When I became a mumma to my baby boy, Jasper earlier this year, we discovered he had some digestive trouble and I found myself needing to take the advice I had given to so many others. I experimented with going dairy free, and it occurred to me that it's not that easy if you're doing it for the first time. I've reduced and completely eliminated dairy many times over the past five years, to address different health issues such as IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) and SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacteria Overgrowth) so I have a few tricks up my sleeve to help make it more manageable... and delicious!
So whatever your reasons for ditching dairy, be it a lactose intolerance, severe allergy or simply a preference, there will no doubt be foods you’ll miss eating, or that you struggle to find replacements for.
Don't get me wrong, there are dairy free, or vegan alternatives for just about anything these days. But have you ever looked at what’s in these so-called healthy options? They’re usually soy based, or filled with fake, inflammatory ingredients that simply won’t make you feel that well in the long run.
So, here I share the 6 dairy based foods I used to love the most, and what I swapped them for…
Oh my goodness. Butter was a tough one for me. I never used just a little bit of butter. No, I’d go all out, slathering it on nice and thick. So depending on what I’m making I’ve found a few alternatives but I’ll be honest, nothing’s ever quite replaced butter for me.
When making sandwiches, try smashed avocado, hummus or nut butter to keep the bread moist.
When making things like scrambled eggs or risotto, use a splash of bone broth to replace the richness of butter.
Extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil replaces butter for all other frying.
In roasting, use duck fat or extra virgin olive oil.
When baking, you can swap butter for coconut oil in some recipes. But be warned, it doesn’t always work! Believe me, Anzac cookies without butter are just no good. I’d stick to recipes that are already dairy free while you’re starting out so that you’re not disheartened by a failed recipe.
There are so many dairy free milk options available in stores now, but some are just full of rubbish or simply don’t taste nice.
Almond milk is great in chocolate or nutty smoothies, but can be quite bitter on cereal or in coffee. The nicest tasting brand I’ve used in Australia is called Nutty Bruce, which can be found in the fridge with other fresh milks.
Rice milk is the most neutral tasting non-dairy milk and therefore can replace dairy in most things without the flavour being too different. It is much thinner in consistency though. Choose an organic brand which has the least amount of additives and preservatives.
Coconut milk is my favourite alternative to dairy in hot drinks and smoothies. It is also delicious used in custard, porridge and chia puddings. The tastiest and healthiest brand I’ve come across in Australia is called Coco Quench and can be found with the UHT milks.
Personally, I don’t think there’s any true substitute for a good cheddar and you certainly won’t find a decent dairy free triple cream brie! Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. You can get vegan cheeses, but they’re often coloured and plastic-like in texture. I don’t know about you, but the idea of fake cheese just grosses me out and the ingredients used to make them are often questionable.
However, all is not lost! If you’re giving up on dairy because you have trouble digesting lactose, you may like to try some options that are at least lower in lactose, if not completely free of it. Goats cheese is fabulous on pizzas and in salads. Parmesan is great in quiches and risottos.
However, if it must be 100% dairy and lactose free, then there are three options:
First, nutritional yeast flakes. These can be sprinkled in and on top of dishes to provide a cheesy flavour, but of course will not substitute the texture of cheese and cannot be eaten with crackers and wine!
Or, you could try nut cheeses which are available at most health food stores.
As for spreadable cheese, I absolutely love Kehoe’s Kitchen cream cheese dips. The pesto one is fabulous mixed through pasta or dolloped on pizza. Peace, Love & Vegetables also do a great cashew cheese if you like dill. Both brands are available at health food stores in Australia.
Store bought chocolate that’s labelled dairy free, is usually filled with soy, oils, flavours and additional sugar.
Instead, look for dark chocolate that naturally has no milk solids in it. Lindt 85% and Green & Blacks 70% are both without dairy, just be sure to read the label as brands do change their ingredients from time to time.
Alternatively, you can find plenty of delicious options at the health food store. Some of my favourite Australian brands include Loving Earth, Pana and Vego.
Or whip up your own! Try this recipe.
5. Ice cream
My all-time favourite store bought ice cream brand is Zebra Dream. It’s made with coconut milk instead of soy and contains only real, wholefood ingredients. And you really can’t tell it’s not dairy! You can pick this one up in most health food stores within Australia. I have yet to find a dairy free ice cream I’m happy with at the supermarket.
The other option is to make your own using frozen bananas. Yep, it may sound strange, but it’s honestly so good! Simply peel and freeze your bananas once they get spotty. Then blitz them in a food processor until they start to soften and resemble ice cream. You can add nut butter, cacao, coconut, chocolate chips, anything you like really!
The best alternative to dairy yoghurt is coconut yoghurt. It’s still thick and creamy and can be used as a substitute in most recipes.
The best brands available at supermarkets in Australia that I’ve found are Nudie, Cocobella and Nakula.
I also like Born Cultured and Coyo which are available in most health food stores here.
You could of course ditch yoghurt all together, and try chia puddings at breakfast time. If you use yoghurt to thicken your smoothies, try frozen bananas or ice instead.
So there you have it, plenty of healthy dairy free options to help you ditch the moo juice without feeling like you’re missing out.
You’ll also find heaps of dairy free recipes here.
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