I Gave Up Dairy for One Week — And I Actually Felt Different

I Gave Up Dairy for One Week — And I Actually Felt Different

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

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

Day 1

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.

Related: How To Make Creamy, Vegan Chia Pudding

Day 2

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.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Day 3

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

Day 4

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.

Related: The Pros and Cons to All the Non-Dairy Milks That Aren't Made from Nuts

Day 5

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.

Day 6

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).

Day 7

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).

(Image credit: Anastasios71/Shutterstock)

Day 8

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.

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!

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