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Resources for a dairy-free lifestyle

by Karen on February 11, 2011

It’s so overwhelming to consider cutting an entire food group out of my diet.

I was already struggling to meet my daily calcium requirements, especially as a nursing mother. This is just going to make things that much harder. Not to mention, I love cheese, you guys. Like seriously love cheese.  This dairy-free thing is going to take some serious commitment, and it’s going to be challenging. I never thought I’d voluntarily give up gouda. Oh, the things we do for our children.

To make things easier on myself, I’ve compiled some resources — many of them shared by my lovely friends and readers and some of them discovered through my own research.

It seems this dairy-free thing is quite common these days, and lots of women have been in my situation with a nursing infant who has a dairy intolerance. If anyone else is able to feel a little less overwhelmed at the idea of a dairy-free diet through these resources then all the better.

First and foremost, I found this list of non-dairy calcium sources to be incredibly helpful. Without milk, cheese, and yogurt, meeting your daily calcium requirement is a little more challenging, but it can be done! And don’t forget to take a daily calcium supplement just to cover your bases.

Kelly Mom also shares some tips on meeting your daily calcium requirements without dairy.

This list of vegan baking substitutions offers suggestions for what to use in place of milk and other dairy products in recipes.

I was absolutely thrilled when I discovered that one of my favorite recipe sites, All Recipes, has a special section for dairy-free recipes. Their search engine makes it easy find dairy-free recipes with ingredients you have on hand, and user reviews make it easy to find meals that actually taste good.

This handy cheat sheet outlines “hidden dairy” ingredients (pdf) that you should avoid on a dairy-free diet (it’s not as simple as avoiding foods with “milk” and “cheese” in the ingredients list.

There’s even a dairy-free diet page at About.com, which is a good place to find the basics if you’re feeling overwhelmed.

After several hours of research, I’m not feeling quite so overwhelmed anymore. I’m even somewhat excited at the prospect of coming up with new meal ideas to fit our new dairy-free lifestyle. I won’t lie; life without cheese and chocolate and the occasional decaf non-fat no-whip mocha will be a struggle, and I’m not convinced that almond milk and rice ice cream will satisfy my dairy cravings. But it’s temporary and it’s best for my baby. So I shall carry on.

All I have to say is, I better start losing this baby weight quick if I’m giving up ice cream, cheese, and chocolate, or I’ll be writing angry letters to the Weight Loss Fairies.

Photo by amuckin77

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February 12, 2011 at 7:32 pm

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1 Corinne February 11, 2011 at 4:10 pm

On the calcium front, you might not need as much as you think. There are so many factors that affect the balance of calcium in the body – cultures that don’t eat dairy generally don’t have problems with osteoporosis. Most junk foods tend to leech calcium out of the body (esp sodas) so if your diet is mostly whole foods your calcium intake requirements go down. The problem is that it’s almost impossible to calculate what that number is!

2 Mary February 11, 2011 at 4:56 pm

FYI – While you might have to venture out from the mocha to another kind of latte (not sure whether there is actual dairy in the chocolate components of a mocha, but I’m sure you could find out), though I am not a big fan of soy, I found that Starbucks soy lattes are not bad at all. Between the strong flavors of the espresso and the flavoring syrup, the soy milk doesn’t stand out too much, even when you’re drinking decaf. (I drank one soy decaf latte a week during the last months of both my pregnancies – when I had to cut out milk)

3 Cathy February 12, 2011 at 8:23 am

I have been dairy free for seven years. I know cheese is hard to give up! But, there are tons of veggies that provide good calcium and actually absorb better in your body. Also, bone broth is good. (make sure you are using some vinegar in the broth) I am not a fan of soy and avoid it, but have found coconut milk works as a great substitute in recipes. Check out http://www.westonaprice.org/home-mainmenu-1.html for more information on bone broth and coconut milk. My naturopath originally had me eat a lot of almonds for calcium also. I think the dairy companies have misinformed us that dairy is the only place we can obtain calcium. So sad when there are so many other options available to us that also provide other benefits.

I know my SIL had great benefits of relieving her infant’s eczema with a dairy and gluten free diet. Just a thought. Congratulations to you for taking this important step in helping your baby.
Cathy´s last blog post ..Eggs

4 Cathy February 12, 2011 at 10:02 pm

Have you considered a probiotic?
Cathy´s last blog post ..Eggs

5 M February 13, 2011 at 8:39 am

I hope your theory/hunch is right about a dairy intolerance. But remember it is a just a theory so don’t let the experiment overwhelm you.

6 Megan February 14, 2011 at 12:26 pm

I totally agree with what Cathy said! I’m trying to transition to being primarily vegan because of the health concerns brought on by the foods we consume.

I highly recommend reading Dr. Fuhrman’s Eat for Health Books. It has some great information on obtaining nutrients when changing your diet, and also has some recipes that help you transition. I have also heard that his book Eat to Live is even better when it comes to grocery lists and determining which foods to put into your meal plans- however I haven’t read this one yet so I can’t vouch for any of it. Check your local library- they probably have at least on of these.

A great way to get in extra greens (loaded with calcium that is absorbed so much better than dairy sources) is to make a fruit and veggie smoothie. Try it before judging! Buy a bag of frozen berries and some fresh greens (spinach, collard greens, etc.) put them in the blender with some water or a small amount of juice- to get the blending started (pomegranite has a strong masking taste and lots of nutrients) . I recommend about 2-3 servings of fruit per veggie serving. Also, if you use fresh fruit and veggies add ice. I make a double batch at night and have half as a dessert and half in the morning for breakfast. If you think the greens taste too strong add more juice or fruit until you like it.

7 Dr. Timothy Lawler February 23, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Great article and great posts by all! You are all hitting everything dead on. There are tons of great sources of calcium from things other than dairy, and I always tell my patients to take a multivitamin as well. Keep up the great posts!

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