Milk, cheese, and plain unflavored yogurt products definitely fit nicely inside any healthy diet plan, but it’s important to acknowledge that some dairy products don’t fit into many peoples’ diets due to allergies or intolerances.
Adopting a dairy-free lifestyle may seem challenging to some, but registered dietitian Marissa Meshulam, RD, explained that going dairy-free is not as hard as it used to be. “Alternatives to traditional milk products are popping up everywhere,” Meshulam told INSIDER.
To help you find some dairy-free alternatives to popular foods such as yogurt, ice cream, and milk, we spoke more to Meshulam and other expert dietitians about flavorful food choices to give a try if you are looking to part ways with dairy for good. Below are some options to totally jot down on your next shopping list.
Try yogurt or kefir.
“If someone is looking for a lower-lactose option to dairy, I recommend cultured foods like unsweetened yogurt or kefir,” said registered dietitian nutritionist Kristin Koskinen, RDN, LD, CD. The probiotics in these products break down the lactose, making it easier to digest for those with lactose intolerance, she said.
Try hard cheeses.
Although hard cheeses aren’t exactly dairy-free, Koskinen said hard cheeses like parmesan are a low-lactose alternative to their higher lactose-containing counterparts, making it a great option for those who are lactose intolerant.
Add nut milks to your shopping list.
“If you are trying to move dairy out of your diet altogether, nut milks can be a great option,” Koskinen told INSIDER. And although there are plenty of non-dairy milk alternatives to choose from, she recommended making your own with nuts (or seeds) which can be soaked and blended with water and dates to create a delicious milk substitute.
Try dairy-free ice cream.
Nutritional yeast is a great cheese alternative.
Meshulam said that another great cheese alternative is nutritional yeast, as it functions as an excellent source of b vitamins and some plant-based protein. “Use this in place of parmesan cheese (I love to sprinkle it on popcorn!),” she recommended.
Try oat milk.
“This milk provides iron and fibre, two nutrients dairy milk lacks,” said registered dietitian Lauren Manaker MS, RDN, LD. However, like other dairy alternatives, she explained that it is lower in other key nutrients when compared with dairy milk.
Try plant-based yogurt.
Dairy-free and plant-based yogurts are gaining in popularity, but they are not created equal, explained registered dietitian Kelly Springer, RD. “A lot of plant-based products have fillers, stabilizers, and added sugar, all of which actually destroy the good bacteria in the digestive tract,” Springer said. Be sure to read the ingredients list.
Try to make your own heavy cream with pureed potatoes.
“Pureed potatoes with broth create a similar creamy mouthfeel and weight to savoury dishes as heavy cream,” said registered dietitian Ashley Reaver, MS, RD, CSSD. She explained that pureed potatoes are flavourless and considerably lower in fat than heavy cream when added to soups or stews.
Be cautious of dairy-free desserts.
“The number one caution about dairy-free desserts (and other splurge foods) is that they aren’t healthy by default, so still read your labels and monitor your portions to avoid overeating,” said registered dietitian nutritionist Kelsey Peoples, MS, RDN.
Don’t go dairy-free unless you are intolerant.
“If a person doesn’t have a health condition or personal reason to avoid dairy, I still recommend dairy food as a first choice,” Manaker advised. Alternatives typically don’t have as much protein and iodine as dairy milk, she said.
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