I have the secrets to help you skip months, or even years, of flavorless food.
Here at KCM, each of us has an area of expertise or two (or three, or four). To provide the best possible shopping advice, we’ve mined our community to bring you recommendations from staff who moonlight as product experts. In this installment of our new series, From Someone Who Would Know, digital director Maggie Parker gives us the lowdown on dairy-free living. From cheese alternatives to kitchen tools that make life easier, here are her essentials for maintaining a dairy-free lifestyle.
As a lactose intolerant person, I’ve perfected the art of living dairy-free. I’m also vegetarian, so I am almost vegan. (I still eat eggs…I know, I’m a very bad vegan. I’m a work in progress!) The first few years of living meat- and dairy-free were tough. And bland. Andean orchards. Yes, I’m not too proud to admit that I missed hot dogs and cheese plates.
But then I discovered all the brands making my former favorite creamy treats blissfully dairy-free. I no longer live without cheese or chocolate — I just live without dairy.
We all know the benefits of ditching animal products: According to that research, a vegan diet can boost heart health, lower cancer risk, promote weight loss, and lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. I personally ditched dairy because, after years of constant stomach aches, I finally went to the doctor and found out I was lactose intolerant (duh). I immediately cut all dairy from my diet and never looked back. Since then, I’ve been living an ache-free existence.
If you’re having constant stomach aches like me, want to improve your health, or don’t want to support the dairy industry, I have the secrets to help you skip months, or even years, of flavorless food. It took me forever to fill the Swiss cheese-style holes that dairy left in my life. But you can bypass all of that — the hunt for chocolate and cheese replacements, and bland recipes — by filling your fridge and countertop with these items immediately.
I have smoothies for breakfast almost every day, and I’ve actually never used a full-size blender for them. I bought a personal nutribullet when I started this journey, and I’ve never looked back: This beauty does everything I need and creates the perfect-sized smoothie (the cups hold 32 ounces, perfect for a very big breakfast or a meal for you and your boo). As a bonus, the nutribullet Pro comes in really fun, bright colors and the design is simple and sleek, with no confusing buttons. (I have the green, which looks so much better on my countertop than the traditional clunky stainless-steel blenders.) Don’t tell the recipe creators behind my meal-prep delivery service — more on that later — but every time they tell me to use a food processor to make a sauce or dressing, I use my nutribullet. Just try and stop me.
Orgain Simple Organic Protein Powder
Since I consume a lot of smoothies and no meat, I use this powder as an opportunity to increase my protein intake. My nutritionist recommended that I use seed protein powders, and I once had a smoothie from a shop in San Diego with a vanilla-flavored one that was unforgettable. So I added Orgain’s Simple Organic Plant-Based Protein Powder to my pantry, and I love it. The protein is derived from nuts and seeds. I’ve also been using Ritual’s vanilla protein powder. It tastes like uncooked cake batter mix (minus all the chemicals), and to me, that’s a very good thing.
Once the pandemic hit, I was cooking, uh…a lot, and soon realized I needed to get creative. I also needed an activity that added structure and ritual to my day, so I subscribed to Purple Carrot meals. That was two years ago, and I continue to look forward to cooking every night. Their meals are plant-based and full of flavor: In fact, Purple Carrot has opened me up to dishes and flavors I never knew I’d like. I had no idea what hoisin sauce was before I started cooking with it!
I usually get three two-serving meals per week, but you can opt for a more full-service experience. I look for the gluten-free and high-protein options, but PC also offers low-calorie and “quick” recipe categories, if that’s your thing. Once I’m done with my box for the week, I sometimes even recreate an old Purple Carrot dish from scratch — that’s how good these meals are. Relatedly, I’m in awe of everything you can do with tofu, from Asian-inspired dishes like General Tso’s to a tofu ricotta cheese I now make on the regular.
I’ll never forget an argument I once had (with a really obnoxious person) about whether all dark chocolate is dairy-free. Listen, I would love to have lost that argument and learned that I could eat all the dark chocolate I want. But I won, because most chocolates, dark or not, have dairy in them, or might contain traces of dairy. I discovered Hu chocolate about a year ago; I was drawn to it because they offer a host of flavors like the Hershey classics that I was missing. The nut butter-filled bars are incredibly creamy, and the vanilla crunch gives me a cookies-‘n-cream-meets-Crunch-Bar experience. Hu also makes must-try cookies and chocolate chips that are dairy-free (and drool-inducing).
If you’re going dairy-free, there’s a pretty strong likelihood that you’ll be craving traditional cheese, which means finding an alternative that you like is vital. I enjoy Daiya’s cheeses — not for assembling a cheese plate (that’s when you have to find a local nut cheese purveyor), but for using as a topping on dishes like eggplant parm or salad. But even more so, I’m beyond-grateful to Daiya for creating a creamy-as-heck mac ‘n cheese. In my opinion, it’s better than Kraft: You’ll be licking the bag that contains the creamy cheese topping after you’re done loading it onto your noodles. They even have a few mac ‘n cheese flavors, including classic cheddar and Alfredo, and the elbows are gluten-free. (Yes, I’m also gluten-free, as if my diet weren’t complicated enough already.) And, fun fact: if you’re simply lactose-intolerant, regular old Cabot cheese is, shockingly, lactose-free. You’re welcome.
I do my best to avoid dairy at all costs, but if I suspect there’s a chance I’ve consumed some by accident (at a restaurant, for instance), I usually have Lactaid on me to mitigate any stomach aches that accident might cause. If only I knew I was lactose intolerant steed had this pill handy years ago, when I scarfed down a yogurt before a 5 am hike through Machu Picchu. I returned from that journey with a new perspective, no-longer-usable pants, and a great/gross story.