If you read my post couple weeks back where I explained my experience giving up dairy, you already know why and how I did it. Over the years of talking to others about this subject, I’ve heard a lot of people say how hard it must be to give up such an ingrained food group. “I could never give up cheese!” or “How do you live without ice cream?!” and I get it, I really do! It’s kind of rough in the beginning, but I’ve figured out ways to make sure I’m not missing out. The benefits definitely outweigh any inconvenience for me.
The great news is, over the past few years, dairy-free products have gained popularity, and food companies are taking notice. Dairy alternatives are getting better and better, and there are so many options for me to continue to enjoy all the dairy foods I used to love.
Inspired by the holy grail of ice cream – Ben & Jerry’s – finally introducing their dairy-free version of the treat, I thought I’d share some of my favorite dairy-alternative products today! This way, if you are considering trying to reduce or eliminate your intake of dairy, you have some options to help ease you into it.
Silk Almond Milk is my favorite. There are a lot of good options for this out there, but check the labels! Even the “original” versions of almond/soy/coconut milks have added sugar. I usually buy the unsweetened original Silk Almond Milk for two reasons #1: it doesn’t have added sugar, duh and #2: it’s the most versatile, meaning I can use it in as many things as I would regular milk: in a bowl of cereal, in a cream sauce for pasta or in a cake recipe, all without worrying about it imparting a too-sweet taste to a recipe. The reason I prefer Silk over other brands is because they do not and have not ever (that I know of) used carrageenan, which is a thickener found in lots of dairy replacement products that has been shown to have some not-so-nice effects on the body. Lots of products have this ingredient, even seemingly “natural” brands you can find at high-end natural food stores, so always check! Blue Diamond Almond Breeze brand pledged last year to stop using carrageenan, and I believe they’ve made good on that promise, so that’s another easy to find option.
Where to buy: Any grocery store
So Delicious Greek Style coconut milk yogurt is by far the best yogurt alternative I’ve tried. It tastes the most like “real” yogurt to me, and it contains a good amount of protein and fiber to boot. It is made without carrageenan but still manages to be super thick and satisfying (imagine that!). And no, it doesn’t taste like coconut. Disclaimer: Their other, non-greek style yogurts are not as good. I wouldn’t recommend them.
Where to buy: Whole Foods, and select local grocery stores – ask the manager to bring it in for you if you can’t find it. Lots of times, they will!
Ben & Jerry’s now makes non-dairy ice cream! So exciting. It is made from almond milk and though it does have some not-fantastic ingredients like corn syrup solids & soy lecithin, the package says they source non-GMO ingredients, so I’m hoping that counts for these guys. Even if not: listen, you pick your battles, right? And this isn’t one I’m fighting. It is so good. Right now, it comes in 4 flavors: P.B. & Cookies, Chunky Monkey, Chocolate Fudge Brownie, and Coffee Caramel Fudge. So far, I have tried the P.B. & Cookies flavor, and it is the closest in taste and texture to real ice cream than any other brand I’ve tried.
Where to buy: Select local grocery stores, Target
Coconut Bliss comes in as a close second for me; these ice creams are, of course, made with coconut milk and are all organic. They have lots of different, gourmet style flavor like Salted Caramel & Chocolate and Cherry Amaretto and they all have the satisfying, creamy texture I want when I crave ice cream. Some of the simpler flavors like chocolate do impart a slight coconut flavor, but it’s fine with me.
Where to buy: Whole Foods
Kite Hill is a newfound favorite to me for cream cheese or ricotta. I talked a little about the ricotta in my pizza recipe post. They are made with fantastic ingredients, are almond milk derived and they get the most important thing right: the texture! No rubbery nastiness here.
Where to buy: Whole Foods (exclusively)
There are so many great oils to use instead of butter when it comes to sautéing or finishing off steamed veggies. Olive oil (preferably, expeller pressed) is my go-to for this type of thing. For baking, try coconut oil or Earth Balance buttery spread – both work well. The only time coconut oil can be tricky is when you are using it in liquid form in place of another oil in a recipe. Coconut oil solidifies at a relatively high temperature, so if you melt it in the microwave, and then add it to a mixture that has, for example, cold milk or eggs in it – it’ll solidify right back up and can make a lumpy mess. No fun. With Earth Balance, you won’t run this risk – so it’s good to have options!
Where to buy: any grocery store
For baking, nothing beats Enjoy Life! Chocolate chips or mega chunks. So easy and they melt wonderfully.
Where to buy: Whole Foods & check your local grocer, lots have them too
For snacking, I love Pure 7 bars! They come in lots of gourmet flavors like Espresso, Raspberry and Salted Almond. They are made locally in the Boston area, too, which is always a plus. They are raw, sweetened with honey and paleo certified. Could you ask for more?!
Where to buy: Purchase via their website, or find a local grocer that carries the brand.
In general, when looking for dairy free chocolate, just check the ingredient lists – there are actually a lot of dark chocolates that aren’t meant to be “dairy free,” but simply aren’t made with milk products. You’d be surprised!