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Your Guide to Dairy-Free Alternatives

There’s a reason why so many people struggle with digesting dairy...

dairy-free alternatives

Dairy is the number one allergenic food and it contains more than 25 different proteins that induce an allergic reaction, the most prevalent being casein. Additionally, seventy percent of the world population is lactose intolerant. It’s because we weren’t made to consume another animal’s milk. The sole purpose of milk is for babies so they grow strong and healthy. Adults have no dietary need for dairy consumption. Between early childhood and adolescence, we stop manufacturing the enzyme lactase, which is required to breakdown lactose in milk. When we are lactase deficient, lactose cannot be broken down and it ferments in the intestine producing lactic acid. The lactic acid is absorbed into the bloodstream and binds to calcium and magnesium making these minerals unavailable to tissues. Lactose intolerance is also associated with gas, bloating, abdominal cramping and diarrhea. Digestive issues are only part of the picture with food intolerances. The number one allergenic symptom is actually fatigue and symptoms may present up to 5 days after consuming the offending food. Though you may love your cheese and yogurt, how do you actually feel after consuming it?

According to the USDA, the consumption of milk products has been steadily declining since 2005. This may be due to the increasing awareness around food sensitivities, discovering that you are sensitive to casein or have lactose intolerance is a good reason to give up dairy.

Most people think of calcium when they think of dairy. But, the bio-availability of calcium in milk is actually really low. Furthermore, pasteurized milk loses 50% of its available calcium. Calcium is unavailable in low-fat milk because fat is necessary for the transportation and absorption of calcium. Studies have shown that countries with the highest dairy consumption also have the highest rates of osteoporosis. If milk were an elite source of calcium this would not be the case. You can’t absorb nutrients from the food you cannot digest. I suggest you get your calcium intake from other nutrient-dense sources such as almonds, hazelnuts, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts, artichoke, asparagus, broccoli, collard greens, kale, spinach, Swiss chard, and sardines.

In Canada, we are fortunate enough that we have banned a common milk stimulating hormone, bovine somatotropin (BST), that is used widely in dairy production in the United States. This hormone allows dairy cattle to produce more milk for longer than naturally possible. Though fortunate in Canada, we still need to be concerned with dairy consumption and our hormonal balance. Dairy promotes excess estrogen in the body that may lead to estrogen dominance, affecting your fertility. In men estrogen dominance lowers the quality of the sperm, decreasing fertility. In women, excess estrogen has been linked to premenstrual symptoms (PMS), ovarian cysts, weight gain, migraines, menstrual issues, endometriosis, fibroids and breast cancer.

Additionally, dairy consumption has also been linked to acne. The anabolic steroids present in dairy has been shown to stimulate acne. Yet another reason to avoid dairy...

That being said I make one exception… Because let’s be honest, butter is amazing! It makes everything taste better. Butter is simply pure fat. Yes, it is dairy but the casein that most people are sensitive to is largely absent. Ghee, clarified butter, lacks casein and lactose altogether. But, is butter paleo? Well no. But following an 80-20 paleo approach allows butter into the diet. Butter adds delicious flavour to your dish and it is an excellent cooking fat because it is stable when heated. Cooking with unstable oils such as extra-virgin olive oil produces free radicals that damage your body’s cells, producing carcinogens.

Aren’t saturated fats bad for you? The quick answer is no. Forget everything you’ve read in the media about saturated fats causing negative health implications. Current studies show that saturated fats actually do not lead to blockages in arteries but a diet with a high glycemic index showed a decrease in cardiovascular health.

Your Guide to Dairy Alternatives

  • Coconut milk – I prefer full-fat. Look for BPA free cans.

  • Coconut cream – great for making a coconut whip cream!

  • Almond milk – Watch for added preservatives and carrageenan. It is also simple to make at home and the byproduct can be dried to make almond flour. That’s what I call a win-win!

  • Cashew cream – is also simple to make at home, by soaking your cashews for a few hours, drain, rinse and process until smooth. Enjoy!

  • Nutritional yeast – sprinkle it on kale chips or some steamed broccoli for a cheesy flavour

  • Daiya cheese – It is coconut oil-based and contains no animal products. Though this product is processed it can provide you with a cheesy flavour once and a while.

  • Dairy-free yogurts – You can find a wide variety of dairy-free yogurts these days. Whether they be coconut, almond or cashew. Watch for added sugars or make your own and sweeten naturally. My Cashew Yogurt is a must-try!

What to do next...

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dairy-free meal plan

Bateson-Koch, Carolee and Lendon H. Smith. Allergies: disease in disguise. 1995.

Chavarro, J.E. et al. A prospective study of dairy foods intake and anovulatory infertility. 2007. 22(5): 1340-1347.

Danby, F.W. Nutrition and acne. Clinics in Dermatology. 2010; 28(6): 598-604.

Lessner, Jenna. Paleo: A holistic approach. 2016.

Milk Allergy. http://www.albertahealthservices.ca/assets/info/nutrition/if-nfs-milk-allergy-birth-to-3-years.pdf

Siri-Tarino, P.W., Sun, Q., Hu, F.B. and Krass, R.M. Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 2010; doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2009.27725.

Wise, L.A, et al. Dairy intake and fecundability in 2 preconception cohort studies. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 2017; 105 (1): 100-110.

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