How to give up dairy without feeling deprived

Posted January 10, 2017 in How to go dairy-free, dairy-free, vegan, dairy free eating, dairy free cooking, healthy eating, How to avoid dairy, crowding out


I stopped eating dairy last August and, honestly, it hasn't been as hard as I thought it would be.

My functional medicine doctor recommended that I eliminate dairy from my diet to balance my hormones to alleviate my hormonal headaches and because my blood work showed a sensitivity to casein. 

Many people eliminate dairy because of an allergy, to see if they have a food sensitivity or just to see if they feel better without dairy in their diet. 

How could giving up dairy improve your health?

Eliminating dairy may be your solution to clearer skin, it could decrease your risk of developing cancer, it can aid in weight loss and it could help alleviate digestive issues. It may be worth eliminating, even for a short time, to see if you notice a difference in the way you feel and/or look. 

You're probably thinking, 'Umm, no Sara. Cheese is amazing." I get it, cheese is pretty much the best thing on earth, and it's also addictive. Scientists have found that dairy products can trigger the brain's opioid receptors, which are responsible for addiction. 

I was super sad when I learned that I needed to give up dairy (I drank a lot of wine those first couple of weeks). I went through a bit of a mourning process mostly because pizza is my favorite food. But once I got through those first few weeks, my cravings disappeared, I was less bloated, I looked slimmer and my migraines disappeared (note: I also stopped taking birth control at the same time). 

So the physical benefits have been worth it to me. Which is why I wanted to share some of the things that I have learned over the past five months. 


Today, I'm focusing on eating at home. The key to not feeling deprived when eliminating a food, is to find a replacement or use the "crowd out" approach. 

When we eliminate a food and don't replace it with anything, we feel restricted and deprived. This can lead to feeling unsatisfied with your meals or even bingeing on the food that you've eliminated. 

Crowding out foods simply means incorporating healthy options instead of depriving yourself. 

Below you'll find my guide to finding replacements to common dairy foods…


I've never been a cow's milk drinker, so avoiding milk has been super easy for me. I use almond milk, cashew milk or coconut milk in my smoothies and in recipes. If you drink milk regularly, you may like cashew milk. It's rich and creamy and super delicious. Now you can also buy pistachio milk, hemp milk, flax milk, rice milk and oat milk, and you can make most of them yourself. Experiment until you find the one you like the best. 

If you like cream in your coffee, you can buy non-dairy creamers that are made with almond and coconut milks. 


Using oils is a great replacement for butter. I love coconut oil and avocado oil. They're both rich and flavorful. You can, of course, use olive oil as well.

But sometimes I crave toast with butter and an oil alternative won't do. I really like Earth Balance Buttery Spread. I don't use it daily, but it works for those random cravings. I also used it during the holidays to make diary-free holiday cookies. I always buy the soy-free one. 


This has probably been the hardest one for me. There aren't many cheese replacements that truly taste like cheese. I was really craving pizza when I first gave up dairy, so I tried a Daiya frozen pizza. The faux cheese tasted like plastic and gave me a stomach ache. So I haven't tried any of the other fake cheeses.

I made this herbed cashew cheese, which was really good, but that's the only recipe I've tried for vegan cheese. 

Honestly, I replaced cheese with avocado and guacamole. Avocados are creamy and full of fats (good fats), so they satisfy my cravings for cheese. I've eaten A LOT of avocados since giving up cheese. If there's an avocado shortage, I'm part of the problem. 


There are some dairy-free yogurt options such as coconut yogurt and almond yogurt, but I haven't tried them because they all have added sugar. I haven't found a non-diary yogurt that is made without added sugar.

I did find an interesting recipe for homemade coconut yogurt using coconut milk and probiotic capsules and a banana cashew yogurt that looks delicious. I haven't made them because I haven't really craved yogurt at all. 

Salad Dressing

Making your own salad dressing is super easy. Oil, vinegar, spices or herbs and a natural sweetener are the basic ingredients needed to make a delicious salad dressing.

While I do like vinaigrettes, I found myself wanting a creamy dressing. I did find a diary-free Caesar dressing at Target recently that tastes excellent. It's Hampton Creek Just Caesar. You can also get Ranch, Goddess, Sweet Mustard, Thousand, Balsamic and Italian. They're all dairy-free. You can also buy Primal Kitchen, and some of the Simply Dressed and Annie's Naturals flavors. 

My friend Lauren also swears by this Dump Ranch recipe. 


Most shelf-stable breads contain milk or butter, so I always buy sprouted grain bread. Ezekiel is the easiest to find (it's in the freezer section), and it's super cheap at Costco. Trader Joe's sprouted grain bread is also a good option. 

I've also made bread at home in my bread maker. I used a recipe that came with my bread maker. 


I use unsweetened cocoa powder, plant-based chocolate protein powder and Enjoy Life Dairy-Free Chocolate Chips. 

Some dark chocolate bars don't contain dairy - Endangered Species, Pascha Chocolate, Alter Eco and Kallari Chocolate are just a few brands. 

Ice Cream

While I don't eat ice cream often, I occasionally enjoy some dairy-free Ben & Jerry's ice cream or So Delicious Dairy Free ice cream. 

You can also make dairy-free ice cream at home. I love this Vegan Peanut Butter "Ice Cream." Next summer, I also plan on making this Frozen Cashew Yogurt and this Dairy-Free Cookie Dough Ice Cream

Protein Powder

Whey protein powder is dairy-based, so I use plant protein powder. I actually prefer plant protein over whey protein because I think the taste and texture is a million times better. This plant protein powder is my favorite. 

Baked Goods

I didn't eat pastries or baked goods often, but I never thought twice about enjoying a goodie once in awhile. Now, there aren't many options for sweet treats. I don't live in a city with vegan bakeries or coffee shops, so there's nowhere to purchase pre-made dairy-free baked goods. 

To satisfy my sweet tooth, I make energy balls. My favorite are Gingerbread Energy Balls because they taste like cookie dough. I also like these Vanilla Almond Energy Balls and these Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Balls.  

I also love this Raw Peanut Butter Cookie Dough

There are also a million vegan dessert recipes out there. I created a Pinterest board to collect recipes. 

My favorite website to find dairy-free recipes:

Words to look for when reading ingredient labels:

  • Butter
  • Buttermilk
  • Casein
  • Cheese
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Cream 
  • Curds
  • Ghee
  • Diacetyl
  • Custard
  • Lactose
  • Milk (condensed, derivative, dry, evaporated, nonfat, malted, low fat, powder, protein, skim, solids, whole, etc.)
  • Sour Cream
  • Tagatose
  • Recaldent
  • Whey
  • Whey Protein
  • Yogurt


Do you avoid dairy or are you thinking about giving up dairy? 

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