When it comes to dairy-free diets, some people make the switch because of a legitimate allergy or lactose intolerance, while others simply want to try something new in the hopes of improving their health.
But regardless of your motives, going dairy-free isn’t easy.
And, for many people, dropping the cheese from their charcuterie board may be like losing a close friend. But as with all diets, there are plenty of delicious dairy-free substitutes that are easy trade-offs. Fortunately, if you need dairy-free swaps to kick-start your new diet, we have just the list for you!
Swap Cow Milk for Nut Milk
Saying goodbye to cow’s milk is easy nowadays thanks in large part to the many types of nut milk on the market. Whether you prefer almond milk, rice milk, cashew milk, soy milk or coconut milk, there’s a long list of options carried at most major grocery chains. With a similar creamy texture and several different flavor profiles to choose from, you won’t miss dairy milk!
Unfortunately, nut milk doesn’t have as much calcium or vitamin D as cow’s milk. However, many brands offer vitamin D and calcium-fortified options to compensate. Whole nuts and other nuts used for milk alternatives are also packed with more protein, fiber and healthy fats than cow’s milk. However, they also contain more calories than cow’s milk, so you may have to moderate your intake a bit when you decide to go dairy-free. Additionally, nut milk is off-limits to those with any pre-existing nut allergies.
Switch to Dairy-Free Yogurt
Similar to nut milk, there are several non-dairy yogurt alternatives you can swap with traditional dairy-based yogurt! Soy, almond and coconut-based non-dairy yogurts are a few of the most commonly sold lactose-free alternatives to this early-morning staple. Non-dairy yogurts have a creamy Greek yogurt-like texture with a slightly sweeter taste profile.
Plant-based yogurts also need to be fortified to make up for missing nutrients, since most non-dairy substitutes lack the necessary vitamin D and calcium to maintain strong bones and a healthy immune system. But not all non-dairy yogurts are adequately fortified, so be sure to check the nutrition facts label before making the switch!
Cut the Cheese or Buy Vegan Alternatives
You don’t have to say goodbye to cheese altogether when ditching dairy products! Many grocery stores offer vegan cheeses that come shredded, sliced and even as spreads. What’s more, some of the options are shockingly delicious.
Vegan cheese is made from vegetable proteins and usually contains starches and added thickeners. They are also lower in fat, protein and calcium than dairy cheeses. But be sure to check the sodium count on these non-dairy cheese options, as they’re still processed food, and therefore likely higher in sodium than dairy-based cheeses.
Swap Ice Cream for Sorbet
Whether you’re going dairy-free due to lactose intolerance or trying to cut back on calories, sorbet is a great non-dairy alternative for dairy-based ice cream! It combines the sweetness of ice cream with the flavor and freshness of your favorite fruits for the ultimate dairy-free dessert.
When swapping sorbet for ice cream, you’ll also cut back on added fat and calories. Unlike most ice cream, sorbet is made with simple ingredients, including fruit puree, sugar and water! However, sorbet does not have the calcium, vitamin A, potassium and phosphorus normally found in dairy-based ice cream. Luckily, some non-dairy ice creams have these specific nutrients added to them! Just be sure to check the nutrition facts label before you head to the checkout counter!
Buy Dairy-Free Butter
One sneaky swap for the dairy-free crowd is non-dairy butter. Vegan butter provides the same taste, look and feel of dairy-based butter! You can also buy it in a variety of consistencies, ranging from stick form (firm) to spreadable. Dairy-free butter can be made from many sources, including palm, canola, soybean, flax, avocado, sunflower oil and olive oil!
Typically, vegan butter is made from healthy, non-inflammatory oils that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like olive, flax and avocado oil. However, it still contains saturated fat, just like traditional butter. Vegan butter also tends to contain more sodium than traditional butter, so be sure to check the nutrition facts label.
Say ‘Hello’ to Non-Dairy Sour Cream & Cream Cheese
Non-dairy sour cream and non-dairy cream cheese are both available dairy-free diet options. Whether you’re using vegan whipped cream cheese for your bagel or dairy-free sour cream for your chips and dip, these simple dairy-free swaps are as delish as the real deal!
Dairy-free sour cream and cream cheese have similar nutritional profiles as their dairy-based counterparts. However, they contain fewer calories and less fat. That said, they also typically contain less vitamin A, vitamin D and calcium, unless they’re nutritionally fortified!
Choose Vegan Chocolate Over Milk Chocolate
Vegan chocolate is all the rage right now among the dairy-free crowd! It provides the creamy, rich taste of chocolate without the refined sugar and processed ingredients. But sweet lovers beware – vegan chocolate tends to be more bitter than milk chocolate.
One of the reasons vegan chocolate tastes so bitter is that it uses antioxidant-packed cacao rather than the traditional cocoa used in hot chocolate. Non-dairy chocolate is typically sweetened with a sugar that has a lower glycemic index than cane sugar, making it a great fiber-filled alternative for those who struggle with blood glucose control!
Swap Creamy Dressings for Vinaigrettes
Whether going dairy-free or not, vinaigrettes are typically healthier dressing options than creamy dressings. A vinaigrette is typically a mixture of oil and acid, whereas other dressings can be made with high-fat products, like mayo and buttermilk. The taste is also typically lighter and less filling, which may leave you feeling less bloated after eating.
Since vinaigrettes are made with oil as a base, they’re full of healthy fats! Be sure to look for olive oil or avocado oil-based vinaigrettes for the most beneficial fats. When compared to creamier, dairy-based dressings, vinaigrettes also contain less sodium, saturated fat and calories.
Switch to Non-Dairy Whipped Cream
Afraid you’ll miss your favorite dessert topping? Don’t be! Non-dairy whipped cream is a great option for those looking for the texture and taste of traditional whipped cream.
When switching to non-dairy whipped cream, you’re not missing out on anything nutritionally. Vegan and dairy-based whipped creams both tend to be low in calories and fat per serving. Just remember to check the serving size before loading up your dessert!