How to avoid dairy by substituting milk and byproducts while still getting calcium and other nutrients.
There are many reasons to give up dairy or reduce the amount we consume; from dairy allergies, symptoms of lactose intolerance, dairy sensitivity or deciding to pursue a plant-based diet or vegan lifestyle. All are valid reasons and I wish anyone who’s attempting to go dairy-free well, that’s why I wrote this blog post so I hope it’s helpful!
Vegan calcium sources
We all know that bone health is the main concern when it comes to calcium, but actually, almost every cell in your body requires calcium to do its job and thrive. So it’s important to ensure you’re getting what you need and if less dairy is completely new to your body, it’s a good idea to monitor your calcium levels while you’re getting started.
Plant sources of calcium also include other nutrients that are essential for a healthy body. So remember that with plants, you’re not just getting calcium but an abundance of goodness. Here are some dairy-free sources of calcium:
- Fortified soy and almond milk
- Leafy greens like collard greens, kale, spinach
- Beans: chickpeas (garbanzo beans), kidney, black and even canned baked beans
- Veggies like broccoli, cabbage, sweet potato, okra and squash
- Papaya, dried figs and oranges
- Tofu and edamame
- Seeds: chia, sesame, poppy and sunflower
Vegan dairy substitutes
The easiest and most obvious alternative to cows milk is store-bought plant-based milk such as almond, cashew, soy, coconut, hemp, oat or rice milk. In addition to there being many types, there are also many “sub-types” like sweetened and unsweetened, calcium-fortified, protein-fortified, flavoured, fat-free, etc.
You can also make your own plant-based milk by soaking your chosen nut or seed, blending it with water and an optional sweetener and then finely straining it. Search Online for recipes, it’s surprisingly easy and SO much cheaper than purchasing it from the store.
Dairy-free cheeses made from nuts, coconut oil or vegetable oils are usually available in the grocery store or at least in your local health food store. Cashews can also be used to make homemade Parmesan cheese for salads or garnishing spaghetti. Something else you’ve likely heard of if you’re looking into cutting out cheese is Nutritional Yeast Flakes/Seasoning. This adds a great cheese-like flavour and can be used in any dish from mac ‘n’ cheese to mashed potatoes.
You can easily substitute with store-bought coconut yogurt or soy yogurt, these are both great alternatives that are usually a similar price to dairy yogurt. The flavours and textures of each company and type of yogurt differ quite a bit, so don’t give up if you find that you don’t enjoy the taste of the first one you try. Keep trying and exploring, once you find the right one it’ll all be worth it!
You can also easily make your own coconut yogurt at home by combining coconut milk with a vegan probiotic. Try this recipe by Minimalist Baker!
Vegetable spread and margarine (check that it is dairy-free) are great to use on toast and sandwiches in place of butter. You can also substitute butter in recipes for margarine or coconut oil as they act in a similar way when being cooked and then cooled. If you want to go for a healthier option, use avocado on your toast or sandwiches in place of butter.
5. Ice cream
Many companies now offer dairy-free ice creams in grocery stores, they’re often soy-based or coconut-based. You can easily make your own banana ice cream at home. Simply chop some ripe bananas and freeze them, when they’re frozen use a high-speed blender to blend them with your chosen additives (fruit, syrups, cocoa powder, nuts, cookies, etc.) and create a delicious creamy soft serve that is often referred to as “nice cream”.
Whipped coconut cream and rice cream are often available at specialty health food stores. However, you can easily make your own whipped coconut cream by whisking chilled coconut cream with a little bit of sweetener and vanilla, it’s much cheaper and in my opinion, much tastier.
7. Condensed milk
Condensed coconut milk is often available in most grocery stores or specialty health food stores. It’s only a couple of dollars, very tasty and works wonderfully as an alternative. Otherwise, you could try making your own by simmering coconut milk and sugar together. Try this recipe by Bigger Bolder Baking.
How to find vegan food – checking labels
Dairy lurks in many products and unfortunately, often in items that you wouldn’t expect at all. If you’re new to cutting out dairy it can seem like a large undertaking to check the labels of your food while grocery shopping but I promise once you get used to the items you can have and the ones you need to avoid, it becomes like second nature. Here is a list of the most common dairy-additive ingredients.
• Acidophilus milk
• Ammonium caseinate
• Butter fat, oil, solids
• Butter flavour
• Calcium caseinate
• Caramel colour
• Caramel flavouring
• Condensed milk
• Cottage cheese
• Delactosed whey
• Demineralised whey
• Dry milk powder, solids
• Evaporated milk
• Goats milk
• Hydrolyzed casein
• Hydrolyzed milk protein
• Iron caseinate
• Lactic acid
• Low-fat milk
• Magnesium caseinate
• Malted milk
• Milk fat, powder, solids
• Potassium caseinate
• Rennet Casein
• Skimmed milk
• Sodium caseinate
• Sour cream
• Sour milk solids
• Whey powder
• Whey protein
• Whipped cream
• Whipped topping
• Whole milk
• Zinc caseinate
I’ve created a FREE printable card that you can laminate and keep in your purse or phone case for when you’re in a pickle. It lists all of the above ingredients to avoid while shopping. You’ll find the download link below.
FREE – Avoiding dairy printables
If you’re like me in that you find enjoyment from having printed references or worksheets either in a binder, on the fridge or on a corkboard for inspiration, info and a reminder to keep going, you’ll love this! I created a printable PDF document that you can print and use however you see fit.
The PDF includes:
- Avoiding Dairy Quick Reference Sheet with an overview of the plant-based alternatives to common dairy products listed in this blog post.
- Avoiding Eggs Quick Reference Sheet with alternatives to eggs in different types of recipes.
- Avoiding Dairy and Avoiding Eggs “On-the-Go” Cards listing the common additives and ingredients to look out for on the labels of processed foods.
The Egg reference sheets are included because I’ll be uploading a similar blog post to this one regarding eggs – how to substitute them, how to get the same nutrients from plants and more. So stay tuned for that!
To download this FREE reference pack, simply click on the button below and when the PDF opens, click on the download icon in the top right corner of the browser. If you have any issues, contact me here!