I am not a discriminator when it comes to dairy products. I love cheese, milk, ice cream, whey protein…I think you catch my drift. Then, about a year ago, I had my third child, and all of the sudden I found myself with a baby that had dairy allergies. I was in denial. I DID NOT want to cut dairy out of my diet. One of my worst nightmares had come true. My precious daughter was fussy, gassy, and had plenty other problems you most likely don’t want to hear about. It was so hard cutting dairy out of my diet, but after a month, or so, I figured out some things that helped me better deal with going dairy free. If you too are struggling with switching to a dairy free lifestyle, perhaps these tips and tricks can help you better cope with the transition.
1. Stop Denying It and Accept It
Whether you are cutting dairy out of your diet for personal reasons, or because you have a baby with a dairy sensitivity, it can be really hard to accept it. I tried denying that my daughter had a problem for at least a good week, but I kept having this deep pit in my stomach that the reason she was unhappy and not feeling well was in fact because of the dairy she was getting through my breastmilk. Finally, I had to stand up to myself and realize that this problem wasn’t going to just go away. I had to accept it, even though I absolutely hated the thought of it. The sooner you accept it, the easier it is to move on so you can better figure out how to handle this new lifestyle.
2. Realize There Are Certain Foods You Just Can’t Eat Anymore
The next part of accepting the fact that you can no longer have dairy, is that you have to realize there are certain foods and drinks you simply can not have anymore. I know…it sucks to hear. It really does, but, it’s true. There are lots of foods you’re going to have to give up in order to be dairy free. They may even be some of your absolute favorite foods, which can be extremely difficult. However, instead of brooding over the fact that you can’t eat XYZ anymore (which will honestly just make the process harder), accept it and move on. I found that when I complained about not being able to eat the foods I loved anymore it made the process harder. So, the sooner you realize those are just now off limits, the easier it will be to come to terms with this new way of living.
3. Be Patient
This was probably the hardest one for me. There were so many times I got incredibly inpatient as I saw my family eating a delicious pizza in front of me. And know this: your patience will come and go. There will be times where the fact that you can’t eat dairy doesn’t bother you, and then there will be days or times where you just want to give up. It’s quite a roller coaster of a ride. I don’t say this to scare you, I’m just trying to prepare you for the fact that this is not easy, especially if you are a dairy lover like me. You’re going to have your good days and bad days, and just because you struggle with your frustration from time to time, doesn’t mean you can’t do this. You CAN do this. Is it going to be easy? No, but it will be worth it in the long run if it’s for your health or your baby’s health.
We are fortunate to live in a time where there are quite a few dairy alternatives. Now, I’ll be the first to say that a lot of these dairy alternatives are pretty awful and just down right nasty, but surprisingly, there are quite a few really great options, especially when it comes to ice cream. It did take some trial and error to find the ones I liked, which was frustrating at times, but I promise, you’ll find a substitute for that food or drink you really love that will at least curb your craving and make you feel satisfied. For example, it’s no secret that I love ice cream. Cutting out ice cream was really difficult for me, however, dairy free ice cream was one of the best dairy free products I ever found! There are some pretty great alternatives that taste just like normal ice cream. The brand “So Delicious” had some really wonderful options, so did the brand “Daiya.” Once I found some pretty solid alternatives, I didn’t feel so deprived anymore. They helped me to feel more “normal” and less frustrated by the fact that I was having to change my diet so drastically.
5. Use Your Social Media Resources
We all know Pinterest is pretty much the Mecca when it comes to searching for new ideas on just about anything. I found lots of really wonderful dairy free recipes on Pinterest, but perhaps my favorite place to find dairy free food ideas was on Instagram. There are many accounts that are completely dedicated to dairy free living. You wouldn’t believe some of the delicious food they post on their feed! You can also find dairy free groups on Facebook that are full of wonderful ideas on living a dairy free lifestyle. We are so blessed to live a time where we can connect with people from all over the world that are struggling with the same things as us, and this lifestyle change is no exception. Use these Social Media outlets to your advantage.
6. Be prepared
I found that one of the most frustrating things about having to eat dairy free was when I wasn’t able to eat at home. If we ate at a friend’s or family member’s house, most of the time they didn’t know or didn’t remember that I was now eating dairy free. There were times that I showed up to my parent’s home for a family dinner and the main course would be lasagna, or enchiladas, which are both packed with cheese. It can be really awkward and uncomfortable when you tell them you can’t eat the food they prepared because you can’t have dairy. There were many times I had to make myself a separate meal at my parent’s house because I wasn’t able to eat the food that was prepared. What I learned is that I had to ask the friend or family member what was on the menu for the occasion and if it was a lot of food that contained dairy, I would often times eat before hand, or bring my own food. That way, I wouldn’t have to sit there hungry as they ate their food.
Also make sure you are prepared at restaurants, as well. Most restaurants offer a wide variety of dairy free foods, but, if possible, look up the menu and options on their website so you can find your best options. A lot of times we had to change where we were going to eat out because the restaurant we originally wanted to dine at didn’t have great dairy free options, so we chose something else.
Whether you’re struggling with going dairy free or not, know that you are not alone in this process. There are so many people that now have to eat dairy free for a variety of reasons. You’ll be so surprised as you talk to people to find out that they, too, eat dairy free or used to at a time in their life. If you find people like that, talk to them as much as you can about the process, bounce ideas off of them, pick their brain. It will help so much in the process of trying to change to a whole new diet. I promise, you’ll get through this. It will be hard at times, but eventually you’l find a groove that will work for you.