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Eliminating Dairy from Your Diet (W/Bonus Recipe)

2 November 2015

There are tons of health and ethical reasons to avoid dairy products. Looking at the health side, countless people who’ve quit dairy discovered that their chronic congestion, digestive problems, ear and other upper-respiratory infections, acne and other issues that compromised their optimal health disappeared within a few weeks. Consider going completely dairy-free for a month and see how significantly your quality of life improves.

Nutritionally speaking, dairy is pretty much bad news everywhere you look. Nearly half of the calories in whole milk come from fat, and almost all of its carbohydrates come from sugar, all in the form of lactose, to which many people are intolerant and can’t properly digest. Even worse, the fat in dairy products is every bit as saturated as the fat in beef and most other meat products. Additionally, dairy has absolutely no fiber and no iron. And if all that weren’t enough, you might wonder why the FDA refuses to answer the question about the amount of pus (a buildup of dead leukocytes, aka white blood cells) in dairy products.

Looking at the ethical side, most commercial dairy cows are never allowed to graze outdoors; they’re confined to cramped stalls on factory farms. Although a cow is meant to live about twenty years, practically all dairy cows are sent to slaughter before they turn five because the overall milk production of aging cows can’t come close to that of a younger animals. Commercial dairy cows are impregnated every year in order to maximize their milk production, and their calves are commonly sold to the veal industry. So if you, like more and more people every day, are opposed to this type of inhumane treatment; they’re chained at the neck so they can’t turn around or move more than a step forward or backward. All they can do is stand up and lie down. This is done so that they don’t develop muscles so that their meat stays very tender. These young calves never get to play or graze or feel the sunshine on their backs, or be with their mothers. They spend their entire lives in the dark in little stalls until they’re big enough to be killed and turned into veal; usually around 16 weeks old (about 4 months).

For detailed information about the dairy industry’s cruel farming practices, see Jonathan Safran Foer’s awesome book Eating Animals.

Also, A highly recommended documentary, "The Perils of Dairy"

How to Go Dairy-Free:

If the idea of suddenly removing all dairy products from your diet seems daunting, try easing into it.  Make a note of the dairy products you currently consume: chances are that there a few such foods you love, but a dozen or so others you might eat regularly but you’re not really crazy about. So, get rid of all the ones you can do without and you’re more than halfway to being dairy-free! But the real key to success in eliminating dairy from your diet involves not as much cutting them out, but instead, replacing them with superior non-dairy alternatives.  And luckily, there are all sorts of non-dairy products on on today’s market shelves that are truly great tasting and healthy:

  • Butter: "Earth Balance" and "Soy Garden" are excellent vegan alternatives.
  • Yogurt: Made from soy, coconut and almond milks, various vegan brands available.
  • Milk: Soy, rice, almond, coconut, and even hemp seed milks are becoming widely available, not only at natural food stores but also at many supermarkets.
  • Cheese: There are several non-dairy cheeses on the market, but always check the label for casein or sodium caseinate.  Casein is a milk protein that is used in some soy cheeses. Happily, two of the best non-dairy cheeses, "Daiya" and "Wayfare," are vegan. Both brands are widely available in the United States. Also, try “Go Veggie” vegan Parmesan cheese alternative.
  • Ice Cream: There are a number of excellent brands made from non-dairy milks currently on the market. “So Delicious,” “Purely Decadent” and “Tufutti” make vegan versions of many delicious ice cream products, and you won’t even be able to tell the difference! Plus don’t forget about sorbets, which tend to be vegan (check the label) and are lighter and often more flavorful than ice cream.
  • Cream Cheese and Sour Cream: Once again, there are vegan alternatives. “Follow Your Heart,” “Daiya” and “Tofutti” make superb vegan versions of cream cheese and sour cream, which are available at many natural food stores and supermarkets. 
  • Mayonnaise: There are also several vegan brands of mayonnaise, including a wonderful and widely-distributed product called “Vegenaise.”.
  • Coffee Creamer: Now there’s no need to put dairy cream products in your coffee: "So Delicious" and "Silk" are two companys that make vegan creamers that blend perfectly into coffee.

Bonus recipe! Fettuccini Alfredo, the vegan recipe everyone thought was impossible, and WOW, is it ever good!

Ingredients:

  • 8-10 ounces pasta (fettuccini, linguini, spaghetti or fusilli)
  • 3 Tbsp. (30 ml) olive oil
  • 1 small shallot (or onion)
  • 4 large cloves garlic, finely minced or grated
  • 4 Tbsp. all purpose flour (slightly rounded)
  • 2 cups (420 – 480 ml) unsweetened, plain almond milk
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4-6 Tbsp (20-30 g) nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/3 cup “Go Veggie” vegan parmesan cheese (plus more – reserved for topping)
  • 1 cup canned green peas (if frozen, cook al dente)
  • Red Pepper Flake (reserved)
  • 1 Tbsp. Earth Balance (reserved)

Instructions:

1. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add olive oil, shallot and garlic, stirring quickly to ensure it doesn’t burn.

2. Next, reduce heat slightly and add 4 Tbsp. flour and whisk to combine. Cook for about a minute and then add almond milk 1/4 cup at a time (adding 1 3/4 cups total, working up to 2 cups) and whisk to prevent clumps. Cook for 2 minutes.

3. Transfer to a blender and add salt, pepper, vegan parmesan cheese, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, and blend on high until creamy and smooth, scraping down sides as needed. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed – you want it to be pretty cheesy and salty so don't be shy.

4. Add pasta to a large pot of boiling, well-salted water and cook according to package instructions. Drain and cover to prevent drying.

5. Return sauce back to skillet and cook on medium heat until it bubbles, then reduce heat to low and cook until thickened, stirring frequently.

6. If sauce is too thick, add a little more milk. If too thin, scoop out some sauce in a 1/2 cup measuring cup and whisk in 1-2 tsp. arrowroot flour. Whisk to combine and add back to sauce. Repeat as needed until desired consistency is reached. Taste and adjust (if necessary).

7. Once sauce is ready, add pasta, cooked peas, Earth Balance and toss. Cook for 1-2 minutes to warm through, and then serve with additional vegan parmesan cheese and red pepper flake.

Stay tuned…Coming soon, “Vegan Baking – Without Dairy or Eggs”

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500

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