How to Give Up Dairy When Cheese Is Your Everything

If you're giving up dairy because you're lactose intolerant in a major way, have decided to go Paleo, want to get rid of your bloated belly or acne, or are doing it for the animals, it's not easy, especially if you consider cheese to be its own food group. With these tips, you'll be able to stop eating dairy and actually feel happy about it.

POPSUGAR Photography | Sheila Gim

Discover Amazing Alternatives

The plant-based food world is exploding right now, so there are dairy alternatives to just about everything you could think of. Here are some recommendations:

  • Milk: Take your pick between soy, almond, coconut, cashew, and blends of each. The one that most closely resembles cow's milk is soy milk and new plant milks made with pea protein such as Ripple. These companies also make coffee creamers.
  • Butter: This is an easy one as Earth Balance and Smart Balance both make tubs and sticks of dairy-free butter you can use on toast, to bake cookies, melt on popcorn, or make frosting. I'm a fan of the ones made with olive oil.
  • Yogurt: If this is your go-to breakfast or snack, try ones made by Silk, Daiya, Kite Hill, or So Delicious.
  • Ice cream: Trader Joe's makes one of the best dairy-free ice creams I've ever tasted — try the Soy Creamy in Vanilla or Cherry Chocolate Chip. If you're avoiding soy, Ben and Jerry's makes four amazing chunk-filled ice creams made with almond milk. Some other noteworthy brands are So Delicious (amazing cashew milk ice cream), and DF Mavens.
  • Cheese: This is a toughie, as I have yet to find cheese alternatives that taste as good as the real thing. But, I've found a few brands that are pretty good. Follow Your Heart Mozzarella Shreds and Shredded Parmesan are always in my fridge for homemade pizza. For cream cheese, I'm a fan of the Trader Joe's plain version — I stir in some maple syrup and cinnamon for a sweeter flavor. For savory cream cheese that tastes great on crackers, Treeline Herb-Garlic Soft Cheese made from cashews and Kite Hill Chive Style Spread made from almond milk are outstanding. If you crave American cheese, Go Veggie is not too shabby, but for grilled cheese, my new favorite is Daiya Provolone Slices — it totally melts like you'd expect! And for a quick meal, Kite Hill Raviolis are great to keep in the freezer.
  • Condiments: Obsessed with ranch dressing? Daiya ranch dressing fooled my husband — it's that good.
  • Chocolate: Most dark chocolate is dairy-free, just double check the labels. Look for bars made by Endangered Species, Green & Black's, and Newman's Own. For baking, go for Enjoy Life or Trader Joes' Semi-Sweet chocolate chips. Craving M&Ms? Order some No Whey Choco No-No's.
POPSUGAR Photography | Sheila Gim

Find Something Even Better

If you have certain go-to meals like Greek yogurt for breakfast or Friday pizza night, find recipes that are even tastier. Try this chocolate coconut almond overnight oats recipes or a creamy high-protein smoothie. Cook up some chickpea coconut curry or bite into savory roasted sweet potato and black bean burritos. Discover foods you really look forward to, so you don't miss the old ones.

Avoid Temptations

Don't go to the same old places that serve your favorite non-dairy dishes. You'll just be reminded of the chocolate peanut butter pie you can't have and will either have a supersad meal or give in and order a slice. Explore new restaurants — Chinese and Mexican are good options — or try a new vegan restaurant.

Ease Into It

Ditching dairy completely and going cold turkey is a pretty daunting task. So if your health allows for it, try slowly transitioning your diet, and you might not be so depressed about it. Maybe start with one meal a day or by ditching one food like milk.

Remember Why You're Doing It

Keeping a higher purpose in mind can be all the motivation you need to stop eating dairy. If you know you'll be stuck in the bathroom for half an hour just because you put a pat of butter on your bread, then you'll probably think twice before grabbing that butter knife. If you're eating Paleo because you want to gain muscle, getting support from your swolemates (and recipe ideas) can make all the difference. And if you're doing it for health reasons or animal welfare, just keep a powerful image in your mind that will stop your hand from reaching for that piece of cheese. Be confident in your decision and know that the benefits will soon follow.