5 Tips to Becoming a Dairy-Free Diva
[Alisa Fleming is the founder of GoDairyFree.org and author of the best-selling book, Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living. We asked her for advice on how to manage when you're gluten-free and need to eliminate dairy, too.]
So you’ve spent months, perhaps years, working to cut out gluten. You’ve finally got a host of meals in your arsenal, some food products you can rely on, and a good understanding of reading labels for hidden wheat. But then it hits – the curve ball from left field. Your body’s decided that dairy is an enemy, too.
Lactose intolerance is a very common additional diagnosis when people discover that they have celiac disease, but what many don’t realize is that dairy sensitivity to the proteins in milk also occurs frequently in those with gluten sensitivity.
Your initial reaction to cutting out both gluten AND dairy might be something like this, “What am I going to eat? I can’t live without cheese!” You are not alone. For some, the journey to dairy-free living is actually pretty easy. But for many, dairy addiction presents some struggles.
To help lead you down that easy road, here are 5 Tips to Going Dairy-Free:
1. Identify the Dairy
Just like you may have already done with gluten, you need to learn what the term “dairy” really means, and where it may hide. Most importantly, understand that “lactose-free” does not necessarily equal “dairy-free.” If you are sensitive to dairy, it usually means that you have an issue with the proteins in milk. Lactose is just “milk sugar” and can be removed fairly easily from milk products, while the protein is more vital. I’ve yet to see a dairy product that was “milk protein-free.” Here is my Dairy Ingredient List to help get you started.
2. Break the Spell
If there is a food (like cheese) that you feel you absolutely can’t live without, then you probably have a pretty strong emotional and/or physical addiction. Like people who quit smoking, even a little cheat can send you back to square one. The first few weeks may be hard, but push through – for most people, the cravings do subside and your body thanks you.
3. Stay Whole
It can be tempting to stock up on every alternative that the stores have to offer, but when first starting out, try to avoid the myriad of dairy alternatives. While many are good, most will be “different” from the dairy you are used to, and may make you crave “the real stuff” even more. When you do need to use them, try to avoid making them a focal point of the meal. Use just a sprinkling of vegan Parmesan on a gluten-free pasta rather than going for that vegan cheese-laden, gluten-free lasagna.
4. Stock up on Flavor
It’s easy to forget all of the wonderful foods out there when so many dairy products are used to mask them! For a quick pop of flavor atop your entrée, chop some olives, crumble a slice of cooked bacon, mix up a favorite spice blend, or squeeze a lemon. Using other wholesome ingredients will help to heighten the flavor of food rather than hide it.
5. Take Your Taste Buds to New Places
Go on a culinary tour in your own home! Make a list of all of the amazing dishes that are naturally or easily dairy-free and gluten-free. Think quick Cajun dishes like jambalaya, whip up a Chinese stir-fry with wheat–free, gluten-free Tamari, adventure a creamy coconut Caribbean-style entrée, fire up some Pad Thai with rice noodles, enjoy an Indonesian peanut satay, and even have fun attempting to roll your own sushi (don’t worry, you can use cooked seafood at home!). Most of the world actually lives dairy-free or dairy-low. Think about what they are eating and loving!
For more guidance, see my article, Six Simple Steps to Successfully Going Dairy-Free (and Gluten-Free) for Good.
- Alisa Fleming