to milk, rather than intolerant.

  • Another recent finding noted this Spring at a GI conference at Children's Hospital at Dartmouth Hitchcock (CHAD) is that if you have just found you're allergic or "sensitive" to milk protein and switch to soy products, your body's histamines are elevated and you may experience the same reaction to soy after a few weeks. If you find you are having this reaction, they recommend avoiding soy protein (and to be safe--soy oils) for as long as 6 months, dependent upon the severity of your reaction. Then you might slowly reintroduce soy after the body has "healed" and can distinguish the difference.

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  • Dairy allergy is fundamentally different from lactose intolerance. Allergy causes histamine reactions in the body that could potentially kill; lactose intolerance is the inability of the person to digest lactose, which is uncomfortable but not deadly. Some of us who are intolerant but not allergic can tolerate cheeses (especially aged cheeses), and yogurt, or small amounts of cooked milk products. There are over-the-counter enzymes which help to a limited degree. Everyone's reaction is different, so experiment carefully.

  • Goat milk often fails to create an adverse reaction in the lactose-intolerant. Try a small amount of goat's milk or goat cheese and see how you react. There are many cheeses available which are made with goat's milk such as Greek Feta which is made entirely from goat's milk and generally fails to cause a reaction in even the most sensitive stomach.

  • For some people, yogurt with active cultures, even when made from milk, usually does not create a reaction when taken in moderation. Try this carefully and in moderation, as you may still react.

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Sources and Citations


Based on an article by wikiHow, a collaborative writing project to build the world's largest, highest quality how-to manual.  All content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons license.

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