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October 04, 2022: The earliest memory of dairy is the mandatory milk glass that mom handed us every morning, and so ‘Dairy’ became synonymous with nutrition. Contemplating a dairy-free lifestyle is tough if you have grown up on dairy products. “Though it is a major food group with numerous benefits, it is healthier to go dairy-free,” says Nikhil Bendre, Chef, and Head Of Content, Urban Platter,

Nikhil shares with IANSlife why it makes sense to go dairy free, read on to understand…

Why go Dairy-Free?

Nikhil:  People are making new and bold choices concerning their lives. Diet is a significant aspect of life with far-reaching effects, thus making it an important consideration. Opting for a dairy-free diet may stem from health reasons. But isn’t dairy supposed to imply health? The way it does in umpteen advertisements promoting milk, curd, cheese, and the like?

A dairy-free diet eliminates animal milk and products derived from it.  These are cheese, yogurt, cream, and butter. The advantages of going dairy-free include weight reduction, clear skin, enhanced bone health, better digestion, and reduced bloating and gas. Being high in carbon footprint, a non-dairy diet is also beneficial for the planet and, of course, for the animals. Conscious individuals who advocate sustainable consumption must definitely go dairy-free. 

Before adopting a dairy-free lifestyle, a few things to consider. The pros and cons of going dairy-free should be evaluated. Prepare a list of foods that can be consumed and the ones to avoid. Carefully examine food labels to differentiate between non-dairy and dairy-free. Plan your meals, including the ones at restaurants. Make sure your nutritional requirements are met. Understand that being vegan and going dairy-free is not the same thing. You have to define your priorities before you take the plunge. 

Once you have done your homework, there might be a thought that leaves you perplexed. Can dairy-free food be tasty? The answer is a resounding yes. Dairy-free food can be delicious with a few replacements around the pantry and handpicked alternatives.  

Breaking it down

Nikhil: Let’s deconstruct dairy products into three groups: milk, butter, and cheese. For each of these groups, some alternatives can enhance the flavor of the food and deliver the benefits of a dairy-free diet. 

  • Milk: Plant milk is a great option to replace milk in your diet. Technological advancements have made it possible to derive milk from plant sources. Scientists are constantly working to extract milk from grains, nuts, and seeds. Almond, oat, soy, and coconut milk are popular alternatives. Their taste is pretty neutral, and they are thick and creamy too. There are also other options like hemp milk, macadamia milk, cashew milk, and quinoa milk. While many options are available on the supermarket shelves, select the one that suits you best. Consider if they have added sugar and additives. Check the nutritional value, calcium, and mineral content. The cost should also not burn a hole in your pocket. Use the best beverage option and include them in a wide variety of recipes like dairy-free Queso, dairy-free Cheese Sauce, dairy-free Indian desserts like Kheer and Payasam, etc.   
  • Butter: Dairy-free substitutes are available for both baking and cooking. One of the top choices to replace butter is plant-based oils. Many options, like olive oil, coconut oil, sesame oil, flaxseed oil, etc., can be the perfect replacement for butter. They contain healthy omega-fatty acids, and saturated fats are less. These oils can enhance dishes like soups, stews, and curries with a subtle flavor. For baking, you can use nut butter or substitute butter with hummus. Mashed or pureed fruits are a great way to replace butter as a topping. Applesauce, mashed avocado, and banana are great alternatives. 
  • Cheese: A few tweaks in the pantry and picking up basic techniques can arm you with a substitute for cheese. A combination of soaked cashews, nutritional yeast, seasonings, and oil can be used to make cheese at home. Homemade cream cheese tastes delicious. Soft crumbly cheese can be made using cashews, macadamia nuts, Brazil nuts, or almonds.  Soft tofu is also an excellent alternative for replicating cottage and ricotta cheese textures. Abundant recipes are available for dairy-free Cheese, dairy-free Cheesecakes, dairy-free Cream Cheese, etc. 
  • To be or not to be dairy-free: Lactose intolerance, allergies associated with milk and milk products, choosing a healthier diet plan, being a conscious consumer, or any other reason may drive you towards a dairy-free diet. It is essential to deliberate on the various aspects of dairy-free food. Make it a priority to adhere to it once you have decided. Alternatives can be found quickly, and you do not have to compromise on taste. It complements health and mood. Enjoy dairy-free food!

Source: IANS