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Giving up dairy can be hard! Food is so emotional. And I get the love of dairy. My practice started in the cheesehead state (Wisconsin, for those who aren’t familiar with cheeseheads), and I have had to tell people they had to give up dairy for their health. It can be a shock, as many can’t imagine living without dairy!

What do you choose, though? A food or building your best healthy life? If dairy gets in the way of a healthy life, isn’t that an easy answer? And, trust me, it is way easier to give up dairy than it was when I started my practice over 20 years ago. You were lucky to find one or two dairy-free milk options at a grocery store. It’s even easier than it was 5 years ago.

So Really, How Do I Give Up Dairy? 7 Tips for Giving up Dairy:

We promise that lowering your dairy intake, and giving it up altogether, is not as difficult as it sounds! Keep these strategies in mind as you make the transition. 

1 – Try Occasional Dairy Replacements

20 years ago, you were lucky if you found one or two nondairy milk options. Now there are many different options including almond, macadamia nut, oat milk and hemp milk. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. The options for cheese have greatly improved and you can now find dairy free yogurt, sour cream, cream cheese and ice cream. These are great occasional foods to try as you transition your diet.  They aren’t an everyday replacement because some replacements include questionable ingredients and they cost more.

2 – Check Your Labels

Watch out for processed foods. Dairy is considered one of the major allergens, so it should be easily identified within the ingredients or with an allergy statement right after. If you look closely, you will see artificial butter, casein, caseinates, lactalbumin, whey, lactoglobulin, and others are hiding dairy.

Know the various names for dairy and look at labels closely. Besides common names like milk, cheese, or cream, dairy also goes by: 

  • Casein or caseinate 
  • Whey or whey protein isolate/concentrate  
  • Ghee 
  • Lactose 
  • Natural milk flavor or natural butter flavor 
  • DMS (dry milk solids) 
  • Lactate solids 
  • Lactic yeast 
  • Galactose  

It is very common and will be in foods you might not expect like soups and dressings. The best way to avoid dairy is to enjoy whole, real foods. You avoid accidentally eating dairy and you skip many of the chemicals they put in processed foods by eating whole foods.

3 – Enjoy Whole Foods

Eating a diet rich in good, whole foods leaves little room for processed foods and hidden dairy. Organic vegetables and fruits, grass-fed meats, and healthy fats are a few examples. Increasing the intake of important nutrients as you need them also helps. Prebiotics, probiotics, and antioxidants are some good examples of these nutrients. Be sure to talk to your doctor about what your body needs, though, as all bodies are different. Nutrition isn’t one size fits all any more than one supplement fits everyone. 

Be aware that foods with ‘whole’ in their name don’t necessarily fall under this umbrella. Whole grains have sugar and can be an allergen. While your body needs carbohydrates, it doesn’t need sugar. Whole grains contain anti-inflammatory phytonutrients. Meaning, on paper, they should bring down inflammation. This doesn’t, however, hold true if you’re allergic to them. A lot of things have anti-inflammatory properties, but if you’re allergic to them, inflammation trumps “health benefits.” 

Remember that your body doesn’t know moderation. Keep mixing up what you eat. 

4 – Order Like a Pro

Restaurants can be a pitfall for any allergy. Check out the menu in advance and don’t be afraid to call ahead to see if a menu item can be made dairy-free. Not all restaurants can do this because dishes are made in advance, but some restaurants are able to accommodate changes. A grilled meat with vegetables with no sauce or bun is a healthy option that can be made at many restaurants. Check out reviews for allergy friendly places to find out which places can be accommodating.

5 – Focus on The Foods You Can Have

You find out you can’t have dairy or other foods on your allergy list. This can be shocking but don’t focus on what you can’t have. Focus on the many healthy foods that you can have. Is it the texture you will miss? Try something creamy like guacamole or cashew cream. We have a variety of healthy recipes on our website, and I really recommend the Yummly app for cooking with allergies because it shows you so many options.

6 – Explore Dairy-Free Recipes! 

Alternatives like coconut milk and hemp milk are easy and convenient. The options for dairy replacements have greatly improved in availability and flavor, recently. You can now find dairy-free yogurt, sour cream, cream cheese, and ice cream in most grocery stores. These are helpful swaps to ease your transition to a dairy-free diet. Remember to read labels carefully, as they can contain other highly processed ingredients. 

Try a few of our favorite dairy-free recipes to get you started: 

Once you learn a dairy-free approach to cooking, you’ll love the new world of flavors that opens up to you.

7 – Don’t Worry About Calcium

The dairy industry has been pushing the idea that milk does a body good for too long. Milk isn’t good for you and isn’t as helpful for bones as you have been led to believe. Studies have found that women who drank milk more frequently had a higher risk of hip fractures. You also don’t need the calcium supplement as those have been associated with bone spurs, osteoarthritis, cardiovascular events, kidney stones… so why are so many people taking calcium supplements?

Living without Dairy is Possible

It is easier than ever and if it can improve your health then isn’t it worth it? Just because we always have eaten dairy doesn’t mean it needs to be part of your daily diet. As you start to feel better it will get easier. You’ll feel the results and going back isn’t worth it!

Written by Dr. Patrick Flynn


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Disclaimer: This content is for educational purposes only. It’s not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your Wellness Way clinic or personal physician, especially if currently taking prescription or over-the-counter medications. Pregnant women, in particular, should seek the advice of a physician before trying any herb or supplement listed on this website. Always speak with your individual clinic before adding any medication, herb, or nutritional supplement to your health protocol. Information and statements regarding dietary supplements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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