To be completely honest, I’m not sure if I would’ve taken the time to write this post if it didn’t directly apply to me. But the past few weeks have let me see into the world of lactose intolerance and the dietary adjustments it requires, and I really felt like this post could help some people, like me.
If you know me personally, you know that for the past year, I’ve had horrible stomach problems. I’ve had almost every possible test done, taken every possible medication, and nothing. This past month, my stomach issues became so bad that I had to go to the emergency room. One of the only tests my doctors hadn’t done was a lactose intolerance test. But when they suggested that I try to cut out dairy for a little while and see what happened, I was very skeptical. I had enjoyed copious amounts of dairy my whole life, and I felt like my symptoms weren’t lining up with my dairy intake. But nevertheless, I was desperate to feel better and was willing to do just about anything. So reluctantly and dubiously, I stopped eating my beloved yogurt, cheese, and milk.
To my utmost surprise, within 4 days, all of my symptoms completely stopped. It was amazing, considering how severe they had been for almost an entire month. It was like I had my life back again, finally. I’m not saying all of this to advocate that everyone should go dairy free. Not at all. Those who can digest dairy, should eat it! There are so many health benefits! But in case you’re like me, and are just starting to browse the dairy-free world, I wanted to compile a list of alternative milk and yogurt options for us. (There are dairy-free cheeses out there too, but I honestly think those are gross. But who knows? Maybe I’ll get desperate enough to try them one day. Until then, I don’t really want to think about them. Ew.)
Ever since high school, almond milk has been a regular part of my pantry. In college, I also started liking soy milk. I would always also have dairy milk in the fridge, but at least I didn’t have to completely switch over what I was using. But anyway, since dairy free products are so abundant these days, I’ve discovered that there are so many other dairy-free milks out there to try! Here’s a list of them with some specific brands of each!
Almond Breeze (I linked my personal favorite flavor, unsweetened vanilla almond)
*Also this hilarious article gives a review of a few of these. If you need a laugh, give it a read!
*I’m personally not a huge coconut milk fan, unless it’s in a dessert or some other treat, just because it’s pretty high in saturated fat.
Lactose-Free Milk/Milk with Lactase
Ever since I can remember, yogurt has been a huge staple in my diet. Plain greek yogurt is definitely what I’ll miss most now that I’m dairy free. But I was relieved to hear that there are actually lots of dairy-free yogurts out there! So far, I’ve tried Silk vanilla and strawberry almond yogurt (which I personally thought were way too sweet), Kite Hill plain unsweetened almond yogurt (which tasted remarkably like Greek yogurt, but still wasn’t the same), and Forager vanilla sweetened cashewgurt (which I really liked, although it was sweeter than what I’m used to). There are tons of options out there, and depending on what your tastes are, you’re bound to find something you like!
Lactose-Free Yogurt/Yogurt with Lactase
Things to Consider
While we would all like to effortlessly make the transition from dairy to non-dairy, there are a few more things we have to consider with non-dairy products. One of them is carrageenan. While the studies on this potentially carcinogenic additive aren’t entirely conclusive, it’s definitely something that I try to avoid, just in case. It’s also important to do your research on other additives out there, just so you know what you’re putting in your body.
Another important thing to consider is sugar content. Both non-dairy milks and yogurts tend to be pretty high in added sugar. So always look at the sugar on the nutrition label and check for words like “sweetened,” “unsweetened,” or “flavored.”
Dairy milks are naturally high in calcium, while many non-dairy things are not. However, there are lots of non-dairy products out there that are fortified with calcium. So read the nutrition label and ingredients list always.
If you’re full out vegan, or lactose intolerant while also being vegetarian, vitamin B12 deficiency may be an issue. So keep an eye out for that, and maybe look into supplements.
Another thing that lucky dairy-drinkers don’t have to worry about is the added cost of non-dairy products, which is something I’m still coming to terms with. Yogurts especially can really add up and become an extra expense that you weren’t planning for. For those brave souls, you may want to try making your own milks and yogurts!
While the diagnosis of lactose intolerance may seem more like a death sentence to my fellow ice cream and yogurt lovers out there, it really doesn’t have to be! It’s definitely an adjustment, and you have to be a little bit more careful when eating out. But really, you can still enjoy the foods that you always have. They may taste a little different, but that’s all part of the adjustment. Honestly, I’m kind of excited for this new chapter in my life, spent exploring all the diary-free options that the world has to offer!