Going dairy-free: It may not be as hard as you thought

May 12, 2019 Providence Health Team

Whether you’re trying to manage an allergy or another health condition, switching to a dairy-free lifestyle can have some challenges. Luckily, there are many ways you can replace dairy products in your diet without sacrificing flavor or nutrition.

Is dairy-free a healthier way to live?

Many people go dairy-free because they are lactose intolerant, which means they can’t process the protein (lactase) or sugar (lactose) found in milk. For many, a dairy-free diet can aid digestion and reduce painful constipation.

Dairy products like milk, cheese, and butter are also high in saturated fats, which can cause weight gain and raise levels of harmful cholesterol, increasing your risk for heart disease, heart attack or stroke.

In looking for a direct connection between dairy and heart disease, researchers have found that replacing dairy fats with plant-based fats can lower your risk for heart disease. So, it may be worth subbing avocado for cheese or swapping olive oil for butter – you may even prefer the taste! Feeling adventurous? Try this avocado cheesecake recipe.

Facing dairy-free challenges

Dairy products are full of key nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, potassium, magnesium, vitamins A and B12, and riboflavin. If you decide to cut out dairy, it’s important to get these nutrients through vegetables, or milk alternatives like soy, nut, oat, or coconut milk. Be sure to talk your doctor or dietitian about ways to keep a well-balanced diet without dairy.

Eating out may take some adjustment, too. Try to research restaurants first and find out whether they can accommodate your dairy-free diet. Some have their ingredients listed online, and many restaurants are willing to make modifications to dishes to accommodate your dietary needs.

Don’t forget to read the labels

If you’re trying to avoid lactose or dairy, don’t forget to read food labels carefully. Some foods that may be considered “non-dairy,” such as bread or salad dressings, could have traces of milk. Also, be aware of other ingredients that contain lactose, like butter, cream, yogurt, and whey (milk powder).

Swap the dairy for these tasty alternatives

Ready to make the dairy-free leap? Try these healthy swaps:

  • Replace sour cream with avocado
  • Choose sorbet or coconut-based ice cream instead of cow’s milk ice cream
  • Try soy, coconut, nut, oat or hemp milk instead of cow’s milk
  • Swap olive oil for butter
  • Try yeast flakes, non-dairy cheese or tofu in place of cheese

Going vegan? Flax eggs also make baking easy, and they’re simple to make. To make one flax egg, mix one teaspoon of ground flax seed with two teaspoons of water. Let it sit for five minutes, then stir into your recipe as you would a regular egg.

Chocolate chip banana ‘nice’ cream bites

Craving something creamy and sweet? Try this vegan recipe that’s only two ingredients!


  • 3 large bananas
  • 4 Tbsp. dairy-free mini chocolate chips


  1. Peel and slice bananas. Place them on a plate in the freezer for at least two hours.
  2. Remove bananas from the freezer while you prep a mini-muffin pan. Spray the muffin pan lightly with non-dairy cooking spray.
  3. Blend bananas in a food processor until thick and creamy (this may take a few minutes).
  4. Set aside a tablespoon of mini chocolate chips and stir the rest of the chips into the creamy banana ice cream.
  5. Fill the mini-muffin pan with the banana mixture. Sprinkle the top with the remaining chocolate chips.
  6. Freeze for at least one hour.
  7. Pop out each banana bite with a butter knife and allow it to thaw for 1-2 minutes.
  8. Store the bites in the freezer.

Looking for advice on going dairy-free? Talk to your doctor about how to maintain a healthy, well-balanced diet. You can find a Providence primary care doctor using one of the regional directories below, or you can search for a doctor that’s right for you in our provider directory.






About the Author

The Providence Health Team brings together caregivers from diverse backgrounds to bring you clinically-sound, data-driven advice to help you live your happiest and healthiest selves.

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