Whether you’re new to dairy free living – or have been at it a while – there are a lot of product options out there and it can be difficult knowing which are the healthiest…and the tastiest!
There are many reasons why you might decide to go dairy free. Maybe it’s due to allergy, intolerance to lactose or FODMAPs, environmental concerns, or others. No matter what the reason may be, I thought I would put together my list of my favourite dairy free alternatives, along with some great DIY recipes so you can enjoy life sans dairy.
When going dairy free, there are 4 main points to keep in mind:
Low sugar content
Some flavoured products can have a few teaspoons of sugar in each cup. I highly recommend purchasing unsweetened products whenever possible.
I am a big fan of keeping ingredients as whole as possible, with minimal stabilizers and additives. You generally need some stabilizers in non dairy milks, unless they are made fresh or purchased frozen
Not all dairy alternatives have the same protein level as their dairy counterparts. Which is fine, if you’re aware of it – and consume adequate protein from other sources. Soy milk has the most protein of all of the milks – and many yogurts have none, although there are now Greek yogurt alternatives too.
Getting enough calcium in your diet is important for building and maintaining strong bones. Calcium seems less critical than something like iron, because you won’t feel the consequences until decades later – but that’s exactly why it’s so important to think about it now. These days, the majority of products are fortified with calcium, but some aren’t so always check the label.
There are so many great options out there, experiment and you will be sure to find the one that suits your needs – and your tastebuds!
To get you started, here are my dietitian-approved picks.
Dietitian-Approved Dairy Free Products
Dairy Free Milk
Soy milk is the only plant-based milk that is nutritionally comparable to cow’s milk in terms of its protein content. This product in particular from Natura has 8 g of plant-based protein per 1 cup, which is the same as cow’s milk. If you do not have a soy allergy, then this is a fantastic option. And yes, soy is good for you.
Peas are incredibly protein-rich…and now they are in milk form. Pea milk is not nearly as whole food based as soy milk, but it is a very good alternative for those with allergies. Prior to 2015, soymilk used to be the only plant-based milk on the market that is comparable to the protein content of cow’s milk. Now, Ripple’s pea milk has also been added to the list, with the same 8 g of protein per 1 cup as cow’s milk.
When it comes to protein, oat milk is next up on the list. It’s also crazy good in coffee, as it foams really well and has a creamy neutral taste. SoFresh’s oat milk, in particular, contains 4 g of protein per 1 cup.
Dairy Free Yogurt
Forager’s cashewgurt is delicious, plus pure and simple. It’s my favourite yogurt and I really wish you could get it in Canada! You won’t find a super long and complicated ingredient list with this one. It also provides 4 g of protein per 1 cup.
Daiya is known for its non-dairy alternatives but they do tend to be on the hyper-processed side. In Canada, this one has the best protein content due to pea protein isolate; it’s made with coconut cream to give that smooth and rich consistency.
If you’re in the US, this is my fave Greek-style yogurt, hands down. It has a whopping 11g of protein – all from almonds – and is super delicious and filling. Super simple ingredients list too.
Let’s call most vegan ‘butters’ what they really are: margarine. And I am NOT a fan of margarine. This is different. Miyoko’s is a brand that uses quality and organic ingredients, without the additional additives. Their vegan butter is cultured, and made with a coconut oil + cashew base and can do all the things that non-vegan butter can do.
Miyoko’s offers quite a few options in terms of cheese – and they will be available more widely in Canada starting February. Whether it is their vegan cheese wheels, mozzarella, cream cheese or vegan roadhouse cheese spreads, you choose your pick! Their ingredients read like a recipe, which is my gold standard, and because they are made from nuts, they have a bit of protein too. Try adding them to your sandwiches, on crackers or in dips.
If you can get your hands on it, Blue Heron is a local BC brand that offers high quality chef-crafted vegan cheeses. Their ingredients are simple and the taste of their cheeses are so good.
In the battle between coconut and cashew, cashew wins out big time in terms of taste and texture for me. Of course, this category doesn’t exactly meet my healthy standards…but a treat is a treat! Salted Caramel Cluster is my fave.
Umaluma is Vancouver’s first 100% plant-based gelato shop and it may be my favourite gelato ever – dairy or not. Yes, it is that good. Umaluma gelato is so delicious and creamy..definitely a must try when in Vancouver!
Want to DIY it? Try these Dietitian-Approved Dairy Free Recipes
Making your own almond ‘parm’ couldn’t be simpler. Make up a batch on Sunday and sprinkle it on everything all week long!
Whip up a batch of this almond ricotta and add a boost of healthy fats and protein to any dish.
Queso, a Mexican inspired cheese sauce, is my go-to for nachos, grain bowls…well just about anything! And it is actually nut free, and made with soymilk, plus a bunch of other yummy ingredients (and veggies!). Serve it with tortilla chips and veggies for a delicious snack.
Need a great and easy substitute for whipping cream? Give this recipe a try. It only takes 2 steps! Add the cashew cream to soups, sauces, baked goods and more.