A few years ago, my husband and I tried a vegan diet. I'm not a diet professional, and am not giving you nutritional advice - but I will share some flavor and texture-based food hacks that I discovered in that time. Am I suggesting you do the same? Not at all. But since the most common dietary irritant of the exclusively breastfed infant is dairy (in mom's diet), I get the please-help-me-cut-dairy-for-my-baby-even-though-I-love-it-more-than-coffee plea on a weekly basis.
Before you cut dairy or any other food group from your diet, please consult a lactation or nutrition professional. Not Dr. Google. As you cut dairy, you often cut calories, and this can mean you're not getting enough food (and therefore cannot offer as much to your little one).
Step One: Banishment
If you're cutting dairy, you have to cut ALL dairy. Review all packaged products for the highlighted, bolded word MILK either in the ingredient list or in the allergen disclosure below. Put those items into a special place for your other family members to enjoy and use a large marker/tape to label the item so you do not consume it.
Step Two: The Cheese Situation
Refuse to eat artificial cheese. Trust me, don't bother with it. Soy cheese is horrific on a good day. Some vegans I know enjoy the Daiya non-dairy cheese made from pea protein, but I think it tastes like expensive plastic. Instead, replace cheese with things that also taste good.
Pizza: use no-cheese pesto, caramelized onions, olives, artichoke hearts, and other salt/fat combinations to replace the salt/fat you're missing from the cheese. Also note you'll need to eat more pizza because of the number of calories and amount of fat you're missing.
Quesadillas: instead of cheese, use hummus in your quesadillas. Just hummus, maybe some black beans, salsa, peppers, onions, etc. Prepare as usual. It's delicious.
Dip: this accidental invention comes courtesy of my bro-in-law who lived at our house for nine months and ate his weight in salsa every week. Combine equal parts salsa and hummus and use as a chip dip or veggie dip. No, it isn't queso, but it is rich and tasty.
Sandwich/burger/wrap condiment: try avocado, roasted red peppers, sunflower seeds, olives or other tasty treats. The exception to the artificial cheese is tofutti cream cheese. I'm sure it isn't good for you, but it tastes and feels like dairy cream cheese (and is equally unhealthy). If you're seriously craving a creamy spread on your sandwich, this will do.
Step Three: With Cookies?
There are lots of delicious non-dairy milks out there. Some are healthy, and some are essentially soda. I recommend having a variety of milks available, from soy to almond to hemp. Note that most non-dairy milks have little protein and are fortified with vitamins (and sometimes sugar). Hemp and soy have the most protein while coconut and almond are tastier. Use some for cereal/oatmeal/baking and others for a latte.
Step Four: I Will Scream
Avoid the soy ice cream and almond ice cream (I think they're icy and not satisfying) and head straight for the coconut stuff. It costs twice as much and has just as much fat and sugar as the dairy kind, and it tastes just as good if not better. Yogurt is another story. It's hard to find good yogurts, but you can find something that will do if you mix in some granola or fruit. At least we know they have their priorities straight?!
Step Five: Family Recipes
The most alarming thing we realized when we went dairy-free was how much our cooking and meal planning relied on dairy. Try some new stuff! I've found many good recipes online.
Step Six: Dining Out
Go ethnic. Try to find some Thai, Japanese, or Kosher food (since they will not mix meat and milk in the same meal, you know you can easily avoid dairy). Take Out!
Hope this helps!
Kari Kwinn, ERYT500, RPYT, Doula, Midwife's Assistant is one of Enso's co-owners.
This blog is not intended to be a source of medical information or advice. Please discuss all of your concerns with your care provider.