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The Best Dairy Free Alternatives You Need To Try

Did you know that the world’s least obese countries also eat the least amount of dairy

Here are the facts—dairy can be the downfall of many diets, but deciding to go dairy free can make a massive impact on your overall health and wellness. 

Ever since I kicked dairy a few years back, I’ve felt better than ever—no more bloating, inflammation, digestion discomfort, or stubborn weight. One could say I’m a pretty big advocate for dropping the dairy lifestyle and finding dairy free alternatives to add into your diet. 

If you too have taken the dairy free route, allow me to share six of my favorite dairy free alternatives that I use every day for a variety of meals and snacks.  

Milk Replacements

Today, there are plenty of milk replacements on the grocery shelves, but these are the best products and brands that have become a staple in my dairy free life. 

If you love cereal in the morning…

Almond, hemp, cashew, oat, even peanut milk are great alternatives to pour over your Cheerios in the morning, but slightly sweet soymilk is at the top of the list for most vegetarians and vegans. Silk’s thicker viscosity and sweet, creamy flavor makes plain bran cereals taste like a treat. Soymilk often has added sugar, so compare brands to find one that fits your daily macros.

If you’re whipping up a smoothie…

Nut milks, when you find the right brand, are naturally creamy, sweet, and perfect in smoothies. Elmhurst’s cashew milk, Milkadamia, and Califia’s almond milk make the most flavorful nut milks on the market. 

Feeling adventurous? Try your hand at making your own almond milk. After soaking your almonds overnight, it only takes five minutes to whip up a batch, and the flavor blows store-bought brands out of the water. 

If your recipe calls for cream…

Using coconut milk in place of heavy cream will provide your dish with a thicker and creamier texture. If you’re making a soup or sauce, try adding a little extra salt, garlic, or broth to balance out coconut milk’s slight sweetness. Different brands have a different ratio of coconut cream to coconut water. To find the creamiest one, just shake the cans and see which one feels more watery and which feels more solid. 

I love the Thai Kitchen’s coconut milk—it’s extra fatty and has a little less of that canned coconut water taste when compared with other brands. Plus, it’s just two bucks a pop at Walmart or Trader Joe’s. 

If you’re craving that barista-worthy latte…

Oatmilk is your solution. For the best froth, try Chobani’s extra creamy or Oatly’s full fat oat milk. Most coffee shops use one of these brands for their non-dairy option. If a latte is a morning staple in your home, you can easily froth your own milk with an inexpensive handheld frother. Take it one step further and whip up your own medicinal lattes with a large steamer like this one.

If you’re not ready to kick milk to the curb completely…

Proteins in milk affect people differently. Often, it’s these proteins that cause digestive discomfort from dairy. A few companies provide dairy milk from cows that only produce the A2 protein molecule—which is much easier to digest than milk with A1 proteins. If you’re still hooked on cow’s milk but your stomach isn’t onboard, try a glass of a2 Milk and see if it goes down easier.

Cheese Replacements

Lots of cheese, like Swiss, cheddar, and American, are full of hormones, allergens, and additives. Despite these questionable ingredients, the average American eats over 40 pounds of cheese per year. If you’re looking to shrink this number, here are a few of my favorite substitutions to try:

If you’re building a charcuterie board…

Looking to add a beautiful herbed cheese to your dairy-free smorgasbord? A homemade batch of herbed cashew cheese will do the trick. Top it with fresh herbs or large salt flakes, and you won’t miss dairy at all. If you need a quick-cheese-fix, there are plenty of healthy options available in health food stores, like the delicious Treeline Herb-Garlic Vegan Nut Cheese

If you love cheesy snacks…

Cheetos, cheddar rice crisps, Cheez-Its, and Doritos are so addicting that portion control becomes a whisper from the past once these bags are opened. Cheesy snacks can break us when we’re trying to cut out dairy. Having a tasty alternative on hand can help keep you on track. 

Next time you’ve got the munchies for something cheesy and crunchy, whip up a batch of homemade popcorn and top it with nutritional yeast. Nutritional yeast is packed with B-vitamins and has a cheesy and savory flavor that can satisfy those cravings.

If you’re having a pizza party…

Sure, there are plenty of cashew spreads, dairy-free snacks, and vegan nacho cheese recipes available today, but pizza has stumped quite a few of us. A dollop of nut-cheese on top of our pies doesn’t even compare to the stretchy, melty, cheesy pizzas we used to enjoy. 

Thankfully, a few brands are offering shredded non-cheese inventions, like Whole Foods Plant-Based Mozzarella. Next time your family has a pizza and movie night, grab a bag of non-dairy mozzarella and make yourself a personal pie. 

If you can’t cut cheese out completely…

Because the larger A1 protein molecule found in dairy products is often hard to digest, switching to products without these molecules may fix any issues you have with dairy. Goat’s and sheep’s milk, for example, have smaller protein molecules and are easier on our digestive systems. 

Goat cheese, feta, manchego, and pecorino can be great options if you’re dairy-sensitive. When shopping for these cheeses, double-check the ingredient list, since some mix cow’s dairy into their recipes. If the packaging says, “Contains: Milk,” it most likely was made with cow’s milk. Steer clear of these brands and look for an option that is only made with goat’s or sheep’s milk.

Butter Replacements

While you won’t find other cow-dairy in my daily diet, butter is where I make a small exception. Grass-fed butter has fewer toxins, better fats, and more antioxidants than regular brands. Plus, nearly all of the inflammatory factors found in milk are removed while butter is made. 

For those of us only sensitive to dairy, butter can be a great addition to a healthy diet. In fact, we absorb more nutrients from vegetables when we eat them with a full-fat source, like butter. If you’re set on avoiding milk proteins completely, here are a few of my favorite butter alternatives:

If you’re topping toast…

There are several non-dairy butters, but these are often full of unhealthy vegetable and seed oils. Clarified butter or ghee is a healthier option if you’re open to eating animal products. The flavor is just the same as butter, but the milk proteins have been removed, making it much easier on the digestive system. 

If you’re sauteing…

When throwing together a stir-fry or sauteing veggies for dinner, avocado oil is the perfect fat for the job. Avocado oil’s high smoke point keeps it from oxidizing. Its mild flavor won’t interfere with whatever you’re cooking—whether that’s peppers or pancakes. 

If you’re baking…

Like butter, coconut oil is solid when cool and melts when warmed. Because of it’s similar traits, it makes a great substitute for butter in cookies, cakes, and brownies. If the recipe calls for oil, simply warm up the coconut oil until it’s liquid and substitute it 1:1. Look for an organic coconut oil that’s cold-pressed, like Simple Truth Organic or Nutiva.

Yogurt & Condiments Replacements

Dips, sides, and snacks often sneak dairy into their ingredient list. But this list will pave a dairy-free path down the condiments and fridge isles for you. 

If you’re looking for a dairy-free dip…

Queso, sour cream, onion dip—these party staples are hard to replace. Thankfully brands like Siete, Kite Hill, and Simple Truth have some great options. Sample them and they’ll soon become staples in your kitchen too.

If you’re craving a parfait…

Today, there are several non-dairy yogurt options widely available, but many are higher in carbs and sugar, and lower in protein and probiotics. Next time you need yogurt for a dip, dish, or breakfast, grab GT’s CocoYO Pure Living Coconut Yogurt. This super tangy yogurt is packed with billions of probiotics. Looking for something a little milder in flavor? Try Nancy’s Probiotic Oat Milk Non-Dairy Yogurt. This creamy faux-yo’s secret ingredient—faba beans—boosts the protein content up to 6 grams per cup. 

If you’re ready to dip into dairy-free dressings…

Creamy, fatty dressings can make all the difference in a salad. But dairy is a primary ingredient in caesar, ranch, blue cheese, even green goddess recipes. The dairy-free brand I brag about the most also makes top-notch salad dressings—Primal Kitchen not only keeps things dairy-free, their ingredient lists are beautifully simple. 

Dessert Replacements

You don’t have to give up desserts when you go dairy-free. Next time the sweet tooth calls, give it one of these non-dairy solutions.

If you’re a chocolate-lover…

Dairy-free candy is becoming more and more popular. Many name brands like Swiss Miss and Hershey now offer dairy-free alternatives, but if you’re looking for a healthy option, you’ll love Righteously Raw. This company’s truffle bars are made with superfoods and sweetened with fruit and agave nectar. 

If the summer’s screaming for ice cream…

Sink your spoon into these three ice creams that don’t have a single dairy product in their ingredient list. Daily Harvest’s plant-based ice creams use nut milks, coconut cream, and maple syrup. Jeni’s dairy-free recipes include creative flavors like Cold Brew with Coconut Cream and Caramel Pecan Sticky Buns. The Dipped Coconut Mini Almond Bars by SO Delicious makes the perfect sweet treat on hot summer evenings. 

Protein Powder Replacements

Protein powders frequently use whey from cow’s milk as their protein source. This ingredient does add flavor and mixes easily, but it can leave you feeling gassy, bloated, and sluggish. There are plenty of alternatives on the market that’ll help you boost that protein and keep the dairy out. 

If you want a flavorless, sugar-free protein powder…

Collagen is all the rage these days, and for good reason. It can improve skin elasticity, decrease signs of aging, increase bone density, and boost muscle mass. Collagen’s mild flavor makes it a perfect protein supplement to add to smoothies, coffee, soups, and homemade salad dressings. Plus, it’s dairy-free.

If you’re looking for a strictly vegan protein powder…

Truvani and Ka’chava are killing it when it comes to packing vegan protein powders with nutrient-rich superfoods. Their ingredients include items like organic sacha inchi, chia seed protein, reishi mushroom, and cordyceps. 

If you want to get your protein and vitamins in one go…

The protein powder I use most is Arbonne’s. It’s packed with 24 vitamins, minerals, and essential amino acids. The blend mixes well into smoothies and nut-milks, won’t spike your blood sugar, and is loaded with an awesome vanilla flavor. 

Stock Your Kitchen and Ditch The Dairy

Ok, I know that’s quite a long list, but I can promise a lot of these items will become staples in your new dairy-free kitchen. Sample my suggestions, pick your favorites, and see how easy it really is to live dairy-free.

Healthy living has to fit into your lifestyle. For more tips on how to make simple switches toward healthier living, sign up for the LEAN newsletter. If you’re ready to get serious about your health and fitness, join the next LEAN session

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