Going Dairy Free

Author: Lottie Manns

Dairy makes me feel downright rubbish. It leaves me generally lethargic and more importantly I have noticed a direct correlation between the amount of cheese I consume and how much oxygen I am able to get in to my lungs. And don’t get me started on what happens if I eat an ice cream.

As a child I suffered from very bad asthma. The sort that required constant medication, sitting out of PE and frequent trips to hospital due to severe asthma attacks. It was not fun. I know my mum avoided giving me excessive dairy as this aggravated my asthma and horrendous eczema (yep I was that delightful child). Sadly my little girl Alice seems to have also developed asthma (which I wrote about on Rock My Family). Luckily I seemed to grow out of it in the main and, apart from a bout of asthma when I lived in a very musty student house, I’ve been clear of it for most of my adult life. I still keep an inhaler but generally it’s manageable.

Recently though I have really been struggling with my breathing and finding myself constantly wheezy and tight of chest. I am needing my inhaler on a regular basis and it seems the yummy cheesy stuff is my nemesis.

I have cut out dairy in the past and have always avoided eating it excessivley as I know it isn’t my friend. Ten years ago I succeeded in cutting it out completely for six months after a blood test for food intolerances highlighted I should be avoiding it as well as wheat, eggs, garlic and brazil nuts of all things. That was not a fun six months. Try doing your shopping and avoiding all those things. It’s no mean feat which is probably why I have slowly slipped back in to eating ALL the dairy.

Over the years I have tried to stick to a mainly dairy free diet but it’s so easy to enjoy a nice slice of bread and butter or a generous grating of cheese on my pasta.

So last week I decided to attempt to once again cut out dairy from my diet. It’s hit and miss to be fair but a couple of days dairy free and I felt a million times better. However, the other night I tucked in a few spoons of the girls macaroni cheese (ok about half a bowl!) and a hot chocolate and then spent the night wheezing away. Even the walk up to school was hard work. It’s that instant. Creating the beautiful spread for the recent The Wedding Shop Autumn shoot for Rock My Wedding in the header above was a nightmare. So much dairy to avoid with yummy cake and cream laden soups.

In the main I buy a lot of dairy free anyway and my new favourite yoghurt is the KoKo dairy free. Not quite as expensive as coconut yoghurt but seriously yum on your breakfast. I also use almond milk or coconut milk for cooking or breakfast although I do tend to use normal milk in my tea at the moment as it took me a while to adjust to the taste of this last time round. I only have a couple of cups a day so I figure a splash is ok. I have been happily surprised by the range of dairy free that is available since I last cut it out, even if it is a touch pricey!

Where I massively fail in cheese. Where is the good dairy free cheese? I need your help. When I last cut out dairy I once bought a delight called Cheezles or similar and dear god it was not nice. Later I discovered Lacto Free cheese by Arla which was actually pretty good but I was never 100% sure if this was ok for me as is lactose free the same as dairy free? It’s a minefield.

I have a wealth of good recipes up my sleeve for dinners and even managed to find some amazing dairy free cakes and treats. You can find a few in our recipe archives. These brownies are a particular favourite as is the sugar free banana loaf. Delish.

Is anyone else dairy free and if so can you help me get back on track? What are your favourite dairy free finds and has anyone discovered the holy grail of a good cheese alternative?!!

Author: Lottie Manns
Cake baker (and cake eater!) extraordinaire. Drawn to all things girly and glittery.
Follow Lottie on instagram @buttercreamanddreams
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40 thoughts on “Going Dairy Free

  1. My son had milk allergy as a baby, though he has grown out of that now. However, I’m afraid to say that I don’t think a good non dairy cheese exists – or to say it better, I don’t think there is one that tastes as good or close too dairy cheese if that’s what you are looking for. A vegan reader might have other suggestions. We we starting dairy free weaning 2 years ago there wasn’t much on the shelves in Tesco but I notice now there’s quite a large section of different stuff.
    I gave up chocolate for 8 months last year as it started to trigger my heart condition (DR said it was the caffeine content!) that started off hard but got easier and then this year I have went back to eating it. It hasn’t affected me as much as it was before, which is strange!

    1. I think anyone who can make a good dairy free cheese would be an instant millionaire! So sorry to hear about chocolate affecting your heart condition but glad it seems to be better this time round. When I had my food intolerances last time I was told that cutting them out should help my body be able to cope with them so that when you re-introduce them you won;t have the same effects so maybe that has happened with the chocolate. xx

  2. I was dairy free for 8 months breastfeeding my son who was intolerant and it’s become apparent my 10 week old is also intolerant or allergic. A cheese and chocolate free xmas again argh! Cheese wise I never found one. I do know bourbons don’t contain any dairy though!!

    1. No dairy in Bourbons you say. Day made! Are you ok with dark chocolate as I became I huge fan when I cut it out last time? The Green & Blacks new velvet range is rather yum, especially the salted caramel one. Still can’t beat a bumper tub of celebrations though! xx

  3. I was once lactose intolerant after a nasty stomach bug. Apparently, this can happen, but it’s generally temporary. At any rate, as a result I now prefer the taste of soya milk in my coffee, even though I hated it to start with. What I was going to say, though, is that generally people react to the lactose, so the arla cheese is almost certainly fine unless you have a particular reason to believe that the problem isn’t lactose. I think you can also get lactose free normal milk.

    1. It is definitely an acquired taste. Randomly I’ve started to rather like coconut milk in my tea. It gives it a nice sweetness. I had heard that about the lactose so I might let myself have a treat of the cheese now and again! xx

  4. Following with interest, this is timely for me as last week a started a healthy eating program that has dairy free as one of its key principles. I’m a massive cheese lover so it’s difficult. I lasted a few days 100% DF but could not manage without milk in my tea. The cheese part isn’t as tough as it’s all or nothing for me. Outside of skimmed milk in my tea though, I’m managing the DF. I’m ok with this as my reasons are to lose weight and get fit rather than medical ones. Indeed to find a palatable milk replacement for my porridge though, I tried almond and it was grim!

    I was recommended nutritional yeast flakes to add a DF savoury flavour to cooking in place of cheese and have been pleasantly surprised..

    The other thing I’m finding is that cutting out almost all processed foods has helped, as you know there’s hidden dairy in EVERYTHING… Eating out is the hard part though. I’m sure in some areas, dietary indications on menus and alternative ingredients are now commonplace but round here it’s still all very traditional. Cafe lunches with kids are a minefield, especially as I’m also currently avoiding wheat, refined sugar and empty carbs.

    On a more positive note, I’m super excited about making some frozen banana ice cream, have you tried it yet?

    1. Once you get in to it Philippa it actually becomes a lot easier than you think. When I cut it out properly before it was because I had been really ill and it was the run up to my wedding so desperately wanted to feel well for that. As a result I didn’t touch any dairy at all (or wheat, eggs etc etc!). I became a pro at knowing what I could buy from the supermarket as everything contained one of my banned items. As you say, cooking from scratch is my saviour.
      In terms of milk it took me ages to get used to almond milk in my tea but I did it. I haven’t managed the switch this time yet but I will. I only have 2 cups a day so I figure a small dash is ok. For breakfast or porridge try coconut milk as it gives a super yummy taste.
      I haven’t done the banana ice-cream but it’s definitely going on my list. One of my favourite breakfasts is dairy and wheat free pancakes. Mash up a banana, add a sprinkling of oats, an egg and a little splash of coconut/almond milk. Dollop in a frying pan and voila. Delicious.
      Good luck!

  5. I’m back to dairy free after a period of IBS this year.
    It’s hard, but manageable.
    My saviours are Pure Sunflower spread (doesn’t really have any inoffensive taste so toast, crumpets and Tea cakes are good!)
    Biscuit wise, Bourbon biscuits, rich tea, pink wafer biscuits and some digestives are all dairy free which is great if you’re in a normal supermarket.
    Violife cheese do a mozzarella, cheddar and Gran Padsnona alternative, all in big Tescos. I prefer the cheddar one, just a bit on pasta, but you might like the others?
    Waitrose have a ‘liquid chocolate’ which you can put in hot drinks or on top of things for a chocolate fix.

  6. I am dairy, gluten and egg intolerant and have cut these ingredients out of my diet for about 4 months now. The benefits are well worth the sacrifice in my opinion.
    Eating out is the biggest challenge but I find that most places go out of their way to be helpful.
    I like the KoKo yoghurt too, and some of the Alpro ones. The free from range in Morrison’s is excellent and there are so many choices. I’m sorry but I can’t recommend any dairy free cheese but do you like any cheeses not made with cow’s milk? Lactose free is not an option for me because it is the protein in the milk that I am intolerant of rather than the lactose so maybe try and find out which one causes a problem for you?

  7. Could you have goat or sheep cheese? I have no idea about lactose intolerance but have heard of goat formula for babies? Sheep cheese (sheep ricotta!) is delicious.

    1. Yes I had goats milk a lot as a kid and do love Goats cheese so fingers crossed I can. I’ll do some reading up xx

  8. I have PCOS and have recently come off the pill and when I did my skin completely flared up with bad acne. I cut out dairy and the result to my skin was almost instant. I will never drink milk again and I don’t miss it now. I couldn’t make the switch with tea so I just drink green tea now which I love. Although i love oat milk in coffee and also my porridge. They even do a chocolate version which is delicious. The cheese thing I struggle with. I LOVE halloumi and fell off the DF wagon as I can’t bear to cut it out completely and ive tried alternative yoghurts but nothing beats Greek yoghurt which is also my favourite! Can you tell im greek? These two things don’t seem to aggravate my acne as much so I do still have them. Maybe one day i will go cold turkey again. Love the biscuit recommendations…m&s dark choc mountain bar is divine and 72% solids! X

    1. It’s scary how instant these things are isn’t it? It took me a while to get used to oat milk last time as I found it really watery so was having to have half a cup a tea and half a cup of oat milk! I definitely think you can have a few bits and pieces and it’s about understanding the symptoms and knowing what aggravates you. Also, love the chocolate recommendation 🙂 xx

  9. I have egg sensitivity so don’t eat egg or any egg containing products, and haven’t for around 4.5 years. It gets easier I promise! Also I think for me the benefits of not eating it far outweigh the pleasure I would get from eating egg containing stuff and then feeling so ill. I am now breastfeeding and suspect my son has dairy sensitivity so am also cutting down my dairy intake, but mainly limiting rather than cutting out completely. One word of warning re:complete elimination is that in the long run you can become MORE sensitive, so be careful. Also on the cheese front have you seen Oh She Glows? She does a vegan cheese sauce alternative, and I also follow ‘happy skin kitchen’ on insta, she was eating a cashew cheese alternative the other day which looked great. Xx

    1. It is so true about becoming more sensitive. I was also told when you cut out something completely your body can start to develop intolerances to other things. So for example I discovered that eating Soya started to give me the same symptoms so had to mix it up with other non dairy alternatives like coconut and almond milk. It’s never easy!! x

      1. Soya intolerance is very closely linked to dairy intolerance so that’s possibly why you notice symptoms. My 2 daughters are dairy and soya intolerant and the youngest egg too. It’s a bit of a minefield. I am breastfeeding the youngest so not having these things either. I think almond milk is good in coffee, I’ve found nothing good for tea. Bourbon biscuits randomly have no dairy or soya! Oatly is good for cooking and as mentioned have custard etc. Violife is the cheese we use, my daughters know no different so happily eat all the varieties they have including the spreadable cheese. We’ve just found nush yogurts which are almond milk yogurts and they are very good. We use avocado oil spread instead of butter too.
        My youngest is 1 in 2 weeks so desperately trying to find a good and easy cake I can make for her birthday that is dairy, soya and egg free 🙈😬😩

        1. Oh those brand recommendations are great, thank you! Lottie I would love some allergen free baking recipes if you have them to share on here! Xx

        2. Thank you so much for all the recommendations Karena. To return the favour if you want a good cake then this Vegan chocolate cake is my all time favourite. I’ve made it a lot for a friend who is intolerant to egg and it is delicious. If you want to make a taller cake then just repeat for a few layers. https://goodfood.uktv.co.uk/recipe/easy-vegan-chocolate-cake/. For a nice frosting you could mix peanut butter/cashew butter with icing sugar/coco powder and almond milk. Good luck xx

  10. The husband is lactose intolerant so we’ve always cooked with marg and soya milk. I’ve never noticed the difference. He goes for goats cheeses and goat butter – a Waitrose thing – which work well for him.

  11. I’m currebtly dairy free with my second baby who has a milk allergy (as did my first).

    For teas and coffee Oatly Barista (the grey carton) is brilliant as it doesn’t separate. It makes a delicious cup of coffee.

    Violife do a pizza cheese which is the best of a bad bunch (imho)…

    As another poster said, Oatly also do cream, custard, chocolate milk and creme fraiche which are all fab (assuming oats are ok?) and jusrol pastry is dairy free, as are their cinnamon swirls which you make yourself in the oven and make a quick weekend breakfast treat!

    Overall my top tip would be to check out the supermarket own brand foods as much as possible, particularly their cheap ranges. They will tend to use vegetable spreads rather than butter in recipes, so things like garlic bread, digestives, cakes etc are often dairy free but not advertised as such xx

  12. There’s a vegan cheese alternative called MozzaRisella which would be good for home made pizzas – I haven’t ever seen it in shops but I tried it at the Allergy & free-from show, and tasted fine. http://www.mozzarisella.co.uk/
    Other than that Violife seems the best bet. My son is dairy/egg/soya allergic so we’re all about Oat /Coconut alternatives in our house – his dietician recommended Koko yogurts as they have more calcium than others (and they’re so much cheaper than some of those other coconut yogurts, win win). And big fan of Oatly milk / custard / cream.
    Also, Pizza Express now have a vegan cheese alternative that you can have on any pizza, and it’s not bad!

    1. I’ve had a few recommendations about Violife so need to give that a try. I am so pleased your son’s dietician recommends KoKo as that is my favourite and I need to retry Oatly I think as well as their custard. Also, excellent news on Pizza express. This dairy free might not be as bad as last time! x

  13. All normal mature cheddar cheese is naturally lactose free (due to the manufacturing and maturing process) not just the Arla cheddar cheese. Mild cheddar is likely to still contain some lactose though. If you have a dairy protein allergy then you’ll need to be dairy free, not just lactose free. The A2 milk might be Ok as it doesn’t contain the A1 protein that some people react to. Sorry, I’m a #cheesegeek x

    1. Wow, I never knew this. Amazing stuff. I think I need to find out what time of dairy I should be avoiding x

  14. Can’t help you much on the dairy-free front as I’m a die-hard cheeseaholic, but we did try the new Vegan (dairy free) Ben and Jerrys a couple of weeks ago. It’s not quite the same consistency as regular B&J but it was very good. Xx

  15. Lottie I’ve discovered alergies to gluten, dairy and eggs in the last six months and feel soooo much better since I’ve cut them all out. I didn’t realise how ill I actually felt and my reactions now if I have even a small amount of either aren’t worth the pleasure of eating it!

    For me it’s just about having to cook absolutely everything from scratch which I’m getting used to. Both my boys have asthma and eczema and they’ve had goats milk rather than cows since they drank milk and it made a big difference, particularly to the asthma. They do have small amounts now but not a lot.

    Love the coconut yoghurts but they are pricey and I’m obsessed with Booja Booja ice cream at the moment which is dairy and egg free… beware it is costly though but worth it!!

  16. Just wondering where people get enough calcium in their diet if they cut out dairy. I’m thinking about trying dairy free to see if it gets rid of my eczema. But worry about losing out on vital vitamins and nutrients that dairy products provide

  17. i bought the Amelia freer glow in 10 days book a couple of months back as I wanted to have a more balanced diet and to try and better control some of my ibd symptoms. I hadn’t realised that the plan was dairy, gluten & wheat free, but decided to give it a go. I have loved it, the meal plans are tasty, the recommended substitutes are good (no cheese though) and I haven’t struggled or missed dairy or wheat. I’ve also noticed an almost immediate improvement for some of my symptoms. I would recommend both this and Madeleine shaw for recipe inspiration.

  18. Goat’s or sheeps milk and cheese suit myself and my 7 yr old but 3yr old has to have soya/almond. Don’t get along with cheese substitutes for him – they taste like plastic or are just foul.
    Avoiding dairy has sorted my severe asthma and eczema for almost 20yrs now. Plus i suffer from awful lethargy if i eat it. Still often give in when out and can’t resist cake or choc but always regret it.
    Stick with it. Great substitutes now and i bake all the time!! Vegan shops are helpful for substitutes and tescos etc all do own brand yogurt now.
    You just have to emvrace making a bit more from scratch. Wish you well. It’s 100% worth it. Asthma kills and excema sucks! X

  19. All I am saying is oreos!
    They are dairy free! 🙌 As are rich teas, bourbons, digestives, pink waifers and the biscoff biscuits you get free with a coffee! Anyone would think I had been breastfeeding a baby with a dairy alergy for 19 months and eating all the biscuits! Also vitalite is fab, and nutritionally our dietician said oatly oat milk is the best milk. X x

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