A Guide to Dairy-Free Alternatives

People choose to reduce or eliminate dairy intake for many reasons. Some have allergies or intolerances; others may do so as part of a vegan diet. Whatever your motivation, know that there are abundant options when it comes to dairy-free alternatives. Cook and snack with ease thanks to substitutes made primarily from nuts, seeds and grains—sometimes all it takes is a little kitchen creativity.

Milk and Cheese Replacements

These two key components are essential to more than a few classic dishes, not to mention tasty on their own. Thankfully, plenty of possibilities exist to make what you crave, minus the milk.

Making Do Without Milk

Cooking without cow juice can be tough, whether you’re baking a cake or just making a bowl of cereal. Consider these viable dairy-free alternatives to stay within your dietary guidelines:

  • Almond Milk: The fitness gurus at FitDay tout almonds milk’s heart-healthy makeup—it’s a good source of omega-3 acids and antioxidants, plus it’s naturally low-fat and low-calorie.
  • Soy Drinks: Typically high in nutrients like protein, calcium, iron and vitamin B12 (source: Livestrong.com), soy-based dairy substitutes are popular for their favorable flavor and consistency. Try to avoid brands with too much sugar, though.
  • Rice Beverages: Although lower in protein, rice alternates tend to provide lightness and sweetness, says Time—they’re also ideal if you’re trying to avoid nuts or soy as well.

For brands with plenty of milk-alternatives that are plant based, a great option with a wide variety is Califia Farms. Califia has almond milk, coconut milk, blends, chocolate milk alternatives, and a delicious horchata. Other brands that are found in most grocery stores are Almond Breeze and Silk, both of which have a variety of almond milk products to choose from, such as sweetened, unsweetened, vanilla, chocolate, and more.

Non-Dairy Cheese Choices

Life without cheese isn’t always easy, but it’s less challenging with a slate of quality dairy-free alternatives. Consider the versatile nutritional yeast:

You might be surprised to consider tofu as a replacement as well, but Go Dairy Free shows how smoky varieties can mimic cheese’s natural flavor profile for snacking. It can also be crafted into handy swap-outs for a multitude of adjacent foods, including cottage cheese.

Some great brands to check out for cheese alternatives are Chao Creamery and Follow Your Heart. Similarly, Daiya Foods has cheese in many forms and is found in many health-conscious grocery stores.

Butter and Yogurt Alternatives

So you’ve vanquished dairy-based cheese and milk—now what about their creamier counterparts? Yogurt and butter each have distinct properties, so you’ll need to figure out the right sub for what you’re prepping.

Better Butter Choices

Butter’s about as indispensable as it gets when it comes to cooking and baking, so a good placeholder is a must. Consider these dairy-free alternatives for your next milk-free foray:

  • Coconut Butter: A spreadable, hearty option that features fiber, iron, potassium and magnesium for an excellent non-dairy option.
  • Oils: Canola, olive and vegetable oils can each be used in lieu of butter in many recipes, including baked goods—just be sure the directions don’t require creaming or for fats to remain solid.
  • Margarine: Dairy-free margarine lend the added benefit of potentially healthier cooking. The Mayo Clinic notes that it can be lower in bad cholesterol, definitely ranking it as a worthwhile consideration.

Some brands to consider for alternatives to milk-based butter are Miyokos and Earth Balance, both of which carry vegan butter substitutes.

Yogurt Substitutions

Yogurt’s distinct taste and texture can make finding dairy-free alternatives tough, but there are options on the table. According to Healthline, non-dairy yogurts can offer comparable benefits and applications, including soy yogurt (low-cal, high in protein), coconut (higher in fat and calories) and almond (a happy medium between the two). Feeling ambitious? You can whip up your own yogurt substitute for cooking by pureeing silken tofu (medium-firm preferred) to bring together those hearty dishes—no dairy necessary.

So Delicious has many yoghurt alternatives such as dairy free coconut milk yoghurt, that comes in many flavors as well as plain. Daiya Foods also caries dairy and soy free yogurts.

Written By: Elevate Nutrition Founders, Jillian Salomone and Paul Salomone 

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