Typically when you ask a person how long they have been vegan, they will start out by telling you they were vegetarian first and then made the big switch to vegan. I did things a little different. For dietary issues, I have been dairy free since December 2009 and took the leap to vegan in August 2017. In 2009, dairy substitutes were not as readily available as they are now. I was able to find a dairy free milk that I liked, after trying several different kinds. And I also found a dairy free butter alternative that was good for cooking. But everything else? Nope. There just weren’t a lot of options here in Arizona. Baking was difficult to say the least and I had to omit many foods from my diet. No more pizza nights or cheese crisps. No cream cheese on bagels.
Luckily in the past 2 years, the dairy free options have exploded and are becoming more mainstream. Available at your closest supermarket! I have multiple options for ice cream, cheese and butter at my local Target! Sprouts carries dairy substitutes for almost every need. Here are my recommendations (and some not recommended) for products that I use on a regular basis and my family has grown to love as well.
I personally like to drink Silk Soy Milk Original. It has a nice flavor and is very creamy so it works well with cooking. My kids prefer to drink Silk Almond Milk. It tastes great in coffee and also works good for cooking. The Almond Milk mixes very easily in a roux to make a simple sauce. Ripple is also an excellent milk made from Pea Protein but is on the expensive side so we don’t use it for everyday drinking.
Sour Cream and Cream Cheese
These two items were the easiest to replace in our diet. The Tofutti Sour Cream seriously tastes exactly like real sour cream. It is great to use on baked potatoes and tacos. The Tofutti Cream Cheese is equally delicious and the texture is spot on. We always have a tub in our fridge to use on bagels. Kite Hill Cream Cheese is also super yummy, but again, on the pricey side. I do not recommend Daiya Cream Cheese. It is made from coconut oil and had an odd taste.
Dairy free ice cream is everywhere! My local Target has an entire section full of amazing options. Ben and Jerry’s and Haagen Daz are my favorite brands. Peanut Butter Half Baked, Chocolate Fudge Brownie, and Coconut Seven Layer Bar by Ben and Jerry’s are all seriously yummy! Archer Farms recently came out with their own dairy free version as well. Most of the dairy free ice cream is made with almond milk. Just as creamy but totally vegan!
I have 2 different kinds of dairy free butter as staples in my fridge. I use Smart Balance Light for my everyday cooking. It has less fat content than most vegan butters. Because of it’s creamier texture, Smart Balance Light doesn’t quite work for some recipes. For frosting specifically I use Earth Balance. The fat content is higher, but it gets really cold and hard like real butter so is great to make frosting and baked goods like biscuits.
When I tell people I am vegan, they can’t believe that I don’t have cheese. Cheese is a very hard thing for people to give up. It is also a hard thing to replicate. Daiya Shreds and slices are my go-to for cheddar and mozzarella. Follow Your Heart has an excellent parmesan cheese. There is also a product called Nutritional Yeast which has a mild cheesy flavor to it. I use it to make tofu scrambles and in my favorite Macaroni and Cheese recipe. My husband and I agree, the longer you omit cheese and replace it with the alternatives, your taste buds change. Over the past year and a half, using Nutritional Yeast on all kinds of items, it really does taste like cheese to my family now.
Education on Why You Should Go Dairy Free
After watching What the Health on Netflix and learning many disturbing facts about milk and the dairy industry, my husband was fully on board with no longer having dairy products in the house. I highly recommend watching this documentary on Netflix pertaining to the vegan diet to learn more about the food you are putting into your body and what effect it has. Cowspiracy and Food Inc are also excellent documentaries. Listed below are some of the highlights from What the Health.
*MOST PEOPLE IN THE WORLD ARE LACTOSE INTOLERANT
*CHILDREN ARE SUFFERING FROM CONDITIONS LINKED TO DAIRY CONSUMPTION
*MILK DOES NOT BUILD STRONG BONES
*COUNTRIES WITH THE HIGHEST RATES OF DAIRY CONSUMPTION HAVE THE HIGHEST RATES OF OSTEOPOROSIS
*DAIRY LINKED TO MANY DIFFERENT TYPES OF CANCER
*FOR WOMEN WHO HAVE HAD BREAST CANCER, JUST ONE SERVING OF WHOLE DAIRY A DAY CAN INCREASE THEIR CHANCE OF DYING FROM THE DISEASE 49%, AND DYING FROM ANY DISEASE 64%