KNOW THIS: Going dairy-free is easier than you think.
WHY? There are a plethora dairy-free alternatives.
WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT IT? Try it. I bet you’ll feel better for it.
The diary-free switch
I’m quiet glad that I don’t carry the lactase persistent mutant gene. (see my blog post about it here) Ok, so I miss enjoying a cheese board, but the good thing is that it forces me to eat healthily. Most of the things that are bad for your health contain milk – desserts, creamy sauces etc, so by cutting out diary, you’ll naturally become healthier and will probably loose a bit of weight too. It also means that my conscious is clear when it comes to the dairy farming industry, whose practices amount to the systematic cruelty of both cows and calfs.
Living life completely diary-free is really easy. It takes some thought at the beginning, but once you’ve got used to knowing all the products that could contain dairy, and make a few simple switches, it’s very simple to maintain. The ease also depends on how severe you suffer from being lactose intolerant (or strict you want to be). For me I suffer quite badly, so the benefits of eliminating dairy completely from my diet far outweigh the enjoyment of eating a bowl of Häagan-Dazs. But for those who don’t show many signs of an intolerance, cutting out all diary products completely may be hard, and so just cutting down my be more realistic.
Here are the three products you can switch to cut down easily:
Milk for almond, coconut, oat, or any of the many other new mylks. Which is best depends on what you use it for. Oat or soy is better for coffee as the others can curdle. I like the creaminess of coconut for my cereal. But whichever you choose, pick one with no added sweeteners and preservatives. NB I have no affiliation with Rude Health – I just liked the gif.
Butter / margarine for soya spread or lactose free sunflower spread – Pure is a brand most supermarkets stock. Or I just use mayo on bread.
Cheese. Lactofree makes lactose free cheese. It doesn’t go anywhere near replacing mature cheddar cheese (it was my fave) but it’s great for grating on homemade pizzas and chilli con carne etc.
Going the whole way
Being lactose-free is more problematic than just cutting out milk and cheese products. This is because lactose can be found in a lot of processed food in the supermarket. Things you wouldn’t even imagine – like crisps. It’s a cheap bulking agent so even some medical tablets contain lactose. This means you must check the label on everything you consume until you get used to knowing what does and doesn’t contain diary (even after over ten years of being diary-free, I still check the labels of any new products I buy).
If you’re not eating at home you should always inform the chef that you’re lactose intolerant. However I find the hardest place to be dairy-free is at a party, faced with a table of nibbles, so here are some products that contain lactose that aren’t obvious:
Flavoured crisps and snacks – Ready salted and salt and vinegar are generally fine, however most other flavourings contain lactose.
Mayonnaise – Mayonnaise shouldn’t contain any cream, however some brands add it to make it ‘lighter’. Hellman’s original is fine, but their Light mayo contains cream. At time of writing this, Heinz Mayo doesn’t have dairy in the light or regular.
Guacamole – Again pure guacamole shouldn’t contain dairy, but most supermarkets add cream to bulk it out.
Coleslaw – Most brands add cream, however a few don’t, including Marks and Spencer, which is my fave.
Sauces – unless you’ve made the sauce yourself, it’s impossible to know whether a sauce will contain lactose, so always ask before you eat it.
Curry – just like with sauces, you never know. Most Indian take-aways say ALL of their sauces contain dairy (they cook with ghee). But shop bought Jalfrazi and Rogan Josh are usually ok.
Cereals – most basic cereals are ok, like porridge or cornflakes, but some cereals add lactose.
Desserts – as obvious as it may be, some people forget that desserts will nearly always contain dairy. The only exception is fruit and sorbet.
Cutting out completely
If you think you are lactose intolerant and want to test the effectiveness of a diary-free diet, then you must be really strict, because even the smallest amount can trigger a reaction (a nutritionist told me you become super sensitive to a food immediately after cutting it out).
It takes around a month to get used to being diary-free, but hopefully you’ll start noticing the difference in a few weeks.
If you don’t see any improvement after a month, then maybe you’re one of the lucky people who carry the lactase persistence gene. If you are, enjoy a bowl of Häagan-Dazs for me!