Dairy is bad. Scientific paper after scientific paper reports that dairy is bad for humans to consume. It leads to an increased risk of multiple cancers, leaves us with weaker bones, and countless other problems including IBS, skin disorders such as acne and eczema, and depression.
Dairy cows are treated in inhumane ways, spending their lives attached to uncomfortable machines, artificially inseminated to get them pregnant over and over again so they can continue producing milk, then having their babies taken away from them for the cycle to be repeated again. Dairy cows are routinely given animal grade antibiotics and hormones (which gets passed into the milk then into us) and if they're 'organic' cows and they get mastitis or any other type of infection they are left to suffer without any kind of pain/infection fighting medication leaving the cows in agony and their bloody puss passing into the milk. The human digestive system was not built to digest dairy, and cows were not put on this earth to be strapped to machines.
My personal journey eliminating dairy has been a long and rocky one. Giving up something that we've grown up eating is not easy and anyone who does it deserves a medal. It's been four years since I learnt that I was intolerant to dairy, and I can now confidently say that I'm 100% dairy free. I no longer suffer from acne (something I've suffered from severely since I was a teenager and well into my adult life) and (with the help of a meat free diet) my unpleasant journey with depression has all but come to an end. It's pretty amazing that the food we eat can affect us in so many ways.
While change doesn't happen overnight, taking the first step always helps to get you going in the right direction. So here are 5 easy steps to help you begin reducing dairy from your diet.
1. Educate Yourself
Do some research. Watch some documentaries. Read some books. Get your facts straight and be clear on why you are deciding to reduce or eliminate dairy from your diet. Not only will this arm you with proper information when people question your decision (that's if you wish to explain it at all, some people don't), but by having a clear reason why you want to cut out dairy also helps you stay strong on your dairy free mission. On a side note, some people don't like it when others change their own habits, so be prepared for people to disagree with what you're doing. That's ok. The world would be boring if we all agreed with one another.
2. Switch Your Staples
Picture yourself at home, adding a dash of milk to your coffee and spreading delicious butter on your toast, taking that freshly baked cheese pizza out of the oven or getting the carton of chocolate ice cream out of the freezer for that movie night... I still enjoy all these things without the addition of dairy. And I promise you, the 'substitutes' on offer are good. When friends come to mine I prepare food the same way I prepare it for myself and no one ever notices the difference between my butter and theirs, my cheese and theirs or my ice cream and theirs. In fact, most people comment on how delicious what I've given them is. That's when I usually mention it's dairy free and the news is usually met with surprise. If the dairy products are not in your house you are not going to eat them. It's as simple as that.
3. Read Food Labels
A friend of mine recently claimed he didn't eat dairy shortly before ordering and eating a croissant from a cafe. It didn't cross his mind that a croissant is made up of something like 50% butter! When you pick up food and drinks from the shops take a moment to read the label at the back. You'll probably be surprised at how many products contain dairy in them! To this day I always do a quick scan of the ingredients before buying because they sneak dairy into everything these days. When you first start this process is can be a bit overwhelming but you soon learn what does and doesn't contain dairy. In the UK they often put dairy ingredients in bold so it's very easy to see it at a glance.
4. Don't Be Afraid To Ask Questions
When I first went dairy free I would always choose the most dairy free looking thing on the menu. Well, most of the time it turned up on my plate covered in some kind of creamy sauce that wasn't mentioned on the menu. The easiest thing to do it casually mention that you don't eat dairy and ask if the dish you've selected has any dairy in it. If it does have dairy in it, ask them what else they could recommend that doesn't include dairy. If it's as simple as a buttered bun that gets in your way just ask for the bun to come without butter, or for your fish to be cooked in oil instead of butter. Don't be scared of being a 'fussy' customer, there's usually something you can eat in most restaurants and staff are generally more than happy to assist you with finding something to enjoy.
5. Bring A Dish
When eating at friends houses I never expect them to cater specifically to my dietary requirements. Instead, I always ask if I can bring a dish (no one ever says no). Ask how many people are eating, find out if there's a theme to the food (Italian, barbecue etc.) and make enough so that everyone can have some if they wanted to. No one is ever disappointed by extra food at the table.