If you’ve been following me this year here at Can Cook, Will Travel, you’ve probably noticed me talking about a common theme: Dairy Free Cooking. If you know me at all, then dairy free cooking probably would surprise you . . . because it sure did me! After all, I’m a cheese-aholic. I mean you say the words “goat cheese” and I’m all in!
But in a way, my dairy free cooking journey all happened sort of naturally in the past 6 months. Back in September of 2016, I selected the Thug Kitchen cookbook as my cookbook feature that month. And my mind was blown because this cookbook was nothing like what I was expecting. It ended up being a vegan cookbook, but being a vegan really isn’t something I’m interested in. But healthy cooking and eating more plant based meals sounded like a decent start for me.
And then at Christmas I got another cookbook that became my January Cookbook Love feature, and this one was the Make Your Own Rules Cookbook by Tara Stiles. Again Tara was cooking plant-based meals and I was really inspired by how inventive she was with her ingredients. Recreating favorite recipes in a way that fit her new lifestyle was something that I was so intrigued by.
Why Go Dairy Free At All?
Great question! Here’s the thing, dairy doesn’t actually give you anything nutrition-wise that you can’t get from other sources of food. I thought for sure that milk would be my best source of calcium, but the Almond Milk I use actually has MORE calcium per serving, if you can believe that.
People see a lot of health benefits by not eating milk products. So far in the past 2 months I’ve noticed that I have more energy than I used to, and overall my body feels better. My stomach feels flatter, less irritated and less bloated on days that I eliminate dairy.
I used to think I was slightly lactose intolerant, but my love of cheese and ice cream is a very real thing, so giving up dairy for good isn’t my desire. But now that I’m limiting it, I do notice that I feel healthier in general. That sluggish, sometimes painful feeling I’d get after eating dairy means I was probably correct about being sensitive to lactose.
Also over all my skin seems clearer (aside from the occasional stress-related break outs). And that’s a huge bonus for me. So if I feel better, look better, and have more energy, it’s already a huge selling point!
The benefits of removing dairy from your every day diet continue to grow, they can range from all of the points I mentioned plus a whole lot more. My experiences during this journey compare to those others experienced based on this Shape article, plus you potentially save yourself from diabetes, cancer, and gain stronger bones (say what??) which I learned in this article from the site Go Dairy Free.
Added hormones and the way that our bodies handle lactose are 2 big factors for why limiting dairy might not be such a bad idea.
Dairy Free Cooking My Way
I’ll be honest with you, because it’s what I do, going vegan or gluten free isn’t on my radar. Having grown up on a hog farm, coming home announcing I’m a vegan would get me kicked out of my family. Okay maybe it wouldn’t be that extreme, but I’d be looked at like I had grown a second head or something. And I love pasta and bread too much to remove gluten from my daily eating habits.
And the fact is that I really like meat, so I’m a happy carnivore. But I don’t necessarily need to eat meat in every meal. However going dairy free resonates with me, oddly enough, considering my serious relationship with cheese.
Three years ago (at least) I read The Honest Life by Jessica Alba, and that book changed my perspective. I use non toxic products as much as possible, and I look at food differently. In fact, I use almond milk pretty much exclusively whenever I can since reading that book. So there was a switch that I’d consistently done now for years, and it was easy!
But I was curious about removing dairy from my daily life, and it was surprisingly a pretty easy transition. So here’s what I have done since the beginning of 2017: I cook and eat dairy free at home. When I eat out during the week, I allow myself the opportunity to indulge IF I want to.
My motto is that I don’t want to feel like I’m depriving myself or withholding anything or it will be something that I know I can’t keep up for the long haul. So 80-90% of the time I cook and eat without dairy, and then I will indulge as I feel like it.
And that is how I make it work for me. I like to remind myself that making changes like this is a “marathon not a sprint” mentality. I’m in it for the long haul, so I have to consider how I can realistically make it work for me for the future. And perfection does not exist, so don’t set expectations for yourself where you’ll NEVER eat cheese or ice cream or your favorite dairy food. That’s not healthy and depriving yourself will only set you up for failure (or a crazy, ugly binge one night).
You can bet your happy self that if someone hands me a really good piece of cheese, I’ll partake. Or if I’m at my favorite pizza place I’ll have my go-to pizza. It’s all about moderation, setting boundaries, and knowing why you personally want to avoid dairy products. For me it’s because I want to feel and look better. For you, it may be preventative health measures, or environmental reasons.
Tell me about your relationship with dairy. Are you curious about removing dairy from your diet or do you do dairy free cooking already? Let me know!
Stay tuned for my 5 day going dairy free challenge next week, including dairy free cooking tips and recipes! It’ll be fun, stress free, and pretty eye opening, so I hope you’ll join me! Sign up here or click that button below and you’re in!
Stay inspired & take care of yourself!