How to Kick the Dairy Habit


Giving up dairy is a challenge for a lot of people, so I decided to post a question one of my readers asked about how to do it and my answer to her.

In a comment on my post 7 Tips for Giving Up Dairy, Brandy said:

“Cream and Cheese is such a huge staple in my diet (cream in my coffee, cheese on everything), I just can’t seem to kick the stuff. Can those that cut this from their diet share how long it took before you stopped missing it?”

My answer to Brandy

Hi Brandy! Thanks so much for reading and for your comment. Believe me girlfriend, I’ve been where you are!!!! If you had asked me two years ago if I’d ever give up dairy I would have laughed. Like you, it was a huge staple in my diet. I did the cream and cheese like you, but I also did ice cream almost every night.

When I first learned how unhealthful dairy was, I thought about giving it up but didn’t think I could do it. I decided to try giving it up just Monday – Friday. This helped me make the transition because I learned that vegetables, pizza and other foods could be wonderful without cheese and that there were delicious substitutes for the other dairy products I craved.

For example, I learned how to make yummy sauces out of nuts, nut butters, Braggs Liquid Aminos (a healthy alternative to soy sauce), avocado and coconut milk. And when I’m too lazy to make a sauce, I just drizzle a bit of tahini (sesame seed butter) on veggies and they taste wonderful!!

One quick sauce I love is sesame ginger sauce: Here’s a basic recipe:
Sesame Ginger Sauce
1/4 cup Braggs Liquid Aminos
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 tsp grated ginger
A tablespoon of water if needed to thin
Note: You can also add peanut butter to this for a delicious twist.

Yummy No-Cheese Pizza Recipes

Here are a couple of no cheese, and fabulous, pizza recipes:

Pesto, Kale and Artichoke Pizza

Vegan Ratatouille Pizza

Dairy Replacements

In addition to learning how to cook foods without cheese, I also discovered wonderful replacements to the other dairy foods I loved. Here are a few of my faves:

Instead of Cream

Try replacing cream in coffee with a tablespoon of coconut milk or for a treat use coconut milk whipped cream. Click here for the recipe.

Instead of Yogurt

Instead of dairy yogurt, try So Delicious Coconut Milk Yogurt.

Instead of Ice Cream

Instead of ice cream, try Luna and Larry’s Organic Coconut Bliss, Trader Joe’s Soy Creamy or Sharon’s Sorbet. Or you can make delicious and non dairy ice creams and shakes like my Skinny Chocolate Shake or Cherry Garcia Shake.

Instead of Butter 

In place of butter on toast, I use almond butter, all fruit spread or hummus. If you really must have butter, then go with Earth Balance Natural Buttery Spread. Earth Balance can also replace butter in baking.

Dealing with Cravings

Discovering yummy replacements will help, but you’re still gonna crave the foods you’re used to at first. I had cravings like crazy in the beginning and I gave into them too!!!! I wouldn’t worry too much about this. You’re gonna cheat at first – everyone does. Just keep trying and eventually you’ll adjust to new habits and your taste buds will get used to the new foods you’re eating. For me this took several months, but everyone is different. Trust me, however; THE CRAVINGS DO PASS!!!

More Help

Another thing that helped me was watching plant-based and vegan movies A LOT. This helped because it kept my reasons for giving up dairy (because it’s unhealthful and harms cows) forefront in my mind. For example, when I first watched Forks Over Knives, I thought I’d never eat dairy again. Within days, however; I was already eating cheese. So I forced myself to watch the movie again and again. This helped so much! I needed this repetition for my brain to deeply understand why I was giving up my beloved foods. Another movie that helped was Vegucated.

I hope this helps, and feel free to ask me other questions! Celeste 🙂

Photo courtesy of Michelle She a Walker.


About celestedimilla

Hey there. I’m Celeste, California girl, writer, psychotherapist and burgeoning plant-based foodie.
This entry was posted in Daily Life, Health, Plant-Based Diet and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

39 Responses to How to Kick the Dairy Habit

  1. Adam Hughes says:

    Thanks for this helpful article celeste 🙂 I have always struggled to give up dairy,but I think i will give your suggestions a try 🙂

    • If I can do it, anyone can do it!! Before going vegan I think 50% of my diet was dairy. I never realized how unhealthy it was until I watched Forks Over Knives, and I didn’t realize it harmed cows until I watched Vegucated. Good luck – I’m cheering for you!! Celeste 🙂

  2. xbox2121 says:

    I am going to make you work here a bit Celeste. I am a vegetarian but because Of my back my Doc has me take in 1 gram of protein per pound which is now 140. I have followed this post and another vegan one. I know it would be healthier to make the switch to vegan. My problem is doing it on a budget.All of the foods you suggest have the big word organic in front of them which I have researched locally and to make a long story short it would double my food budget, something a retired person like myself simply cant afford.

    • I know I already responded to your question, but I thought you might also want to check out this post by Georgina: She also has other budget-friendly recipes, so she might be a good resource. 🙂

      • xbox2121 says:

        Thanks for the links Celeste, I will check them out. As far as you already answering my question I believe you I just don’t recall, chalk it up to my moderate memory loss. I take meds for BP and cholesterol as well, not to make excuses but I get them through the VA for 8 bucks a month apiece. My med dose did go down quiet a bit when I switched to a vegetarian diet years ago. I am sure I will have questions in the future thanks for your patience 🙂

    • I’m going through the Big D and can totally relate to your food budget stress. My tip, which may not be popular here, is that I skip a lot of organics and get conventional instead. The Environmental Working Group has a dirty dozen and clean 15 list for produce, so I can be a little choosy and frugal about what I buy organic. I spend less than $300/month (and some month less than $200) on food for myself and two teenagers. And the teens eat some meat + dairy. We eat a lot of potatoes, rice, pasta, and beans, along with a huge variety of in-season produce. I shop sales and Trader Joe’s (TJ’s because their products are non-GMO and generally lower priced than most other places in my area). Google for lists of protein counts in food and I think you’ll be surprised at how much you can get in veggies. Lots of meat substitutes (like seitan, tempeh, and tofu) have a ton of protein and are cheap. It’s easy and cheap to add tofu to a smoothie for extra protein!

      • Great suggestions!! You’re much better at getting deals than I am, so I really appreciate that you answered Bob’s question too! Sometimes I skip the organics when money is tight – they really are expensive! I didn’t realize that all of Trader Joe’s products were all non-GMO – that’s great to know!! Happy Friday chica! Celeste 🙂

      • xbox2121 says:

        I am so messing up my comments on this post today 🙂 Thanks for your tips Iappreciate any advice I can get.

    • That’s wonderful that your medication dose went down when you switched to a vegetarian diet!! You might get off of them completely if you go vegan. I will admit that you’re getting a deal on your meds, however! And I’m happy to answer your questions!!

  3. Hi Bob! Great question, and a toughie. Eating vegan can be more expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. I don’t know that I’m the best one to answer this question, however; so I’m giving you some links that might help. Here’s the links:

    A couple of things I’ll add is that even if you make a partial switch, like swapping milk for almond milk, this will make a difference. Also, I make a lot of bean and rice dishes, which are pretty cheap. Veggie, bean and rice soups are cheap as well.

    I should also add that vegans tend to be healthier and thus need less medications, which can compensate for any additional food costs for some people. My husband, for example, had high blood pressure and high cholesterol before we went vegan and now he’s in the healthy range for both. Taking meds for blood pressure and cholesterol is expensive, so this can save a lot of money.

    I hope this helps, and please let me know if you’ve got other questions. Celeste 🙂

    • xbox2121 says:

      Thanks for the links Celeste, I will check them out.. I take meds for BP and cholesterol as well, not to make excuses but I get them through the VA for 8 bucks a month apiece. My med dose did go down quiet a bit when I switched to a vegetarian diet years ago. I am sure I will have questions in the future thanks for your patience 🙂

      • Hey Bob! Just wanted to say that you’re not messing up your comments on this post, it’s just the way my blog is set up. I don’t know how to change it to make the comments flow better. I’ll have to look into this!!

  4. Reblogged this on Wolf Is My Soul and commented:
    Great tips for making a game plan to start eating healthier – skipping dairy products.

  5. Thanks for reminding me why I quit dairy!

  6. xbox2121 says:

    Thanks to 3kids2cats1divorce as well, I will bookmark this page for reference !!

  7. Ralph says:

    Hi Celeste 😀
    I daren’t comment 😉
    Have a lovely weekend. Ralph xox 😀

  8. Great post, Celeste! What a tremendous resource.

    I would add So Delicious ice cream (I like chocolate peanut butter swirl, chocolate decadence, and turtle trails) as well as Treeline Nut Cheese. I was a huge goat cheese lover and this fills the void nicely. (Or you could make homemade nut cheese.) Also, it’s super easy to make one ingredient ice cream from frozen bananas or add other ingredients to change the flavor. A super quick, easy and healthy way to use leftover bananas for a dessert fix.

    On a personal note, I gave up dairy after watching Forks Over Knives, reading The Engine2 Diet, and failing to make it through Earthlings. For over a decade, whenever I would get a cold, it would turn into a brutal case of bronchitis. Every year, doctors would prescribe antibiotics. I took them for the first few years and then decided I didn’t want to keep taking them every year and suffered through. I would be sick for 3-4 weeks and literally vomit up huge amounts of phlegm all hours of the day and night (along with food if I had eaten or just painful heaves to get only the phlegm out if I had not).

    If it was cold outside (which it most always was as I would get sick in the winter), I would have to cover my mouth and nose with a scarf because the cold temperature would induce a coughing fit and I would invariably throw up. I would throw up in gutters if I was walking, out of car windows if whoever was driving couldn’t pull over in time, even in a trash can once at work. (Gross, I know.) My parents always knew I was sick if I hadn’t called them in awhile. My sister died of pneumonia as a baby and my mom always went into fits of worry if her either of us kids ever coughed, so I would try to spare her hearing me cough uncontrollably. But she would call, every year, and leave a message saying she knew I was sick so please call.

    Not once did any health care professional recommend cutting dairy and due to moving around, I always went to different doctors. I went vegan about a year and a half ago and guess what? I know you already know the answer. 🙂 I have not gotten bronchitis. Not only that, but almost everyone else in my office got sick last year, but I didn’t get so much as a sniffle. Now of course I don’t anticipate going my whole life without another cold, but I do have high hopes about my bronchitis. And it now makes total sense to me…milk is for baby cows. 🙂

    • How funny, I used to get brutal bronchitis almost every year too!! I hate going to the doctor, so I’d suffer for weeks before dragging myself into an emergency clinic and get some antibiotics. This usually kicked it in a few days, but one time I got sick again a few weeks after taking the antibiotics. I haven’t been sick since going vegan either.

      I like your non-dairy suggestions – thanks for sharing!!

      And yes, cow’s milk is for baby cows!! You said it girlfriend!! Celeste 🙂

  9. Vanessa says:

    I’m so glad I’m connected to your blog, Celeste. Me and my back and forth vegetarianism. Well, I’m tired of being tired again…so guess whose back on officially tomorrow?
    Why, yes, yes…that would be me!
    Watch for some of your older blogs to get read. Gonna be looking for some recipes this weekend!
    Vanessa 🙂

  10. Really? Wow! I hate going to the doctor, too. Knock on would that we both stay healthy. 🙂

  11. You can even make ice cream with frozen bananas!

  12. so great. Sharing to my fb page so I always have it handy. 🙂

  13. Hi Celeste! I love this post. In the last few months I’ve gone from a vegetarian but VERY dairy heavy diet to about 90% vegan. I love your tip about doing vegan M-F. As soon as I got dairy out of my system for a few days I felt AMAZING (and lost 4 pounds the first week). That made it a lot easier to keep it up. I had so much more energy and slept a lot better.
    Your blog is so important, thanks for doing what you do!

    • Aww Johanna, your comment really touched me!! It’s nice to be appreciated, thank you!! And congrats on going “almost” vegan, that’s huge!! My hubby and I were “almost” vegan for a long time before we went fully vegan. I’m also excited to hear that you’re feeling so much better eating this way. Whenever people question the healthfulness of a vegan diet I just have to laugh, because I’m feeling the bennies. Have a lovely weekend! Celeste 🙂

  14. This is really interesting. Maybe I will try some of these out!

  15. Hey Celeste, thanks for popping by my blog and commenting. Like you, I found Forks Over Knives inspiring. I’d already been vegetarian for over a year when I recently decided to move to a plant strong diet. I’m two weeks into my transition, and while I have a few cravings now and again, I’ve been feeling good.

    I think for me, one of the reasons I’m doing fine with my transition is that I’ve already given myself permission to eat “whatever” every once in a while. So if I want to eat X, I’m not going to rend my clothing and call myself a bad person. 😉 But, as a result of having that “permission” it gives me more strength to continue because I know these are *choices* I’m making.

    I dd the same thing when I went vegetarian for the first time. I gave myself the okay to eat, let’s say chicken, from time to time and always when I’d get a craving and say to myself “Mmm, I’m going to eat chicken!” I’d sit down at the restaurant and immediately decide I didn’t really NEED it because there were so many other choices… and I’d go with something else.

    Yes, I’m sure this particular approach wouldn’t work for everyone, but so far it’s working for me. It’s not rocket science but day by day I’ve been able to experiment with new recipes and food shopping has been fun (oh look – quinoa and chia seeds – I’ll buy some!).

    In the end, the real result is whether or not I’m healthier. For now, I know my health is improving because my energy levels are off the charts!

    Thanks again!

    • It sounds like you’re doing a lot better than I did at the two week point. Of course, I went from the typical American diet directly to a plant-based diet without even starting with going vegetarian. I was also trying to be strict about it at first, but overtime I relaxed a bit and allowed myself some “cheats” once in a while. Like you say, I think this really helped me to maintain the diet. I have noticed recently that my “cheats” have become more and more often so I’m backing off from sugar for a while.

      I’m so glad to connect with you Carol! Let’s do keep in touch!! Celeste 🙂

      • Sounds good Celeste, and just keep at it a day at a time.

        Eating a dessert won’t kill you, but you already know that. It’s about the choices we make over the long term that count. And good luck!

  16. sf says:

    Thanks for these many tips! I’ll try the coconut milk for coffee and it sure does sound interesting! If it tastes good, then I’m definitely gonna let my friends know cuz they all always have a can of it on their shelves. Almond butter? Never heard of it, but will look for it. Thanks!

    • Oh you have to try almond butter girlfriend! My husband buy it at Whole Foods. They have a machine there that grinds the almonds into fresh almond butter – it’s SO amazing! You can also make your own almond butter in a high speed blender. I don’t know how canned almond butter tastes, however. 🙂

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