Harriet the Cow Says: No Moooore Milk!
June 24, 2005 8:34 PM   Subscribe

How did you eliminate dairy from your diet? I've just tried spending two weeks dairy-free, and found it a heck of a challenge!

I honestly can't imagine how one completely removes dairy from one's diet without ending up with a completely alien menu. The stuff is freakin' everywhere in my diet -- milk for my latte, yogurt for my granola, cream cheese for crackers, sour cream for bean burritos, evaporated milk for the salmon pasta sauce, cheese in damn near anything... and that doesn't even begin to eliminate it from prepared foods (which, thank goodness, are in lesser supply in our house.)

On the face of it, it seems mission impossible: more realistic is to sharply reduce my diary intake. Oh -- and soy isn't an option, 'cause it's loaded with calcium, too. Plus I think it takes gawdawful, worse than raw milk even.

I think I might find it easier to eliminate wheat or corn from my diet. I'd be interested to hear personal experiences with that, too. Not at all interested in hearing how you eliminated meat from your diet, though.
posted by five fresh fish to Food & Drink (19 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
After reading something particularly disgusting on the PETA site by mistake (If you are really desperate to know exactly what I read, my email address is in my profile), I eliminated dairy from my diet. Not because I wanted to, but because what I read was so vile I could not stomach the idea of eating dairy.

Eliminating dairy products is really just about modifying your meal choices. If you want nachos, get the w/o cheese and sour cream, you really won't notice that much. I found that what I really liked about sour cream on things like burritos or nachos is the hot/cold contrast, so I just loaded on more lettuce. Sounds strange, I know. Of course, in many cases simple substitution is impossible. For instance, soy milk is vile so I stopped drinking coffee and eating cereal.

I have been more or less dairy free for about 2 months (I don't eat any dairy products, but I do still eat commercially produced non-vegan bread and I am sure that does contain some sort of dairy product). It has been simple for me because it is more of a mental thing. I do have do say that I don't miss dairy at all. IEven though I was not eliminating dairy for health or political reasons, I lost tons of weight and feel much better in the strangest ways (could dairy possibly contribute to depression? I've noticed a remarkable reduction in depression since avoiding dairy).

All in all, it is pretty difficult to stay dairy free unless you are a health-nut/vegan sort of person who does not mind things like soy cheese or tofu milkshakes or someone like me: easily grossed out by PETA propaganda. I wish I had some better tips for you!
posted by necessitas at 9:02 PM on June 24, 2005

FFF, I feel your pain. A few months ago I had to go on an 'elimination' diet (to test for food sensitivities/allergies), and had to completely cut out dairy (among other things).

I lived on cheese, so this was really, really hard.

I really had to change my diet. Just eating the old standbys, but without cheese, just wasn't an option. And soy cheese was yucky.

My solution was to go ethnic. East Asian food. Seriously. These are cuisines in which dairy is not common, so it's easy to find lots of tasty, tasty foods made without dairy. (or even soy, unless soy sauce is an issue).

Another option is to research cookbooks for those with food allergies. These recipes aren't vegetarian, but most eliminate dairy (as it is a common allergen). You are just going to have to experiment to find out what you like.

In my experience, the first two weeks were the hardest, so if you've made it this far, it should be easier going from now on. Good luck.

(BTW, I had to cut out wheat and corn for the elimination diet, and I can tell you that these two ingredients are in pretty much everything.)
posted by luneray at 9:32 PM on June 24, 2005

I did it very slowly. It may depend on your reasons, where you get your motivation from. For me, it was part of a larger process of trying to be healthier with food choices. In retrospect, changing everything probably made me miss dairy less because it wasn't conspicuously absent or awkwardly substituted.

First I stopped eating fast food. Then I started decreasing the processed foods. I went from regular bread to whole grain; instead of crackers or nachos for a snack I started having olives and nuts, popcorn, humus and carrots, fruit and peanut butter, sorbet. My meals started to shift Asian and Indian, away from Italian and Mexican. It helped to eat really good restaurant food during this period; I found new flavors I liked and started to use them at home. The meals needed to taste rich enough to me, or else I felt like I was being restricted. It also helped to absolve myself of any guilt for spending too much money on food. I decided it was an investment, like going to the gym.

Next I got rid of milk. I switched to almond milk for tea (really doesn't taste the same, but at the same time I switched to decaf tea which also doesn't taste the same, at least when it comes to Earl Grey, so the change was just something I had to get used to). Cereal/yogurt I dropped outright in favor of scrambled eggs and fruit. Lunch had already been morphed into salad or a rice-based stirfry (made in batches, brough to work in tupperware), so there was no cheese to eliminate. (Other choices: wraps made with ham and sweet pickles, or turkey and avocado, or chicken salad with halved grapes and walnuts). For dinners I have either meat and a veg, soup and a veg, a collection of snacks, or I go out to a restaurant. (Tonight at tapas: chickpea puree and pita chips, tempura vegetables, chorizo and figs, coffee-braised ribs. Last night I had a grilled steak and then popcorn at the movies.)

Another thing that helped was to put a list on the fridge of my food choices -- it saved me the trauma of opening the fridge and seeing all my favorite stuff in there (the rest of my household eats differently than I do). I'd read the list and decide what I was going to eat, then open the fridge and get the stuff out.
posted by xo at 9:37 PM on June 24, 2005

When I went vegan for a summer I did eat a lot of soy and rice milk. However, I also worked to swap out some of the savory things I ate for different savory things. I was working on my cholesterol, so I used olive oil on bread instead of butter, and for sauteeing. Since it was summer I switched to iced coffee with some sugar instead of any milk. I ate hummus on bread, with chips and with veggies instead of dips and cheeses. I switched to vinaigrette salad dressings andmostly tried to eat a lot more fruits as snacks instead of cheese/dip/butter related ones.
posted by jessamyn at 10:22 PM on June 24, 2005

I think the biggest mistake is trying to substitute something like soy milk for milk. They don't taste the same, and it'll make you think you need dairy. You'll just have to eat differently. "The Venturesome Vegetarian" is a good dairy-free cookbook. Yes, it's also meat-free, which you're not interested in, but if nothing else, you can get some good side dishes. Foods like pumpkin and coconut milk are good for making things creamy without dairy. You could also check out some kosher cookbooks and maybe get some advice for dairy-free meals in a kosher grocery store. Cooking without dairy doesn't have to be boring.
posted by Airhen at 10:26 PM on June 24, 2005

That's interesting. I hate diary (don't think I'm lactose intolerant or anything, I just don't like the taste) and have had no trouble keeping it out of my diet. I don't drink milk, don't eat pizza or cream sauces, and have had no problems doing so. It's not like I have to actively avoid it or have to go on some crazy sort of diet either. Just don't add cheese to your sandwich, reduce pan sauces instead of adding cream to thicken, drink juice or soymilk (which I love) for breakfast. I really can't imagine dairy playing that big of a role in your diet.
posted by gyc at 11:41 PM on June 24, 2005

I cut out dairy for a long time, but it meant really changing what I eat. Hot breakfasts, no more lattes (I switched to green tea), lots of asian foods (chinese, japanese, thai, vietnamese), mediterranean food, home-cooked indian food (replace the ghee with oil), meat-based kosher (jewish) or halal (muslim) meals, soft tacos instead of burritos, peanut butter and crackers or hummus and pita instead of cheese and crackers, etc. It's summer, so at least you have the option of grilling meat and having lots of fresh fruits and veggies. Winter is much harder.
posted by cali at 11:51 PM on June 24, 2005

"Not Milk dot com" did it for me, now I use almond milk, drink yerba matte, but still have an occasional slice of pizza now and then .
posted by hortense at 12:05 AM on June 25, 2005

I love dairy, and live in Wisconsin, so a dairy-free life is not really even an option. Also, I think soy milk tastes wretched. However, for reasons of taste, mostly, I've been enjoying the oat-derived beverage found on this page. How they extract a beverage from oats, I do not know. But it's a lovely substitute for milk.
posted by Dr. Wu at 12:07 AM on June 25, 2005

When going without dairy, I definitely liked the taste of rice and almond milks (and rice cream) better than soy, and using flavored (vanilla, chocolate) ones at first made them even more palatable with cereal or straight. Guacamole's good. Thinly sliced green apple instead of cheese can add a sharp sweet flavor to a sandwich. I haven't yet tried a hard soy cheese that I enjoy, but I did find mac & chreese satisyfing.
posted by PY at 1:57 AM on June 25, 2005

Rice milk is miles better than soy milk. We stopped putting cow milk on our cereal about two years ago, and I swear it's drastically reduced the number of colds I've had since. That cow milk will seriously screw with your mucus situation.
posted by schoolgirl report at 6:25 AM on June 25, 2005

I don't think soy milk is loaded with calcium, unless you're specifically buying the calcium enriched kind.
posted by Big Fat Tycoon at 7:33 AM on June 25, 2005

Just as a tip, I have never met a pizza place that will not make a cheeseless pizza if you ask (and it's actually good, too). There are lots of things you can make without dairy: as others said, asian food, lots of middle eastern food if you dodge the things with yogourt, roast chicken and potatoes, and so on. You'll probably just need to get used to black coffee, though.
posted by transient at 8:11 AM on June 25, 2005

Response by poster: Cool! I'm thinking I can do a lot to rid myself of milk, then!

The hardest thing has been breakfast/lunch. I'm a grazer and cheese/yogurt is convenient. I'm also lazy, which is why cheese/yogurt were so convenient. I'll just have to belly-up and start making scrambled eggs.

Once this round of meds is done, though, I'm going back to my coffee. I firmly believe "all things in moderation" is a good way to live, so a single cuppa of dairy shouldn't be a big problem.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:23 AM on June 25, 2005

Response by poster: Ixnay that. I just discovered the hazelnut milk substitute. ooooh.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:25 AM on June 25, 2005

If you're eating out just say you're lactose intolerant. It's a quicker explanation and most restaurants will be more than willing to cater to you. If they don't, take your business to a better restaurant.

Besides that, there is a lot of great advice in this thread. I've been dairy-free for almost 3 years now and I love it. Good luck.
posted by purephase at 11:36 AM on June 25, 2005

necessitas, I've also noticed that my moods are more stable since I gave up dairy. This week I slipped and ate a couple of meals that had hefty amounts of cheese in them, and each time I felt just plain icky for a day or so after. In my observation there is a connection. It's also interesting to note that some doctors recommend taking hyperactive or misbehaving children off dairy for a period of time to see if that affects their behavior.
posted by rhiannon at 1:17 PM on June 25, 2005

I'm kinda like gyc, though perhaps to a slightly lesser degree - but dairy always makes me feel kinda clogged up, so I can only have a little here or there, and it's really not a big deal to knock it out for a while. I like a taste of good cheese here or there, and I usually have milk in my coffee, but any other dairy I have is basically just for convenience (i.e., I eat bagels and cream cheese, or granola & milk, etc, but not because I adore them - I'd be as or more happy with french toast or fried eggs, etc.)

I love indian and asian food, though. The creamy sauces in thai food are often made with coconut milk - is that an option? It's obviously not milk, but I have no idea if it has calcium or what it is that motivates you to remove dairy to start with. Anyway, I find it a thick rich sauce without that sort of cloggy-snotty feeling that real milk can bring with it.
posted by mdn at 2:55 PM on June 25, 2005

Response by poster: It's all more a hypothetical, really. A short-term prescrip had cautioned against calcium intake and specifically mentioned dairy products. I took it as an opportunity to try eliminating diary. It was difficult.

But I'm gonna try to reduce dairy. If it was difficult to eliminate, it's much too big a part of my diet.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:43 AM on June 26, 2005

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