7 Tips for Giving Up Dairy


My husband and I are in Boston this week, so I’ve decided to repost some oldie but goodie posts while I’m away. I look forward to catching up with everyone when I get home. Have a beautiful week!

7 Tips for Giving Up Dairy

A few weeks ago my sister-in-law, Jeanne, spent a week with my husband and me just after she decided that she wanted to go vegan. We had a great visit with her. It was a blast touring her around SoCal, and showing her the vegan ropes.

Although Jeanne made great strides toward adopting a vegan diet while she was here, she couldn’t part with cream in her coffee, dairy mocha latte’s and cheese. Since dairy was such a challenge for her, I thought she might give up on veganism.

I wouldn’t judge her if that was her decision, but I was excited to learn that it’s not. She recently told me she was finally ready to kick the milk bottle to the curb. What convinced her was talking to a woman about The China Study, a study that shows a connection between dairy and cancer.

I sent Jeanne a congratulatory email. She replied, telling me that she’s still struggling, especially with giving up cheese. I feel for her – I’ve been there! So today I thought I’d share some tips for giving up dairy. Here’s what worked for me:

7 Tips for Giving Up Dairy

  1. Cravings pass! – This has both a short-term and a long-term meaning. In the short-term, if you can put off indulging for 15 to 20 minutes, your desire will wane. In the long-term, your taste buds adjust to and learn to like what you typically eat. So, once you stop eating dairy for a while you’ll want it less.
  2. Distract yourself – Cravings may pass, but they’re frekin’ hard not to give in to! So distract yourself with a fun activity like taking a walk, reading blogs or whatever works for you until that craving goes away.
  3. Don’t beat yourself up if you cheat – You’re gonna cheat. This is normal at first – nothing to beat yourself up over.
  4. Discover Delicious Dairy Substitutes – There are great products to replace every dairy food you desire, but there are also some not-so-great ones. Sample lots of dairy alternatives and don’t give up if some of them taste like crap. If you keep trying, you will find some you love. For a list of my faves, check out Is There Life After Dairy?
  5. Educate yourself – Read books like “Eat to Live” and “My Beef With Meat” that cover the research that links dairy and disease, and find out how drinking milk harms cows.
  6. Remind yourself of your reasons everyday – The reasons for giving up dairy are compelling, but so is an ice cream sundae! So don’t just read The China Study and put it on a shelf, keep it out and read a passage from it every day. Or make it a point to watch a plant-based movie every week (this worked for me). And continue to expose yourself to the painful reality of life for a dairy cow on a factory farm.
  7. Connect – It’s easier to achieve something when you have support. Find a sympathetic ear and share!

So those are my tips, but I’d love to hear from others. How did you first give up dairy? Was it challenging? Do you have any suggestions for newbies?

Image courtesy of marin / http://www.freedigitalphotos.net


About celestedimilla

Hey there. I’m Celeste, California girl, writer, psychotherapist and burgeoning plant-based foodie.
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38 Responses to 7 Tips for Giving Up Dairy

  1. Great tips! There are loads of people who are trying to give up dairy and/or leading a vegan diet. I never liked dairy in the past, and to be honest, a lot of Asians don’t eat dairy in their diet (you don’t commonly see dairy or cheese in asian dishes unless it’s pastries or beyond normal dishes) so it’s easier for me to remove dairy in my diet. My mom never liked dairy!

    • “A lot of Asians don’t eat dairy in their diet” – my mother is the perfect example of the polar opposite. She’s nuts about dairy e.g. yoghurt, whipped cream, cheese! It could be from her Belgium high school years of croissant and nutella nearly every breakfast. Hi, Celeste! Great post, will need to use this as a tool to convert my mum to veganism 🙂 The hardest thing for her would be giving up nutella. Most vegans find it the hardest to give up products that include dairy like milk chocolate or melty and stretchy cheese!

      • There’s no need for you mum to give up Nutella to go dairy-free. There are loads of healthier versions of hazelnut/chocolate spreads out there. Check out your local grocery store or a natural food store to see if you can find one. Or you can make a homemade version. Here’s a link to Sophia’s recipe: http://silkandspiceblog.wordpress.com/2013/08/17/vegan-sugar-free-hazelnut-spread/
        Thanks for your comment chica!! Celeste 🙂

      • No probs Celeste! Thanks a lot for your suggestions and recipe! But I feel it’d still be really hard for her to quit dairy; she’s one tough junk foodie! My strategy would be to start subtly exposing her to the truths about the dairy industry… I will need to try make some dairy-free nutella, fingers crossed she will like them, because she really likes the uber high-calorie vegetable oil-filled chocolate spread!

      • I hear you about your mum – but at least you’re trying! I bet she would love homemade hazelnut spread – who wouldn’t?? Chat with you soon chica! Celeste 🙂

      • I haven’t made much attempts lately but I should write updates on the journey to convert my mum on future posts. This issue is always the hardest to deal with with family members though.

      • I hear you about family stuff! I’m here in Boston dealing with my husband’s family this week and it’s tough to see the unhealthy choices they’re making. But people have to change of their own accord and lots of people have no desire to change. Such is life!

      • I guess we just have to let them experience what their actions will bring, before they actually feel driven to change. I wouldn’t have changed my diet if I didn’t have the acne problems. Can only hope that their unhealthy choices doesn’t result in the compromise of poor animals or the environment! i.e. caged eggs

    • I always appreciate your comments and support Rika! And I suppose giving up dairy is easier for those who never ate it much or liked it. I wish that was the case for me, but dairy used to be a HUGE part of my diet. When I first learned about a plant-based diet, I remember a nutritionist at a class I took telling me that she believed that dairy was worse for your health than meat. I found this hard to believe since I’d always thought dairy was wholesome. I’m glad that Asians haven’t fallen into the “dairy trap”. It’s a tough one to get out of. Have a beautiful day girlfriend! Celeste 🙂

  2. I love that photo ;-). Dairy (cheese) was the last to go for me. Never was a huge milk fan, but cheese… Once the cravings passed I was fine.

    • Cheese was my thing too!! Well, that and Ben & Jerry’s – those evil dudes! Like you, I don’t crave it at all anymore. The cravings really do pass. Eating vegan is yummy! I know it’s hard for non-vegans to believe this, but both my husband and I love eating this way. I would never have guessed that we would, but we do. Celeste 🙂

  3. Wild Juggler says:

    Excellent advice. It was easy for me to give up dairy since I’m allergic, but I can understand it might be more of a challenge for others. I also believe that giving cravings time to pass is important, and dairy substitutes keep getting better and better, so they are worth trying. Distractions and adopting new habits are also good strategies.

    It’s really matter of reprogramming our brains; I may be allergic to dairy but I still ate a ton of it until my early 20s. Now, I don’t miss it. I wish you a safe trip!

    • I suppose being allergic would make it easier, still I know a couple of lactose intolerant people who still crave dairy products. I also wonder if it’s hard for people to recognize that they’re allergic. Dairy is so prevalent in our society that most people eat it everyday. I would think that it’s hard to discover that you’re allergic to something that you eat everyday. Of course, I’m not allergic, so maybe it’s easier to make the connection than I realize. And YES it’s about reprogramming our brains! Thanks for your comment – I really appreciate it! Celeste 🙂

      • Wild Juggler says:

        I was one of those people(and it’s not just the lactose but the casein, the milk protein that so many people have a problem with). Half my diet was dairy before about age 20, which isn’t so strange coming from a Greek family. I ate feta by the ton, as well as Greek cheese-pie(tiropita), and lots and lots of cheese pizza, washed down with cow’s milk.

        I didn’t recognize my dairy allergy until my early 20s, and I had trouble believing it at first. I’m both lactose-intolerant and allergic to casein. I didn’t make the connection between my sinusitis and my dairy consumption until I abruptly stopped all dairy. My sinus issues improved by maybe 60% within a week, and then I decided to eat some cheese after a month of being dairy-free. I had such a terrible, violent reaction to it, so much phlegm, and coughing, and my nose was so stuffed up.

        From that moment on I gave up all dairy. Giving up dairy and using a neti pot and drinking lots of mint tea pretty much cured my sinusitis. Again, these are some great tips! Reprogramming isn’t so difficult if you have enough determination; I even get broccoli cravings some days, instead of dairy cravings. I appreciate all you do.

    • I suffer from sinusitis and I had my fingers crossed that giving up dairy would alleviate it. I wasn’t so lucky. I’m glad, however; that it made a difference for you! I do use neti pot, which helps somewhat. I wonder how many sinus sufferers have dairy allergies. I bet a lot! Giving up dairy is not something doctors typically suggest their patients try, however. Thank you for your support and kind words – I really appreciate them! Celeste 🙂 PS – Broccoli cravings????

      • Wild Juggler says:

        You are so right. I believe the doctors I went to were negligent in not recommending I give up dairy when I first told them about my serious sinus problems. I suffered for many more years due to this, using nasal sprays every day which became increasingly ineffective. I am mostly better now, though no thanks to the doctors I saw. I cannot believe all the incompetent, idiotic doctors out there(they can’t all be like you), yet in spite of this I still respect the profession.

        I am sorry that giving up dairy hasn’t helped you with your sinus issues; it seems people of northern European descent for the most part have adapted to dairy, even well into adulthood. This may be why cheese/dairy is such an important part of the diets of northern Europeans. Most of the rest of the world is lactose intolerant by early childhood. I wish there was something I could do.

        Yes, I sometimes get broccoli cravings. It’s like the more I exercise and the better I eat, the more my brain continues to get reprogrammed. Take care Celeste!

    • I probably should clarify that I’m not a doctor. Nope – just have a Master’s degree in counseling psychology. I don’t have enough education to prescribe drugs (and wouldn’t want to anyway!). When I was working as a psychotherapist I did “talk therapy.” That’s really a broad label that covers lots of treatment approaches. What I did specifically was help people with excessive social anxiety to feel more comfortable in social situations. Anywho, hope you’re having a great week! Celeste 🙂

  4. I still can’t give up cheese:(
    Thank you for these tips.

  5. The cravings thing is funny…I remember when I first went vegan having mad cheese cravings. One day, I decided I was going to ‘eat some and get it over with’. When I actually ate the cheese, it didn’t satisfy the craving I had at all, it didn’t even taste nice – it was like I was craving this idealised version of cheese that I’d created in my head rather than the actual thing!

    • Haha! I know what you mean! I had a similar experience with pizza. In the beginning stages of going vegan I cheated on occasion, and I once gave into eating a cheesy mushroom pizza. It just didn’t taste nearly as good as I thought it would and I felt heavy and bloated after eating it. I really prefer no-cheese pizza’s now even over pizza’s with vegan cheese. Thanks for your lovely comment!! Celeste 🙂

  6. veggievirgin says:

    Reblogged this on veggievirginblog and commented:
    It’s not as hard as you think!

  7. Chandni Lahoti says:

    Happy holidays! And some good tips there! 🙂

  8. I’ve recently gone fully dairy free having dabbled with it for years. I’m loving all the alternatives I keep discovering, who knew ground cashews have a ‘cheesy’ flavor and is great sprinkled on pasta, that rice cream is really good and that avocado can be used to make a creamy chocolate mousse! I had to change my diet for health reasons in the end and that has strengthened my resolve not to ‘cheat’ but it is tough! Worth it tho. Great post Celeste 🙂

  9. Wondeful tips Celeste! Brilliant. I’m going to share this! Thank you so much! 🙂

  10. cherryvegan says:

    Reblogged this on cherryvegan and commented:
    Happy Blogiversary to Celeste! She has so many wonderful blogs that you should check out, lots of delicious recipes and awesome info. Here’s one that is very helpful for people interested in giving up dairy! #1 and #5 are my favorites. Educating myself and learning more about what was in dairy and involved in the process is what did it for me. Check it out and then head on over to her blog and find some delicious dairy alternatives (coconut whipped cream? Yes, please!)

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