My Tips To Make The Transition To a Dairy-Free Lifestyle Easier

My Tips To Make The Transition To a Dairy-Free Lifestyle Easier

Wanna know how a Greek yogurt lover successfully cuts dairy?

Try making your own cashew / almond cream! Here are the links to the recipes:

My segment on my journey towards going dairy-free, how I did it + the benefits of a dairy-free lifestyle is saved on my highlights on Instagram (find me: @kellyinthekitch). Check it out if you want to know more!

Before I get into it, I just want to say that this is NOT me telling you that this is the way you should live your life or that it’s the healthiest way to live. It’s simply me sharing with you the way that I feel my best. The last thing I would ever do is push my way of life on anyone & I really do think it’s so important for us all to take what we hear, read & see on social media with a grain of salt – take it all in & then make a conscious decision for YOURSELF.

The hardest thing for me on my journey towards living plant-based was cutting dairy. My entire transition actually happened super organically. I didn’t just wake up one day & decide I was going to go plant-based cold-turkey. TBH, I don’t really think the cold turkey approach works for anything you’re trying to change or cut out, especially if you’re used to it or have been brought up. My transition was the by-product of self-reflection. I’d reached a point in my life where I was feeling really great & I didn’t really know why.

I started to ask myself what I changed that could have contributed to this change & without even trying, I realized it had been months since I had a piece of chicken or turkey. I literally could not pinpoint the last time. Red meat was something I cut out almost 10 years ago, but I was still eating chicken & turkey sparingly in the past year. I’ve also never been much of a meat eater & much preferred eggs, sea food, fish or dairy (basically just Greek yogurt). I never really craved meat, chicken or turkey so it didn’t come as much of a surprise to me that it was easy for me to live without it, and this, without even trying to!

I decided to stick to that & to slowly & progressively start cutting out other sources of animal protein to see if I’d continue to feel even better. I basically wanted to test the waters & see what would happen to my body & energy levels if I continued to veer towards being plant-based. I wasn’t too worried about the transition because I was never HUGE on seafood or fish either, eggs were common in my diet but not something I adored & the hardest part seemed like it would be Greek yogurt (I didn’t really eat any other dairy products at that point anyway). In fact, before even going fully plant-based, I had already hopped on the whole almond milk, cashew cheese bandwagon!

I slowly cut seafood, fish, eggs & then hit a roadblock with the Greek yogurt. I kept telling myself I couldn’t give it up, that I felt good enough now & didn’t need to cut it & I kept procrastinating. I kept reading article & books about what dairy does to the body & it was still so hard for me to do it because I thought I felt good. That’s the thing with cutting things out progressively. You think you feel good but then you cut them & you feel even better. That’s how I realized everything I read about dairy was true.

One day, I literally woke up & told myself to just suck it up & do it. I had already become pretty much plant-based & dairy was the last thing on the agenda. I told myself if I wanted to really see the full-blown benefits of a plant-based diet, I had to go full circle. Of course, with anything, if you want to do it properly, you can’t just expect results overnight, nor can you expect to be wishy washy & on & off about it and think it’s going to give you the full benefits. You need to practice that lifestyle habit for a few weeks in order to be able to monitor changes, if any.

Let me tell you that after just TWO WEEKS of eating no dairy, I felt like a different person. I felt so much less puffy (face & body), woke up feeling lighter every morning, more comfortable in my body, less irritated, more energized, my skin looked better & I felt less heavy during morning workouts (I used to eat Greek yogurt for breakfast almost every AM). Overtime, I realized through my slow elimination process that my body loved me better & felt better when I ate this way.

How did I replace Greek yogurt? I got adventurous. Once I cut it & saw that I felt better, I decided to commit to it wholeheartedly & started to find alternatives. I made almond & cashew cream & I fell in love! It was literally a “never looking back” situation for me. I was already making homemade almond milk & veered out into the world of other plant-based nut & seed milks & now I’ve basically tried ’em all!

Maybe dairy won’t be as difficult for you to eliminate if you decide to try a plant-based lifestyle. Maybe you’re a carnivore & you already don’t eat much dairy. Everyone is different & the transition follows through differently for everyone as well. My best advice would be to ease your way into it so that you don’t feel deprived physically or mentally & to do it progressively (& not cold turkey) so you can slowly monitor the way you feel after eliminating each food or food group. Always remember that you don’t have to label yourself or do anything a certain way – you have to do what works for you!

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF A DAIRY-FREE DIET?:

Hippocrates described the first adverse reaction to cow’s milk by a human being & indicated that it showed in two areas of the body: skin & GI tract (gut).

I think it’s no secret that dairy is an inflammatory food that often leads to bloating or indigestion when consumed because many of us don’t have the ability (or do so but a lot slower) to produce the enzyme necessary to digest dairy. Many people are lactose intolerant & follow a dairy-free diet for that reasons, but others do so because they just have a sensitivity.

When you think about it, dairy is the first thing given to an infant to grow in the first years of life & to gain weight. As we grow older & as adults, we don’t actually need dairy to survive & we can get the protein, vitamins & minerals that you find in dairy products from so many other plant-based foods that are a lot healthier. Case in point, the Canadian government has actually decided to remove dairy as a category on the Food Guide. I don’t know about you guys but in my opinion, this is a clear indication of the fact that tons of research & studies have shown it isn’t essential to human life. Switching over to plant based made me realized that there are so many ways to get the vitamins and minerals in dairy products from other plant-derived foods.

If you think the switch to plant-based foods entirely will be too difficult for you, you might also consider just changing the source of your dairy-products or upping the quality. Some people tolerate certain types of dairy, for example feta cheese, goat’s milk or cheese, grass-fed dairy are all healthier sources & easier to digest. 

Before I cut dairy, I only ate grass-fed Greek yogurt because it has a more beneficial omega-3 to 6 ratio, meaning it contains less omega-6 & more omega-3, so there is less of a susceptibility to inflammation. The American diet is too high in omega-6 & not high in omega-3, which is why so many of us are plagued by the most common diseases, because at the root of them… INFLAMMATION! Dairy is high in omega-6, but grass-fed dairy lowers the risk a little bit, so it’s something you can do on your progressive journey!

Dairy often leads to bloating & other digestive issues. If you already have a diagnosed medical condition related to your GI tract, suffer from excessive stress, anxiety, depression, adrenal fatigue & you don’t take probiotics or eat fermented foods & eat processed, refined & packaged foods, you might ALREADY suffer from bloating, sometimes even chronically. But, add to that a diet too rich in dairy & the possibility that your body doesn’t have the digestive enzymes needed to break it down & BAM – an accumulation of gas in the GI tract can also lead to bloating. For this reason, some people have an easier time digesting lactose-free milk because they remove the lactase, so there’s less digestive distress.

Dairy causes other digestive issues ranging from cramps, upset stomach, nausea, constipation & even more severe, can be a trigger for people with IBS or other digestive health conditions.

FUN FACT: 75% of the world’s population has some sort of dairy intolerance, whether it be full-blown lactose intolerance or some sort of aversion or sensitivity to diary. IMO, this is an indication that diary is not necessary, except in the first few years of life. In fact, you can get more calcium from a cup of kale than from a cup of milk… HOW CRAZY!

Research has also shown that dairy consumption can lead to stimulation of mucus production & acid. If you have asthma, respiratory issues or allergies, cutting dairy might help alleviate the issues & symptoms associated with those conditions. Dairy also disturbs the acid/alkaline balance int he body. There is a saying I read once that “disease cannot thrive in an alkaline environment”‘. Dairy throws off the balance in the body, gut, skin microbiome & an imbalance in acid/alkalinity in the body can lead to energy depletion, irregular blood sugar levels, cravings, adrenal fatigue, brain fog, mood swings, intensified symptoms of mental health issues, chronic fatigue, insomnia & other issues.

Cutting dairy also helps clarify the skin. We all want to improve the condition of our skin, right? We use tons of products to fight aging & common skin conditions, prevent acne & breakouts & look glowy. Dairy has been shown to hinder a lot of the effects we look to attain by eating right for our skin & using expensive skincare products because it contains steroids & growth hormones. The animal consumes steroids & growth hormones & we are the third party that by virtue of consuming animal derived products, consume those hormones, which research has shown stimulates acne. Of course, the way that we eat & the foods we choose to load up on & stay away from are a direct reflection of the way your skin looks on the outside. Keep in mind that dairy also leads to inflammation & inflammation, combined with a build-up of bacteria, is the leading cause of acne & other skin conditions like psoriasis, rosacea, cystic acne & eczema.

Dairy is also full of pesticides & antibiotics. Animals are often given antibiotics to prolong their lives given the sickly conditions in which they live & pesticides are used to increase production & as a money-making tool by large dairy companies & farms. These compounds are highly carcinogenic & have been linked to certain types of cancer.

Cutting dairy can also decrease the amount of oxidative damage caused to our bodies.  We are all exposed to oxidative damage & free radicals daily by virtue of living in the environment. This is why antioxidants are so important. Dairy is also the primary food source of D-galactose, which has been shown to lead to neuro-degeneration, can lead to chronic inflammation, stimulates decreased immune function & oxidative damage, so if you’re not eating enough antioxidants, combined with way too much dairy, you might be at risk for enhanced oxidative damage, which can do your body NO GOOD!

These are some of the benefits that stand out to me! Keep in mind that there are some individuals who can eat dairy & not experience anything & feel perfectly fine. The thing is, they think they feel fine until they try it & test the waters. I thought I felt great but then I cut it, and felt amazing!! You never know how good you’ll feel until you try! Trial & error is everything.

In a nutshell, since cutting dairy, I feel better, less puffy, more energy, satisfied because I found alternatives, less tired, less heavy during my workouts & in general & I wake up feeling focused, ready to tackle the day, lighter & just overall feeling amazing! If it means I need to meal prep more, put a bit more effort & work in, I’m game!

MY TIPS ON GOING DAIRY-FREE:

  • Do it progressively. If you eat dairy daily, start by slowly switching to goat’s milk over cow, then try grass-fed products to improve your omega 3:6 ratio + lower inflammation, choose organic to eliminate the risk of GMO + fermented yogurts or cheeses over those that aren’t to help digestion + your gut, try almond or cashew milk + cream or make your own. BTW, goat’s milk products are also higher in protein, B-vitamins, calcium & contain less casein, one of the compounds & proteins in milk that leads to inflammatory responses & that a lot of people have a sensitivity to.
  • Have an open mind & be open to trying new foods.
  • Don’t go haywire + eliminate gluten, soy, refined sugar + dairy at the same time. You’ll feel so overwhelmed that the experience won’t be life-changing or eye-opening in the way it should be; you’ll actually hate it because you’ll feel deprived around food, you’ll lose touch with your body + run out of options over what to eat + consistency + results will be harder to obtain.
  • Once you do it, try to be consistent – you’ll only be able to know if you feel better this way if you stick to it & monitor the changes in your body, skin, digestion, respiratory health & energy levels. If you’re doing it one day off, two days on, it’ll be harder to see results.
  • If nothing changes after a few weeks / months, you miss dairy + realize you don’t have a sensitivity, REINCORPORATE THE DAIRY, irrespective of what anyone else is doing.
  • Make sure to incorporate plant foods that contain similar vitamins, minerals + nutrients to those you’d get from dairy so you don’t develop deficiencies.
  • Use food blogs for inspiration for dairy-free alternatives + EDUCATE yourself about the benefits so you know what to look for when monitoring results + to boost your motivation + inspiration to do it in the first place! 
  • Coconut, nuts like cashews & almonds are a great way to replace dairy products & to prepare foods that are similar in texture to dairy but that won’t make youa victim of all the negative things it does to the body!

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