I love dairy. Crackers and cheese are a staple at any family event. We discuss our favorite cheeses at length. Yes, we’re weird, but the point is, dairy is around me 24/7. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned dairy and I don’t mix well. Slowly, I’ve switched from skim milk to almond milk. I thought going dairy free for a month would be easy because I didn’t eat much dairy. I was wrong. Keep reading to find out what happened when I gave up dairy for a month.
Our country loves dairy
The average American eats 630 pounds of milk, yogurt, cheese, and ice cream annually, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. NPR broke down the numbers, driving home the fact that Americans love dairy. As much as we love dairy, dairy doesn’t always love us back. According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, 30 – 50 million Americans are lactose intolerant, the Cornell Chronicle says.
How it happened
I had the half-baked idea of giving up dairy for a month. After toying with the idea, I realized I would have to start my 30-day dairy-free journey Oct. 1 to be able to eat Halloween candy on Oct. 31. I love chocolate so much I planned my dairy-free month around Halloween. But more on that later. I committed to the plan and started the following day.
My first day
I started my dairy-free month with no preparation. I opened my fridge and saw the yogurt I bought two days prior. I stood in front of the fridge contemplating what I could eat. I settled on microwavable dairy-free chocolate muffins. My first day was difficult. I went to a cider mill and couldn’t eat a donut. I munched on veggie straws while I watched with envy as everyone around me ate fresh cinnamon sugar donuts.
Dairy is everywhere
Throughout the month, I turned down cider mill donuts three (!) times, and pizza more times than I can count. I couldn’t eat english muffins because the packaging said they may contain traces of dairy. I made white chocolate covered marshmallows for my niece’s birthday and didn’t eat one. Knowing I had to write about my experience made my willpower stronger. I didn’t want to write I caved.
My food was pretty boring
I filled my house with nuts, coconut yogurt, dairy-free pancakes, fruit, legume pasta, canned tuna, and salad. Eating the same food got repetitive but it was easier than reading labels or researching dairy-free meals. When I wanted something different, I would turn to restaurant food I knew was dairy-free.
Two weeks in, I was used to eating no dairy
Eating dairy-free foods became second nature after a few weeks. I didn’t have to think about what I was eating because I had a few go-to meals. I made a giant batch of tuna salad and ate it for lunch everyday for a week. Eventually, I looked forward to my morning smoothie made with almond milk.
Eating out is hard
I have a new appreciation for anyone with food allergies. With food allergies, eating out can be a minefield. When I asked if their chili had dairy, a Panera Bread employee had to consult a giant binder of recipes and their manager to give me an answer. Luckily for me, it didn’t.
“Does that have dairy in it?” became a question I asked daily. I got used to saying “no cheese” or “cheese on the side” at restaurants. One day, I was feeling adventurous and tried vegan cheese on a pizza. I will never eat vegan cheese again. I would rather eat a pizza without cheese, it was that bad.
I felt better
I noticed one major difference in how I felt after one month without any dairy. I didn’t feel bloated. I had barely touched the probiotic gummies I used to eat everyday. I felt like I was losing weight because I wasn’t bloated. After all, I turned down cookies, donuts, and chocolate all month long. On Oct. 31, the scale told me I hadn’t lost weight. Seeing the number on the scale was a bummer but I got over it quickly because I felt so good. It’s clear now that I’m among the Americans who are lactose intolerant.
I’ll continue to eat less dairy
I’ll never drink skim milk again. The only dairy products I can’t go without are yogurt and chocolate. However, the coconut yogurt from Trader Joe’s was a good stand in for my favorite Siggi’s yogurt. For me, life isn’t worth living if it doesn’t include chocolate. I’ll continue eating chocolate but I’ll be more conscious of how much dairy I consume. I can’t recommend enough what taking a break from dairy does for your body. You won’t hear your stomach rumbling or feel bloated.
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