A few years ago, as an attempted solution for my health issues, I was put onto a gluten-free, dairy-free diet for 18 months, since both had come up quite high on some allergy blood work. Personally, that didn't work for me- at all. I felt weak and sick all the time, because having both those two food groups cut off didn't leave a lot of options. However, that 18 month period taught me something: Going dairy free (and gluten free for that matter) is a lot harder than you would originally think. Below, I've compiled a list of the best 10 tips I learned when I was on the dairy-free part of the diet.
2. Try all the milk substitutes until you find one that you don't hate. Now, I'm not saying you have to love it, or even like it, but if you can find one that you don't want to immediately dump down the sink, it's a small success. I tried several different kinds, and while I was never a big fan of any, I found almond milk to be the best substitute. It might not seem like a big deal to just cut out cow's milk and NOT use a substitute, but milk is a major source of protein and calcium- you need it. If you absolutely can't stomach the taste, try making fruit smoothies with it. You'll still get your milk, but the taste will be mostly masked behind the fruit.
3. If you really can't stand a substitute, try mixing it. If you just cannot get yourself to down a glass of, say, rice milk, try mixing it with almond milk. It has the closest consistency to cow's milk, but if you don't like that, coconut milk has a similar, albeit slightly thinner, consistency as well. Some brands even sell the two of those mixed together, and it's surprisingly yummy. Swap around a few combinations until something strikes your fancy.
4. There are good baking recipe subs for eggs, too! Contrary to popular belief, eggs are not dairy, though some people will cut out eggs at the same time they go off dairy (For many reasons). There are a lot of things out there that can be used instead of eggs, though some still involve dairy. My favorite non-dairy egg replacement is bananas. Certain recipes will let you do this, and it tastes great. A good rule of thumb is to use half a banana for each egg you would normally use. (SIDE NOTE: I was off eggs while I was off dairy and gluten as well. Unfortunately, I don't have many tips for that.)
5. To avoid a Vitamin D deficiency, talk to your doctor about taking a Vitamin D supplement. Spending a little extra time in the sun is also a great way to boost your levels!
6. Coffee: Black or with creamer? Honestly, most non-dairy creamers are gross; they have a vague papery taste lurking in the background. So if you can't suck it up and drink it black, try using a tiny bit of Cremora and a little extra sugar. It won't have the same magical powers as cream, but it's similar, without the paper taste.
7. Bad news: Butter counts as dairy. Good news: Honey doesn't. It's true, honey doesn't taste anything like butter, so it's obviously not the best choice for things like baking a pie and sauteing shrimp. However, if you need a little something-something on your oatmeal/toast/waffles, it's great! Give it a try before you buy a tub of dairy-free margarine (last resort only!).
8. Dairy is hidden everywhere. Take note and check your labels. While it's not as heavily used as gluten, dairy can still be hidden in lots of places you wouldn't suspect, like granola, cereal, and breads. Do your research and check your labels. If you can't be sure, don't buy it.
9. Dairyfreecooking.about.com is full of recipes you can make, including cookies, cake, pizza, and even pop tarts! They also have reviews, so you can scroll past the ones that have lowers ratings.
10. You DO get used to it. It's true, for the first few weeks you won't be able to get past the fact that this is clearly not what you're used to. But if you stick it out for a while, you learn to actually love some of the different tastes and recipes!