How To Go Dairy Free – The Ultimate Guide

The Problems With Dairy, Top Alternatives, and Dealing With Cravings

how to go dairy free
Here is an interesting factoid for you. Human beings are the only species to drink the milk of another animal and to sometimes drink it for a lifetime.
Does this make any sense to you?
The milk from a cow is the perfect nutritional beverage – if you're a  calf! That doesn't mean it is suitable for human consumption.
As we reach adulthood, most of us lose the enzyme required to process the sugar in dairy milk. For most people, this means that consuming dairy products results in poor digestion which leads to poor health.
Personally, I decided to stop eating dairy recently after learning I had a low thyroid and didn't digest it well. Plus, ethically it wasn't lining up with my values. I'm not going to lie, learning how to go dairy free has not been easy for me. But after six weeks, I have to say: I'm over it and have not felt this good in a long time.
Now, there are a small number of humans that have no problem with cow’s milk. But, the majority of these people live in little pockets of Africa and Northwest Europe.

The lack of the lactase enzyme means that dairy products do not digest properly. And since most illnesses begin as poor digestion in the gut, simple lactose intolerance can lead to a severe health problem.

In this guide on how to go dairy-free, we will first look at:

  • The benefits of removing dairy from your diet
  • We'll question the belief that you need dairy for specific nutrients.
  • And finally what foods and drinks you need to avoid to go dairy-free.
 You'll discover:
  • Healthy and delicious alternatives to your favorite dairy foods
  • Simple dairy-free recipes
  • How to deal with cravings
  • Tips to eating dairy-free when you're traveling, on vacation, eating at a restaurant or at a dinner party
Let's get started by taking a look at the specific physical, ethical and ecological problems the dairy industry presents.

The Problems with Dairy

First, let's describe the word dairy. You can define dairy as foods and beverages that contain the milk of mammals.

People think of dairy products coming from the milk of a cow. But milk from sheep and goats qualify as dairy-based foods and beverages as well.
Several problems surround the manufacturing of dairy products. Let's look at the most disturbing issues.

Animal Welfare

how to go dairy free

If you picture an idyllic dairy farm in your mind, like the ones in dairy marketing messages, you need some reeducating.

Dairy farmers via big corporations mistreat cows in many ways. That glass of cow's milk in front of you comes from an animal who has had 13 to 19 healthy years removed from its lifespan.
Because dairy cows are impregnated, fed steroids and other less than healthy chemicals, they only live 6 to 7 years. A cow living naturally enjoys 20 to 25 years of life.
A dairy cow spends most of its life in an individual stockade which allows for very little movement.
The term “bobby calves” refers to a newborn calf which is usually less than 30 days old. The calf has been intentionally removed from its mother. And since cows in nature are excellent mothers, both calf and cow cry and call out for each other in emotional agony
These young calves (nearly 500,000 per year) are usually slaughtered within the first 7 days of their lives. These are just a couple of examples of inhumane and needless farming practices that go on in the dairy industry.

Environmental Concerns

how to go dairy free

There are roughly 300 million dairy cows worldwide. With that many Bessies making milk and breeding, there is a severe impact on the planet.
The manure produced by dairy cows is a premier cause of greenhouse gas emissions.
Fertilizers and manure mix and enter the groundwater supply, degrading the health of the local water. As you can imagine, there is much damage done to wetlands and forests because of unsustainable dairy farming practices.
The raising, feeding, and manufacturing of dairy cows require 500 billion cubic meters of water annually. Access to potable water is a topic which has become a real concern of modern-day scientists.
We are already seeing scientific models that show human beings are running out of drinkable water at an alarming rate.
Consider the following facts about the amount of water it takes to produce specific dairy products.

Do you like yogurt?

To make 1 cup of your favorite Greek yogurt requires 90 gallons of water.

Additionally, it takes:

  • 109 gallons of water to make a single stick of butter
  • 42 gallons to produce just one scoop of ice cream
  • 2 slices of your favorite cheese uses roughly 50 gallons of water

Health Concerns

how to go dairy free

Global governments have been touting the calcium content of dairy milk forever. But actually, the more dairy milk you drink, the weaker your bones become.
One study, a 2005 paper published in Pediatrics magazine, showed that “… milk consumption does not improve bone integrity in children.”
A Harvard study tracked 72,000 women over a period of 12 years. An increase in dairy milk consumption led to no improvement in bone health or decrease in the risk of breaks and fractures.
Some studies show that the more milk you drink, the weaker your bones become, especially if you are a woman. Milk consumption in these studies is directly linked to more osteoporosis and other bone conditions.
Cancer, obesity, diabetes, and neurological problems are all linked to dairy consumption. 

When you cut out dairy, you:

  • Promote humane animal farming
  • Help the planet
  • Become healthier

How To Go Dairy Free

how to go dairy free

Getting All Your Nutrients Without Dairy

Vitamin D

One of the most significant selling points of the dairy industry is that milk delivers high levels of vitamin D.

But just 10 minutes in the midday sun causes your body to produce enough vitamin D to meet your daily requirements. And if you live in northern parts of the world or have less sunlight exposure, eat more Vitamin D rich foods like:

  • Sardines
  • Tuna
  • Cod liver oil
  • Salmon
These suggestions give you the vitamin D benefits of dairy milk, without the downsides mentioned earlier.


You may think you need to drink dairy milk to get plenty of calcium.

But there are plenty of calcium-rich foods that aren't dairy like:

  • Sunflower seeds
  • Sesame seeds
  • Green beans
  • White beans
  • Carrots
  • Figs
  • Broccoli
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Almonds
  • Oranges
  • Butternut squash
  • Edamame and Tofu
  • Sardines


Better known as vitamin B2, Riboflavin is responsible for healthy blood cells that provide you with abundant energy. It is found in dairy milk, but there are better sources to give you all the B2 you need:

  • Meat and organ meat
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Beans and legumes
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Bananas
  • Asparagus

Vitamin B12

Milk, dairy products, meat, and fish are good sources of vitamin B12. And you need this nutrient to prevent anemia and nervous system damage.

Plants don't produce vitamin B12, so fortified foods and supplements are the only dependable sources if you are vegan.

If you don't eat dairy you can get your recommended allowance of B12 by eating:

  • Sardines
  • Wild-caught salmon
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Grass-fed lean cuts of beef

If you do not eat meat or fish, you can find it in B12 fortified foods found in vegan spreads, nutritional yeast, yeast extracts, breakfast cereals or you can supplement.


Dairy milk is high in iodine. This is one of many nutrients that the human body needs to make thyroid hormones.
Other foods that give you plenty of iodine are:
  • Strawberries
  • Navy beans
  • Potatoes
  • Sea vegetables like kelp
  • Cranberries
  • Fish and shrimp
  • Turkey breast
  • Tuna
  • Eggs
  • Himalayan crystal salt
 As you can see, despite what the dairy industry says, you don't need to consume unhealthy dairy milk to get these nutrients.
A plant-based diet, a little daily exposure to sunlight, grass-fed beef poultry, and wild-caught fish, gives you all the nutrition you need.

What to Avoid

how to go dairy free

It's no big newsflash that a lot of dairy-based products have milk in them. This is what causes dairy intolerances and associated health problems in so many people.

 If you are considering going dairy-free, these are the foods you want to avoid:
    • Cheese – If you eat an aged cheese, it is going to have less lactose than processed cheeses
    • Butter
    • Processed milk chocolate
    • Cream –  Half and half, whipped cream, sour cream
    • Dairy milk and condensed milk, buttermilk, powdered milk, evaporated milk
    • Yogurt
    • Ice cream
    • Cottage cheese
    • Mayonnaise

Additionally, as much as 75% of all processed foods contain some dairy product. This means the following foods have a good chance of containing lactose.

  • Potato chips
  • Fortified baby cereals
  • Tomato sauce
  • Chicken nuggets
  • Fish sticks
  • Granola bars
  • All-beef hot dogs have a good chance of containing lactose, cheese or some other dairy product
By the way, the word to look for on food labels is “lactose.”
As I already mentioned, most people don't have the lactase enzyme that allows them to process lactose. The inability to digest is what leads to the myriad of health problems which can be frustrating or very serious. Start reading food labels, and avoid any that have “lactose” as an ingredient.

A Guide to the Top Dairy Alternatives

how to go dairy free

The healthiest diets in the world recommend eating organic when you can.

As far as what foods you can eat, fresh, unprocessed fruits and vegetables are wide open. Additionally, focus on grass-fed meats, wild-caught fish, nuts and seeds and all the fresh herbs and spices you desire. Look for foods without added ingredients.
You should also be drinking lots of water. Your body requires about 1 gallon of water daily to keep you healthy. Sipping room-temperature water throughout the day is an excellent way to save yourself feeling full, mainly if you eat a lot of high-fiber fruits and vegetables.

Specific alternatives to dairy products

Check out these recommendations

Instead Of:

Non-Dairy Alternative

Instead of Cow's Milk:

Replace with milk made from almonds, soy, cashews, hemp, or coconut

Instead of Butter:

Replace with ghee, coconut oil, olive oil, Miyoko's Vegan Butter made with organic coconut oil and cashews

Instead of Cottage Cheese:

how to go dairy free

Instead of Cheese:

Replace with smoked tofu slices, homemade guacamole, nutritional yeast, and vegetarian or vegan cheeses sold as dairy-free.

Instead of Processed Chocolate:

Replace with unprocessed organic chocolate (ingredients should only list cocoa butter and cocoa solids), and dark or semi-sweet chocolate with no lactose or dairy products on the ingredients label.

Instead of Creams:

To replace half-and-half and other creams, combine silken tofu with a nut milk. Or mix 2 cups of nut or coconut milk with 4 tablespoons of date syrup and mix well in a high-speed blender or food processor.

To make a date syrup add 1 cup of hot water to 1 cup of Medjool pitted dates in food processor.

Another one of my favorite new cream replacement products is Organic Heavy Coconut Cream from Thrive Market. It's a simple way to make a rich, thick, non-dairy cream without refined sugars, additives or preservatives.

Ice Cream:

There are nondairy almond and coconut based ice creams that are surprisingly delicious. My two favorites are Ben & Jerry's and Luna & Larry's Coconut Bliss.

Instead of Yogurt:

Look for yogurts with a coconut base rather than dairy products. Or choose those which dairy-free, only after reading the ingredients.

Instead of Mayonnaise:

Online health food stores like Amazon offer dairy-free mayonnaise alternatives.

Recommended Dairy-Free Cookbooks

The following dairy-free cookbooks have been highly rated by previous purchasers on Amazon. Many are available in E-book format for immediate use.
The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook: Delicious Dairy-Free Cheeses and Classic “Uncheese” Dishes

Go Dairy-Free – The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living

Danielle Walker's Against All Grain: Meals Made Simple: Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, and Paleo Recipes to Make Anytime

The Dairy-Free & Gluten-Free Kitchen

Tips to Eating Dairy-Free When You Are Out and About

Before choosing a restaurant, you can look at the website which has a Recommended Restaurant listing you can access for non-dairy dining. 

But, the smartest way to eat dairy-free when you are at a restaurant or a party is to let your server know that you can't have dairy, so they can help you order a dish that accommodates your diet. They just want you to have a good time and enjoy the meal!

Don't be shy about asking a lot of questions, especially if you are unclear. And don't worry about offending your server with your concerns or requests.


Tips for remaining dairy-free when you are traveling, on vacation, eating at a restaurant or a dinner party

1 – Look up natural food markets in the areas you'll be traveling to pick up the foods you'll need. Make the majority of your meals whole fresh vegetables and fruits, grass-fed lean proteins, seeds, nuts, and berries.
2 – Keep dairy-free foods on hand. When traveling, it is essential to keep nondairy foods and snacks available so you won't turn to dairy products if you have a craving. 
3 – Prepare meals to-go before long trips. Pack foods in airtight (and spill proof) stainless steel or BPA-free plastic containers that you can pack tightly. For perishable foods, take a cooler or cooler “shoulder” bag along with gel packs to keep foods cold during your travel time. 
4 – At restaurants, inquire if the food is cooked in butter.
5 – Beware of salad dressings. They often contain dairy ingredients.
6 – If you are eating breakfast out, ask if they have a dairy-free option for pancake, waffle, or french toast since they're usually made with buttermilk, milk or butter.
7 – Don't eat the free bread and baked goods.
8 – Head to a kosher restaurant. Eating kosher means not mixing dairy and meat, and accordingly, kosher restaurants will be happy to help you avoid dairy.
9 – Go Mediterranean, choosing oil-based or tomato-based sauces rather than creamy sauces. Or you may have the best luck at Asian restaurants because they are light on the dairy.
10 – Avoid fried food, as dairy products are in many fried food coatings.
11 – Unapologetically ask, Is there any cheese in this dish?” Some chefs and cooks sprinkle Parmesan cheese on menu items sold as dairy-free.
12 – Choose a vegan restaurant. Vegans are vegetarians who avoid dairy as well as meat.
13. Stay in some place with a kitchen so you have more control over your meals. Check out 

Dealing with Dairy Cravings

how to go dairy free

Believe it or not, you can beat your cravings without indulging in dairy foods. It is possible to keep from giving into a dairy craving of any kind.
One of the most delicious and widely favorite comfort foods is pizza. Some people can't imagine not eating pizza, with mounds and mounds of cheese on top. But, you can always pile on the toppings and ask your server to skip the cheese. If you are making pizza at home, try Mikoko's FreshMozz which is a Cashew Based version of mozzarella. 
Whatever dairy product you crave, the following tips can help you cope.

Drink a tall glass of water

Water is so simple yet so good for your health. It's an incredible detoxing agent, which helps remove poisons and toxins from your body. When a dairy craving hits, drinking 12 to 16 ounces of water often does the trick.
The way the human body processes thirst and hunger mean those two signals sometimes get crossed. In some cases, you are just thirsty when you think you are hungry for your favorite dairy-based foods and drinks. Also, if you drink water before eating major meals, it can curb your carvings before they happen. 

Remove yourself from the craving environment

When you feel an urge to eat something you are trying to avoid, it's a good idea to remove yourself from the physical proximity of that food. Your senses are related to your eating practices, so the mere sight or smell of a restricted dairy food could trigger a powerful hunger or desire.
So, possible, remove yourself from the physical location where the craving is happening.
Go for a brisk walk. Exercise. Call and have a chat with a friend. Take a shower or walk the dog. Do anything to remove yourself from the proximity of foods and drinks that are causing your craving.

Cut down on the stress

It is incredible how mental stress can cause physical health problems.

Stress limits the amount of “feel good” chemicals in your body and continues the production of “feel bad” chemicals and hormones. It's in this way that the stress in your life can lead to emotions that are easy prey for food cravings. Try to identify the stressors in your life, and consciously work to avoid them.

Eat protein

Eating 4 ounces of food rich in protein reduces cravings. Protein takes a long time for your body to process, longer than fat or carbohydrates. This is why nutritional coaches often prescribe eating protein for weight loss. You feel full longer than when you eat other types of foods because it takes your body longer to break down protein.
If you have a craving for dairy, have a handful of walnuts or almonds. Eat a slice of dairy meat, some canned tuna, or a small salmon filet. Try to keep from eating more than 4 ounces of protein at one time because that's all your body can process at once.

Drink a cup of nut milk

Once you find your favorite nut milk (almond, cashew, coconut milk, etc.), keep it handy. When you crave cheese or some other type of dairy-based food, drink 4 to 6 ounces of your preferred alternative milk. This is often all you need to do to control your cravings.

Here's my favorite nut milk. I can promise you… If you have this nut milk in your fridge, you won't want cow's milk! It's delicious! You can also thicken it up by blending with a few Majool dates to make a delicious coffee creamer.

Cashew Chai Milk 

Yield 2-4 servings
Active Time 10 minutes

How to go dairy free

*Originally published on Thrive Market Blog



Soak cashews overnight in water in a large container. Rinse and drain the next day, then place cashews in a high-speed blender along with 4 cups of water and all remaining ingredients. Blend on high until creamy, then store in the fridge at least 2 hours. If a smoother texture is desired, strain mixture through a fine mesh sieve and discard solids before serving.

Store covered in the fridge and use within five days.

Begin planning your meals

Cravings often appear as a byproduct of a disorder. Aim to eat at the same time each day and plan your meals ahead of time. If you establish a reliable eating schedule and plan your meals whenever possible, it will help you eat healthier.

The Conclusion of How To Go Dairy Free

I hope this guide helped you learn more about how to go dairy free. With more and more people on plant-based diets and so many delicious dairy alternatives, dairy sales around the world are in decline. In fact, I just read an article about a major Australian dairy supplier who announced a shut down of 3 plants because no one wants cow's milk anymore! The trend is expected to continue.

There are a lot of benefits of cutting dairy out of your diet. You promote a healthier planet, conserve water and land resources, and say “Yes!” to a more humane animal farming practices.

You also give yourself a better chance at avoiding the obesity, cancer, poor bone health, multiple sclerosis and diabetes linked directly to dairy consumption.

how to go dairy free
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  1. Your website is very clean and I love the style of it. Perfect for holistic health. I do agree with you about dairy. That stuff has a lot of HGH in it whichmust do something bad to the human body. I mean look at how much baby cows grow in a short space of time, there is definitely something in that milk. It is so important what you mentioned about the animal wealfare as well.

    Them animals are treated terribly. Very informative!

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