Last week, the latest in a series of undercover cruelty videos highlighted some of the animal abuse intrinsic to dairy production. Dairy consumption can also cause or aggravate many health problems, and creates enormous environmental pollution. If you’ve been thinking of exploring a dairy-free lifestyle, there’s never been a better time to try it out! Shifting towards a more compassionate, healthy, sustainable dairy-free kitchen doesn’t have to be daunting. Armed with a little knowledge, an adventurous spirit, and some vegan cheesecake recipes, going dairy-free can be surprisingly easy and delicious!
Need a Little Inspiration?
When I first started talking about getting off the (cheese) sauce, some of my friends and coworkers looked at me as though I’d sprouted an extra head. But the more I learned about the dairy industry, the more I wanted to eat something else.
Read a bit: inspire yourself!
- Health Concerns About Dairy Products
- Milk and the Veal Connection
- Cows Used for Their Milk
- Got Guilt? [on the systematic abuse of dairy workers]
- New Mexico Dairy Pollution Sparks ‘Manure War’
- Casein and Cheese More Addictive Than Chocolate?
- Two Well-Respected Dieticians Rebut Dairy Industry’s Claims
Vegan chef and author Colleen Patrick-Goudreau offers two excellent podcast episodes exploring the whys and wherefores of joyful dairy-free living:
- Life After Cheese
- Milk is a Natural Food, and Cows Naturally Give Milk, So What’s Wrong With Drinking It?
Make up a bowl of butter-free popcorn (nooch makes a yummy topping!), sit down with Dr. John McDougal, and consider the impact of dairy consumption on human physiology.
Calcium is often the subject of concern and grim warnings, from well-meaning but misinformed omni friends to vegans and other dairy-free diners. There are many reasons to avoid or minimize dairy consumption — and not only isn’t dairy NECESSARY for calcium (unless of course you happen to be a baby cow), it’s actually not that great a source of calcium for humans.
The highest rates of osteoporosis occur in the nations that consume the most dairy. Calcium comes from plants; that’s where the cows — and all other herbivorous animals on the planet — get it in the first place. Kale, spinach, mustard greens, turnip greens, almonds, sesame seeds, tahini, tofu (set in calcium citrate) and fortified orange juice, soy milk, or cereals are all good plant-based calcium sources.
Bone density for most people is actually determined more by activity level and weight-bearing or resistive exercise than by calcium intake. Bone is metabolically active, just like muscle. Popping protein pills won’t give you big muscles; consuming calcium without resistive exercise won’t give you strong bones. There is a powerful myth within our Western culture about needing cow’s milk to meet calcium needs; it’s very well-funded, but inaccurate.
Cream of the Crop
Ready to leave the cow teats to the calves? Wonderful! Let’s get down to business.
Dairy milk is incredibly easy to cook without. Organic soy milk is available at most large grocery stores, sometimes along with rice and almond milk. Hemp milk, flax milk, and coconut-based milk (in a refrigerated carton) are also available at health food stores and some large supermarkets.
Generally the nondairy milks from the refrigerated section work better in coffee, but the vacuum-sealed non-refrigerated boxes work just as well for everything else. Vanilla soy milk or almond milk is great on cereal. Chocolate almond milk is delicious. If you like cream in your coffee, Silk makes a very tasty soy creamer– rich and creamy and yum! All these options have distinctive flavors, and sometimes work a little differently in recipes.
I like almond milk for cooking and coffee, vanilla soy or almond milk for cereal, and homemade oat milk when the grocery budget’s low. Oat milk works great for everything except coffee; for some reason it doesn’t blend well there, but works just like soy or almond milk for recipes or cereal.
If you try one kind of nondairy milk and don’t like it, try another: they aren’t the same!
In Asian or Indian recipes, canned coconut milk makes a wonderful base for creamy sauces or soups. Puree cooked sweet potatoes or winter squash with some melted Earth Balance and a little bit of water; this makes a delicious creamy starter for soups, stews, or sauces. For creamy pasta sauce, try a base of ground raw cashews thinned slightly with water and blended with pureed roasted veggies (this is especially good with roasted red bell peppers).