If you’re considering giving up dairy, you might be on the verge of a great decision for your health, your skin and your waistline (and even your wallet, depending on how addicted you were to the stuff.) But many people often don’t realize what a large part of their diet was made up of dairy, and what a significant lifestyle change this will be. While dairy causes some issues for people, like indigestion, it does have its merits and provides some key nutrients to your system. Like anything you’re going to quit cold turkey, you need to be prepared for the change, when and how you’ll miss that item the most and how it will affect your body to live without it. Simply switching to soy alternatives may not keep you off the hook. Here are things to know before quitting dairy.
You can’t turn to soy
Your body doesn’t quite know what to do with soy. If you cut out dairy, however, you might get soy everything (soy milk, soy cream cheese, soy ice cream…) This could leave you bloated and constipated.
Coconut is your friend
Coconut alternatives are much easier on your stomach than soy ones. There is some incredible coconut ice cream, coconut milk, coconut butter, coconut cream cheese and more out there.
Get to know health food stores
Speaking of alternative options, health food stores are your friends. They will actually have better prices on things like coconut cream cheese than a mega chain supermarket does because they have better relationships with health food vendors.
But faux cheese is expensive
Faux cheese is expensive, no matter where you get it. If you thought real fancy cheese was pricey, wait until you find a shop that specializes in cashew-based fancy cheese; your wallet will try to run away.
But all “cheese” is still fatty
Just because your cream cheese is now made from a fruit or nut instead of dairy milk doesn’t mean you can eat a tub of it—the stuff is still loaded with calories.
Ask how your veggies are prepared
If you’re eating at a restaurant, remember that they probably sauté vegetables in butter, and mix butter as well as sour cream into their mashed potatoes. In fact, most potato dishes are suspect, so ask questions.
You could usher in osteoporosis
Your body absorbs calcium the best from food sources so if you’re going to quit dairy, you need to find calcium in other items. Collard greens, arugula, spinach, kale, lentils, and beans all have plenty of it.
You may prolong your life
This doesn’t apply to all dairy; just milk. Milk contains a simple sugar that causes inflammation in the body and can welcome disease. Cutting milk out of your diet could significantly reduce your risk of fatal illnesses.
You can toss your cover-up
The hormones in dairy can cause overactive oil production in your face, which causes acne. If you cut out dairy, you may find that you don’t need your cover-up anymore.
Beware of these foods
Dairy isn’t always as obvious as cheese and ice cream. Keep in mind that certain flavored chips may contain dairy, as well as many frozen items like fish sticks and chicken nuggets. Most beef hot dogs even have the stuff.
You’ll do your ovaries a favor
Reducing your dairy intake could greatly reduce your chance of ovarian cancer. Get your man on the dairy-free plan and he could reduce his chances of prostate cancer.
You need to take probiotics
While too much dairy can cause constipation, eliminating it entirely may have the same effect. Keep in mind that foods like yogurt contain probiotics, which help your digestion.
Get to know these spreads
Hummus, mashed avocado, Baba Ganoush, pate, cashew cream cheese and garlic spread. These are all creamy and won’t make you miss the cream cheese on your bagels.
Don’t forget about baked goods
A lot of baked goods are made with milk! That’s easy to forget once the batter has transformed into fluffy muffins. But beware of store-bought baked goods, and make your own with almond or coconut milk.
Beware of cravings
Food like cheese and whole milk is heavy, sure, but it does contain protein. If you remove dairy, you will probably still crave creamy, fatty foods and may replace dairy with nutrient-poor items like donuts.
Fulfill your cravings here
Turn to things like almond, cashew and peanut butter for your creamy, fatty cravings. These should satisfy you and provide protein, fiber, and healthy fats.
You could drop a pant size
From bloat alone! If you are particularly sensitive to dairy then there is a good chance you’ve been living with bloat. You may not have realized you were sensitive because you didn’t have disruptive symptoms like diarrhea.
Your headaches may go away
You may experience fewer headaches if you quit dairy. Headaches could be another sneaky symptom of dairy sensitivity. If you’ve leaned on painkillers for years, maybe you can save that money for something else now.
Your arthritis could get better
As stated before, a dairy sensitivity can cause inflammation in the body and inflammation is the enemy of arthritis sufferers. Quitting dairy might alleviate some of your arthritis pain.
Know that sometimes, it’s really hard
If your friends drag you to a pizza place that has dairy-free options, you’re going to have a really hard time not stealing a piece of their gooey, cheesy, melty, full-dairy pizza.