How to Go Dairy Free and Stay Healthy
Lactose can be found in milk and dairy products. For personal reasons, or due to a medical issue such as lactose intolerance, you may wish to avoid consuming lactose and dairy products. Unfortunately, dairy products also contain many beneficial vitamins that are required for a healthy body. Learn how to get proper nutrition in the absence of dairy and lactose to stay healthy.
Starting Your Diet
Make changes to your diet slowly.Start by making small changes to your diet, removing dairy slowly and over time. By making small changes that you can live with, you will find it easier to sustain this new diet that you are implementing.
- By gradually decreasing your consumption of dairy products, cravings may not be as intense.
- If you are already aware of the dairy products you currently consume, remove the dairy products that you can live without.
- Retain the dairy foods you love at first. Allowing yourself some dairy during the process will make success more likely.
- When you get used to eating less dairy, try removing a few more dairy products until all the dairy products in your diet are removed.
Stick to a predetermined schedule to stay consistent.To help yourself make the transition to a dairy-free diet, try making a diet plan in advance and then following it. Keeping track of your diet and sticking to your diet plan have been shown to help when starting a new diet.Here are more examples of starting your diet shift slowly:
- On the first week, replace dairy milk with soy milk or another alternative.
- On the second week, replace dairy cheese with non-dairy cheese or nutritional yeast.
- Every following week, try removing one more type of dairy food in your diet.
- Keep a food diary to maintain and keep track of your progress
Choose dairy alternatives to help your diet seem less restrictive.Sometimes cravings for old flavors lead people to go back to dairy products. The best way to avoid this is by finding good alternatives to the usual dairy products you consume.
- Eating dairy product alternatives can seem unusual at first, but with time you will come to see them as a natural part of your diet.
- Some dairy substitutes can be more healthy than the dairy product themselves.
Check out milk alternatives.If you find yourself craving milk, you can purchase various milk alternatives to replace regular dairy milk. These alternatives are a great way to still enjoy a “milk” product without the actual dairy content.
- Soy milk is derived from soy beans. Soy milk is low in cholesterol, and a great source for vitamin D, riboflavin, vitamin B12 and calcium.
- Rice milks are generally made from brown rice. They have very low levels of saturated fat and cholesterol. Rice milks also contain vitamin C, calcium, and iron, although not in high levels.
Buy hard or soft vegan cheeses.Dairy-free cheese is a great way to still enjoy many of the qualities of cheese without actually consuming any dairy in your diet. Some vegan cheeses may be more or less like actual, dairy based cheese, so try a few different types to see which you prefer.
- Redwood cheese is a dairy free cheese, free from animal ingredients. It is recommended for melting.
- Bute Island cheese is another dairy-free alternative to cheese, which is available in a variety of flavors.
- Dr. Cow has vegan cheeses that are made out of nuts, instead of dairy, and come in many flavors.
Avoid cooking your food with dairy.Instead of utilizing dairy products during cooking, opt for alternative ingredients. There are many creative and great tasting alternatives that you can cook with to keep your meals interesting.
- Instead of making an alfredo sauce with cream and butter, there are recipes that use puréed cauliflower or nuts.
- Try using frozen bananas instead of milk in your shakes.
- Avoiding dairy in these recipes will not only help you adhere to a dairy-free diet, but will also make sure that you lower your intake of “bad” types of fat.
Look out for foods that have hidden dairy ingredients.Although you probably know many of the foods in your diet that contain dairy, many foods may not be readily apparent. Pay careful attention to food labels and do some research to learn which foods may have dairy as an ingredient.
- Some obvious dairy products that contain lactose are butter, candy, cheese, cream, curds, milk and milk based foods, ice cream, white sauce and yogurt.
- Many breads are made using dairy.
- Chocolates, chip dips, mustards, mayo and other condiments may contain dairy.
- Before eating canned products or packaged products, it is best to check the labels to see if the product contains lactose.
Substitute other sweeteners for your dairy sweeteners.Try dairy free sweeteners, such as jellies, jams, honey, sugar, molasses and frozen or pureed fruit bars.
- Be aware that honey is considered an animal product and may not be suitable for you if you are considering a vegan diet.
Get enough calcium in your diet.Calcium is used by the body to maintain bone health. Most dairy foods contain calcium, and the main deficiency that can occur in a dairy-free diet is a lack of calcium. Make sure you are still eating enough calcium rich foods to stay healthy.
- Aside from cow's milk, calcium can also be found in fortified nut and grain milks.
- Some orange juices are fortified with calcium.
- Dark leafy vegetables such as kale, bok choy, collards, and broccoli are all great sources of calcium.
- In addition, you can find calcium in canned salmon, milk substitutes, oranges, pinto beans, rhubarb, and spinach.
- You should not ingest more than 2,000-3,000 mg of calcium, depending on your age.
- Find out exactly how much calcium you need .
Maintain an adequate intake of riboflavin.Riboflavin is a nutrient that is mainly found in dairy products and is essential to your body's health. Deficiency in riboflavin can cause megaloblastic anemia, mouth sores, skin disorders, and swelling of mucus membranes.
- Riboflavin should be taken daily. Adolescent and adult males should take 1.4–1.8mgs daily, while females of the same age range should take 1.2-1.3mgs daily.
- Non-dairy sources of riboflavin are legumes, nuts, green leafy vegetables, eggs and lean meat.
- Riboflavin is found in tablet and capsule form. It can also be taken through vitamin supplements.
Make sure you get enough Vitamin D.Vitamin D is an important vitamin that your body needs to properly absorb calcium and keep bones strong. Vitamin D is essential to your health, and is most often found in dairy products, so consume enough alternatives to stay healthy.
- Some alternative sources of vitamin D are fish, eggs, and cod liver oil.
- For ages 1-70, and any women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, 600IU is the daily limit for vitamin D, in tablet form. For those who are over 71 years old, 800IU is an acceptable daily limit.
- Another way to boost vitamin D levels in your body is through sunlight exposure. As little as 10 minutes a day of exposure to sun can help prevent a vitamin D deficiency.
Don't forget protein in your diet.Protein is an important part of a balanced diet, because it helps maintain tissue growth and healing. Although dairy is a great source of protein, you can still get this essential nutrient from alternative sources.
- Two to three portions of protein-rich food are needed every day. Favor plant based sources of protein over meat.
- Legumes are a healthy choice for protein. Legumes include beans, peas, and lentils.
- Additional dairy-free options include red meat, nuts, skinless chicken, and fish.
- Men aged 19-70 should get at least 56 grams of protein every day. Women aged 19-70 should get at least 46 grams. These amounts should be slightly higher if pregnant or lactating.
Maintain a balanced diet.Eliminating dairy from your diet may be desirable, however, it also means re-balancing your diet. A proper diet that provides the right amount of nutrition is important to your health. Make sure you follow some of these general suggestions to get all the vitamins and nutrients you need.
- Get plenty of carbohydrates. These are a great source of energy for your body. Try eating legumes, vegetables, and whole grains to get plenty of carbohydrates in your diet.
- Consume foods with fiber. Fiber can help with cholesterol levels and prevent constipation. Vegetables, whole grains, oats, and dried beans are good providers of fiber. Women should get about 25 grams every day, and men should get 38. However, you should consult your doctor for the exact amount that's right for you.
- Monitor sugar levels. Sugar, although a provider of energy, should be limited as it can easily add excessive calories to your diet. You should consume no more than 100 calories worth of sugar a day. You could start limiting your sugar intake by cutting out soda and other sugary drinks. Look instead for diet or zero calorie soda.
- Eat unsaturated fats. Since you are cutting out dairy, you will avoid a prime source of unhealthy fats in your diet. Replace dairy fats with unsaturated fats found in fish and lean chicken. For good sources of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, try soybeans, safflower, canola, flaxseed, or corn oil.
- Watch your cholesterol intake. Although a critical component of a healthy body, enough cholesterol is made by your body without the need for consuming extra in your diet. Limit foods such as beef, poultry and egg yolks. Daily, we should only eat about 10-12 grams of fat that are high in unsaturated fat.
Sources and Citations
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