It’s been a year since the last time I had dairy and soy, and honestly… it’s easy. Really. At first, it was tough, and frustrating at times, to pick up 20 items at the grocery store and find that they all contain diary and/or soy. I still get annoyed when I see items that have soy when they really don’t have to (like bread). Now, I am used to things we buy at the grocery store, we have some go-to recipes, I know how to eat a restaurants, and I hardly (if ever) crave dairy. If you are considering removing dairy and soy, or you are already doing it and could use some help, here are some of my tips for making it easy.
- Find a few Key Substitutes. If you like cereal with milk, or cream in your coffee, find an alternative that works for you to keep on hand. Try a few options so that you know the difference and can pick the one that you like best. You may also find that one alternative works better in one case than another. For example, I would never drink a cup of coconut milk, but sometimes I think it works better than almond milk in cooking or baking, so I always keep a can or two in the pantry. Figure out what those “new” staples are for your family, but don’t go crazy and buy every dairy-free, soy-free “I bet you can totally tell this is NOT cheese” item you find.
- Start looking through cookbooks. I have mentioned before that a diet change is a great opportunity to try new things. This can be difficult or uncomfortable for people who have a handful of go-to recipes, but ultimately I think you will find that you like some new recipes better than the ones you were used to. My advice here: Keep it simple. Don’t spend a lot of time trying to change recipes with dairy or soy (at first); instead, flip through a cookbook and look only at recipes that are already dairy and soy free, and mark them for future use. Then when it comes time to lay out meals for the week, you are prepared for some new recipes to try. Yes, I do spend time coming up with new recipes, and find alternative ways to prepare old favorites, but most of the food that we prepare is from “normal” cookbooks. We just skip over the ones that have a lot of dairy or soy, or we look for the ones that are super easy to change (i.e. cook the veggies in olive oil instead of butter, or just leave the cheese off of the top of a casserole).
- Find ways to treat yourself. When Sweet Girl was a few weeks old, I was referred to Katie Madden (lactation consultant extraordinaire at The Birth Center), and my visit with her happened to coincide with the start of my new dairy and soy free diet. Her advice to me was to make sure that I treated myself. She said if I love ice cream, I need to go find a dairy and soy free alternative so that I am not depriving myself. I think this is great advice and I have followed it. As my tagline states, I don’t believe that you should have to sacrifice flavor or quality to remove milk and soy from your diet, and this applies to treats. I am a bit of a choco-holic, so one of the first things I looked for was a dairy and soy free chocolate. Now, even if I go out to a party, and cannot enjoy the desserts that everyone else does, I know that I can come home and eat my own treats (that are probably healthier).
- Pick some dishes to start experimenting with. Inevitably, you will find yourself craving something that you can no longer have. I started playing around with some recipes before Thanksgiving, after I volunteered to bring broccoli casserole, and then couldn’t find a dairy free recipe. My version came out so well, that I was encouraged to try out green bean casserole and mashed potatoes. Ever since then, I am excited to try more things and expand the types of food that we can eat. I think the most important thing about this is to accept that there may not be perfect substitutes for everything.
- Use the internet! If creativity and experimenting are not strengths for you, let someone else do the work! The internet is full of recipes that others have already mastered. Why reinvent the wheel? Use sites like Yummly to search for specific dishes, or find some blogs (like this one!) to follow for new ideas.
The benefits of removing dairy and soy from your diet are numerous, and the challenges don’t have to be overwhelming. If you don’t have an urgent medical need, you can also ease into it, or drastically reduce your intake. Just start finding dairy and soy free alternatives to fit into your diet. If you do need to make a big change quickly though, I think these tips will help you out. Please share in the comments if you have any other tips!