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How to Live Without Dairy Products

Two Methods:Avoiding Foods Made With DairyFinding Alternatives to Dairy

Are you lactose intolerant, have milk allergies, want to give up dairy for a diet, or are a vegan that doesn’t believe in the consumption of animals or animal byproducts? Whether you’ve decided to cut dairy out of your diet for ethical, dietary, or any other reason, you’ll need to learn what foods are made with dairy — and there are more than you’d think — so you can know what to avoid and then you’ll want to find calcium rich dairy alternatives.

Method 1
Avoiding Foods Made With Dairy

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    Read labels on your food purchases. Avoiding dairy isn't as simple as no longer drinking milk. Dairy is used in many different foodstuffs to give it a better taste. As such, you’ll need to read food labels. Most foods that use some form of dairy, will list “milk” as an additive.[1] The FDA requires that milk be listed under its provision for allergies. If milk isn’t listed as an ingredient, you should be ok.[2]
    • You’ll want to look for casein and whey as well. Both of these additives are derived from cows and make their way into a variety of foods. We find whey used in a variety of products from muscle building supplements to canned chicken broth.[3]
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    Avoid milk and cream based foods. This is often the hardest dairy category to give up because we are conditioned to enjoy milk with so many different foods. It becomes a part of our daily activities. Here are some of the most common milk and cream based foods:
    • Milk (whole, 50/50, skim, or condensed milk)
    • Heavy whipping cream
    • Custards
    • Coffee creamer
    • Cream sauces and soups
    • Ice cream, gelatos, and sherbets (sorbets contain no dairy products)
    • Yogurts
    • Some mayonnaise, mustard, and other condiments
    • Non-dairy coffee creamer. Casein is an animal byproduct so it won’t work for vegans.[4]
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    Get rid of butter and most margarines that contain whey, casein, or lactose. Similarly, if butters or margarines are used to make a purchasable product, they’ll have to list these ingredients on their food labels. Butter is curdled and processed milk.
    • Some nutritionists claim that butters are the least harmful form of dairy to those with dairy allergies or lactose processing problems. Most people who face these issues have problems with the proteins found in milk. Humans were meant to survive off of their mother’s milk, not the milk of other mammals — according to some. Since butter is 80 to 82 percent fat and contains relatively little protein, it doesn’t tend to bother patients with dairy problems.[5]
    • For vegans, there are many margarines made without any cow byproducts.[6]
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    Don’t eat cheeses. Cheeses in all forms constitute dairy. Obviously, you’ll want to skip sliced cheeses on your sandwiches. Main dishes like pizza, burritos, tacos, and casseroles have cheeses in them. Don’t eat cheese-based chip dips either. If you're at a restaurant, make sure that you ask if their dishes include cheese. Aged cheeses normally contain less lactose, while soft and hyper-processed cheeses contain higher levels. Cheese spreads are high as well.[7]
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    Be wary of baked items. Most pastries are made with milk. Sadly this includes cakes, muffins, and doughnuts unless made with soy, rice, or hemp.
    • Some breads are made with mono and diglycerides or lecithin — both of which are vegan and include no milk additives. Generally, these bread products will be labeled as vegan.[8]

Method 2
Finding Alternatives to Dairy

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    Find dairy substitutes. Milk, cheese, and ice-creams derived from soy, rice, almond, hemp seed, and oat, fortified or not, are suitable alternatives to dairy products. Many stores now cater to vegan customers so many of these ingredients are easily and cheaply accessible..[9]
    • Use soy milk for most milk related recipes. The protein levels in soy milk are comparable to cow milk. Use milks made from nuts (like cashews or almonds) for lighter yogurt alternatives. And try hemp milk for more cheese based meals. Hemp products retain an elastic-esque texture, which is similar to many cheeses.[10]
    • Sunflower milk is an up and coming alternative as well, but hasn’t really hit the market in full force like other non-dairy milk alternatives have.[11]
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    Use dairy-free butter alternatives. There are many ways of getting around butter. Several forms of dairy-free margarine are available by Earth Balance and Smart Balance margarine. Olive oils can be used to grease cooking pans and pots in place of butter. Some inventive cooks even blend up apples into a puree for cooking purposes. Apple puree and coconut cooking oil actually adds more sweetness than butter and can then reduce the amount of sugar you add to cookies and other non-dairy pastries you whip up in your kitchen.[12]
    • If you are lactose intolerant, but still want the taste of butter in your diet, try making Ghee, which is a refined butter that is often entirely casein/lactose free.
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    Find non-dairy ice-cream. There are many different kinds of non-dairy ice-creams that are made out of soy, rice, and hemp. They also come in many different flavors and sizes. You can buy non-dairy popsicles and tubs of ice cream. Most of these ice creams are made from soy, rice, and coconut milk. They also avoid additives that require some form of dairy - you won't find any "milk" chocolate in these ice creams. Instead, you'll find non-dairy ice creams made with nuts and fruits.[13]
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    Go for non-dairy yogurt. Most people who adopt a vegan diet or at least a non-dairy diet report missing yogurt. Its smooth, creamy taste is hard to replicate with non-dairy origins. Like ice-cream, you can buy yogurt made out of soy and rice. What is more important? They are delicious. Most of which are rich in vitamins B and E, fiber, potassium, and antioxidants.[14]
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    Get non-dairy “cheeses”. Since cheeses appear in various forms in most diets — e.g. sliced, sprinkled, and melted —you’ll need to find a number of alternatives to suit your tastes. To replace parmesan cheese on salads and pastas, try nutritional yeasts, which are loaded with B vitamins and taste great. Sliced smoked tofu is similar in texture to mozzarella and provolone cheese. Tofu tastes great on sandwiches, crackers, and just by itself.[15]
    • Cheese: based on soy, rice, and hemp, are available in flavors such as cheddar, cheddar-jack, mozzarella, and provolone. Be careful with cheese -- even vegetarian brands can contain milk products, usually in the form of casein. Goat's and sheep's milk cheeses seem to be okay for those with relatively mild intolerance.
    • Some people who try tofu for the first time claim that it is tasteless and rubbery. As with most foods, it all depends on how it’s prepared. Try tofu from a different place or with different spices. Tofu will grow on you, if you give it a chance.[16]
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    Make sure you're getting enough calcium. Dairy products are the primary source of calcium for most people. We need calcium for healthy bones and teeth. Calcium is also integral to healthy muscle and nerve cells. Luckily for you, calcium-fortified nut and grain milk offer similar key nutrients as dairy milk. You can also buy calcium-fortified orange juice. 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.[17]


  • Dairy allergy is fundamentally different from lactose intolerance. Allergy causes histamine reactions in the body that could potentially kill; whereas, 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 or consider this article’s instructions above for living without dairy products.[18]

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