Friday, June 19, 2009

Living Dairy Free

My friend Jillian was recently diagnosed as being lactose intolerant, and being the good friend that I do so strive to be, I offered to give her some tips to being a dairy-free kinda girl.

I gave up dairy when I was 17, and had gotten the advice to do so from my older sis, who battled acne issues for most of her life like me. (Except she was able to make them go away with pregnancy. Since there's no way in hell that that is an option for me, I had to find other ways to battle my evil pores.) I had done everything up to that point, including antibiotics (which did nothing), putting Retin-A on my face (which did, at least, get rid of the scars that the cystic zits I got left on my face...too bad it couldn't keep me from getting those damned cystic zits in the first place!), and even trying Accutane as a last resort. I couldn't stand it, though, and after 2 weeks of attempting to live with what it did to my body/face, I decided I'd rather have the acne than deal with that kind of torture. (Side effects can be awful...I just had a lot of skin discomfort, drying, and redness, but it was really, really uncomfortable. Hard to describe.)

Anyway, my older sis suggested a medication that might help (aldactone, a.k.a. spironolactone), and also suggested giving up dairy, which I was perfectly happy to do. And I'm not shitting you, within 2 weeks, my skin was clear. To the point where people I met randomly - check-out clerks at the grocery store, and the like - would stop and tell me how beautiful my skin was. Let me tell you, after almost 10 years of dealing with painful, ugly, HUGE zits on my face 24/7? That was nice. Really nice.

So was giving up dairy hard for me? Not really. Just about everything you get cheese on can be done without it, and it still tastes pretty damned good. (I'm talkin' pizza, enchiladas, burgers, omelets, even the chicken nachos they have at the Moose taste good without the cheese all over them.) And you lose about 75 - 150 extra calories per serving getting rid of that cheese.

There were some things that I had to give up that were tougher - ice cream, cream cheese, and any kind of dessert made with milk, cream, or whatever dairy product you can imagine. Cheesecake has always been a favorite dessert for me, but I got used to eating sorbet, or a cobbler without the a la mode instead. Since I love fruit pies so much, that became my go-to around holidays, so I could stay away from the evils of pumpkin pie and all of it's yummy condensed milk.

Thankfully, I could still eat butter, since it's just fat, and there isn't much lactose left in it after it's been processed. Or maybe it's because it's not like one sits down to eat a whole dish of butter at a time, like you would do with ice cream, or whatever. I'm not sure. Anyway, I could eat butter without breaking out. That was nice.

After a little while, I started looking for substitutes. And in those early days, lemme tell ya, they were NOT GOOD. However, soy and rice "dairy" items have come a long way since those early days. I actually still prefer soy cheese in my grilled cheese sandwiches. Not only does it taste fine, but they only have 40 - 45 calories per slice, and only 2.5 grams of fat, none of which are saturated. And no cholesterol, since it's not an animal product, so that's nice. (This compares to the average 2% slice coming in at 50 - 60 calories per slice, and around 4 grams of fat, 2.5 of which are saturated. PLUS they have cholesterol. Yeah...bad stuff.)

Here are the products I grew used to over the last 18 years, and still use on a regular basis:

Galaxy Foods Veggie brand of cheeses - I prefer the cheddar and swiss varieties. Both can usually be found at my local supermarket chain stores.

Tofutti EVERYTHING! I love their sour cream and cream cheese (both of these come in a version that has partially hydrogenated oil in it, which is usually what's made available at major supermarket chains. I have to go to Whole Foods to get the kind without it, but it's worth the trip), and even their ice cream, although I prefer it in Tofutti Cutie form. I can't say I've ever tried their cheese. I like the Veggie brand so much, there's never been any reason to switch.

As for ice cream and yogurt, I tend to stick to the Soy/So Delicious product from Turtle Mountain. Their Purely Decadent ice cream is the kitties titties, no shitting you. It is so. good. you will NOT miss the dairy if you try it, guaranteed. My personal fave flavor is their Peanut Butter Zigzag, but Leo hates peanut butter, so he prefers their Mint Chocolate Chip, which I have to admit I love a lot, too. And I just saw that they have a version of their ice cream made with coconut milk, which I really hope I can try soon! YUM! They don't have a huge variety of yogurts available, but I love their peach and blueberry favors, so that's all I've ever needed.

I also eat the Silk brand of yogurt, and love that a lot, too. Whole Soy & Co. also makes a yogurt that I've enjoyed. To be honest, I'll usually just grab whatever's cheapest. They're all pretty tasty. Silk is our go-to for milk around the house, too. The creamer works in recipes where half & half or cream is called for, although it's not a perfect substitute, I'll admit.

Oh, I just stumbled across a whole website dedicated to people trying to go dairy free! It's here, if anyone wants to check it out: Go Dairy Free. Yay!

Alright, it's time for me to eat lunch, so I'd better run. I hope this post was helpful to some, and at least to Jillian. I can see how looking at a dairy-free life might appear daunting at first. But you'd be surprised how easy it is. Restaurants understand that a lot of people are lactose-intolerant, and they will be happy to help if you ask. (And make sure to ask if you can't tell by looking at the menu. I've had to send many a meal back and get something completely different, because restaurants think a cream sauce or something being stuffed with cheese isn't worthy of mention on the menu...) The biggest problem I've had with it is going over to peoples' houses for dinner. There's nothing like showing up to a dinner party, and only being able to eat the salad because they've made a lasagne or something with a cream sauce all over it for dinner! But I've learned to prepare people ahead of time if I can, so they know either to make something special for me, or to make a dinner that doesn't include dairy to begin with. (I'm the special one in my family's house at holidays that asks for a portion of mashed potatoes to be set aside, for example, before they add cream/milk to the bowl. It's worked out fine, for the most part...)

Let me know if you have any questions. I'm happy to help!


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Faith, for your thoughts.
see mine at
Dr. Danby

Jillian said...

FAITH! I love you with the strength of a thousand suns! You are my hero, for cereal. said...

good info! have you checked out any of the products from the parkville company PlayFood Inc.? although i haven't seen any of their stuff at whole foods lately...wonder if they aren't doing business anymore?

my husband and i are both intolerant (and little babe has a milk protein allergy) while us adults can cheat a bit and just have some digestive problems - it can get a lot worse with the little one. hopefully he'll grow out of it, but at least there's options!