I've heard claims that eliminating dairy can boost energy levels, help with digestion, and assist with weight management — all good things! So, naturally, I've been curious. While I didn't have any particular health concerns, I'm always happy to try something out that will make me feel better.
I consider myself a moderate dairy consumer. My mornings tend to be dairy-heavy (my usual is a cup of Greek yogurt and two homemade lattes made with whole milk). So when I decided to give up dairy for a week, I knew mornings would be toughest — and eating out, of course.
In preparation for the week, I stocked up on almond milk, chia seeds, eggs, and avocados at Costco. And the night before, I made a point of "using up" a wedge of triple creme cheese sitting in the fridge from a dinner party a few nights before. Yum.
Anyway, here's how it went.
My Dairy-Free Week and What I Ate
I soaked chia seeds in almond milk the night before, and once I added some raspberries, the chia pudding was just as satisfying as my standby yogurt. I made my latte with almond milk instead of whole milk, and it was … not the same. I was excited to find some Thai leftovers in the fridge for lunch (although I'd been thinking about a baked potato with butter and sour cream.)
I treated myself to a kombucha in the afternoon instead of a coffee. Dinner was zucchini noodles with pesto and sausage. About a week later I remembered there's cheese in the pesto. Whoops.
A fried egg and avocado for breakfast (normally, I'd scramble the egg with cheese). My lattes were eh. I had a handful of almonds as a snack, which seemed sort of like almond overload. Google Docs must have read that I was writing about cheese because I started getting online ads for Boursin (my fave!). I was both creeped out and incredibly tempted. Dinner was pork and spinach and quinoa — no butter needed.
Chia pudding again! I ran out of Lavazza espresso and had to switch to the backup brand I only buy for my parents … and my latte was not good. Like, almost undrinkable. Lunch was leftover zucchini noodles, homemade marinara sauce, and sautéed spinach. I looked at it and thought, this would be great with Parmesan cheese! But actually, it was pretty great without it.
We made Mexican-ish food for dinner, and while our homemade guacamole was delicious, I was jealous of my kids putting sour cream and cheese on their chicken tacos. Instead, I had some extra beans.
Get our recipe: The Perfect Guacamole
Eggs in the morning. My first cup of sad coffee didn't seem quite as sad as it had the day before. I had my second cup of coffee at a local cafe and discovered Oatly oat milk, which is delicious! According to my dairy-free friend, it's basically sold out everywhere, so it's nearly impossible to get, but I'll keep an eye out for it now. We ordered Chinese food for dinner and I almost took a bite of crab rangoon before realizing they're filled with cream cheese. That was a sad moment.
Saturday. Breakfast was easy (eggs again). Lunch was easy too (Chinese leftovers). We went out to a nice dinner and I stared longingly at the butter that came with our freshly baked bread. No dairy eliminated about half of the menu items, which clearly had cheese or butter in them, but I had an amazing meal by choosing from the rest. Going out to eat was not as hard as I thought, although I could see it being trickier over time, and at more casual places.
Bacon and eggs for breakfast! I almost felt guilty eating the bacon because it seems like it should be on the "bad" list. Had leftovers for lunch again, plus about a gazillion almonds because I went on a long run and was ravenous. For dinner I made noodles to go with our meat and veggies — the kids had them with butter and parmesan, but I had pasta sauce (one of the new Rustic Cut sauces from Bertolli).
The sun rose on the last day. Chia pudding is good. Almond milk lattes are meh. Leftover pasta and some sautéed kale for lunch, which both tasted good — even without cheese. Dinner was chicken and broccoli and rice, and the rice was just fine without butter (with plenty of soy sauce).
Back to Dairy! I enjoyed the heck out of my whole-milk latte, and made a point of having my yogurt for breakfast and some cheese with lunch to see if anything would happen. Was that gastric distress I felt? I chose to ignore it, but maybe it was too much, too soon. Just in case, I started soaking some chia seeds for breakfast for the next day.
Some Dairy-Free Recipes to Try
The Takeaway from a Dairy-Free Week
I'm not sure I felt any more energetic (having a 3-year-old can drain just about anyone), but I definitely felt good consuming less dairy. Although it was just one short week, I did notice a difference! Not once did I feel bloated. For the most part, I found I didn't miss dairy in my foods — using olive oil instead of butter was easy, and it turns out my noodles were just as good without Parmesan cheese.
At the very least, I think it was a good exercise in realizing what "extras" I am regularly adding to my food that might not be nutritionally valuable while adding calories to the meal.
But my latte without regular milk was just sad. And I don't want to drink a sad latte. I found I wasn't even finishing my second cup of coffee because it just wasn't delicious enough. So if I was trying to cut down on caffeine, that could be a good thing; instead, I felt like I was depriving myself. As many moms will attest, it's a struggle to get out of bed and get the kids dressed and fed and lunches packed and everyone out the door to school. If I succeed at that, I deserve to nurse a delicious latte when I can finally sit down at the computer to work.
So while I may be able to ease dairy out of lunch and dinner, I just can't quit my whole-milk lattes.
Could you give up dairy? Have you already? Tell us about it in the comments below!