Want to go dairy-free but not sure where to begin? I'm sharing my best tips on creating a dairy-free meal plan & how to go dairy-free!
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- Don't despair! There are so many dairy free meal planning resources out there (including our Prep Dish meal plans!) You are not alone in this.
- Focus on the foods you can have when making your dairy free meal plan. A positive mindset goes a long way in changing habits and adopting a new way of eating.
- Eat plenty of healthy fats to make sure your dairy free diet plan is still satisfying.
- We have tons of dairy free recipes here at Prep Dish! Scroll down to the bottom of the article to see some of my favorites or snag a free trial for our meal plans. Dairy is always optional on our gluten free, paleo and super fast meal plans!
There are lots of reasons to go for a dairy-free diet plan. Maybe you have an allergy in your family and have to be super strict about eliminating all dairy. Or perhaps you've tried Whole30 or another elimination diet and realized dairy doesn't agree with you. Or maybe you're not sure dairy is a good nutritional choice.
Whether you're simply looking to reduce dairy or eliminate it altogether, figuring out how to go dairy-free can be challenging!
At Prep Dish, dairy is completely optional on all of our gluten free, paleo and super fast meal plans. That means I've had a lot of experience in creating delicious, satisfying dairy-free meal plans. You don't have to forgo your family favorites or feel like you're missing out, promise!
I hope these tips make going dairy free more manageable. And don't forget, you can get a FREE Prep Dish meal plan here if you'd like a done-for-you dairy-free meal plan to get you started!
Tips on a Dairy Free Meal Plan
1. Focus on What You Can Have on a Dairy Free Diet Plan
If you're new to dairy-free, I highly recommend you try focusing on what you can eat. It's easy to feel like you're missing out but the truth is, there are tons of delicious dairy-free recipes out there! (Just look at some of my favorites below!)
While you may eventually want to try adapting your tried and true favorites to remove the dairy, it can be hard not to compare the new version to the old dairy-laden one. Instead, take this as an opportunity to expand your repertoire and explore new kinds of recipes that include only ingredients you can have.
2. Find Your Favorite Substitutes
While I do wholeheartedly believe in the above recommendation, there are of course certain treats you'll want to adapt to be dairy-free. (I walk you through some of my favorite dairy-free adaptations in this short video.)
Experiment with different dairy alternatives until you find your favorite. If you can't imagine your mornings without yogurt, by all means, work to find a version you love that will fit into your dairy-free diet plan!
Personally, I love replacing dairy with coconut milk or cashew cream, depending on the recipe. If you've never made cashew cream, check out my quick recipe and tips here. (I also have a great recipe for homemade almond milk and one for chocolate cashew milk you might enjoy!)
3. Add Healthy Fats to Your Dairy Free Meal Plan
In some recipes, you can simply omit the dairy and it will still be just as tasty. But sometimes you take out the dairy and the recipe just feels lacking.
One of the reasons is that dairy adds more than just creaminess and flavor, it adds fat and that's a crucial element to making any meal satisfying.
As you're figuring out how to go dairy-free in a way that works for you, make sure to include plenty of healthy fats in your meals. Avocado, nuts, olive oil and coconut milk are all great ways to do this!
Easy Dairy Free Meals
Now that I've covered my best tips, here are some tried and true recipes to add to your dairy-free meal plan. Most of these are dairy-free as written, while a few include optional dairy like a sprinkle of parmesan that you can easily omit.
I hope you find some new favorites!
Breakfasts for Your Dairy Free Diet Plan:
There are plenty of dairy-free smoothies out there but if you're looking for a truly creamy one, I recommend my orange carrot smoothie! It calls for 2 cups of your milk of choice – coconut milk, almond milk, oat milk, you can't go wrong!
These gluten free muffins use a mix of almond flour and coconut flour for the perfect texture. They also call for almond butter, giving the recipe plenty of protein and healthy fats for a satisfying dairy-free breakfast.
With the creamy avocado on these homemade breakfast sandwiches, you'll never miss the cheese!
For a 2-ingredient breakfast, this one is quite festive!
Dairy Free Lunch Ideas:
This is another one that puts avocado mayo to use! The chicken salad is delicious on lettuce wraps but it's also quite versatile Enjoy with crackers, atop a salad, or simply with a fork!
I admit these take a bit longer to prepare but, like all Prep Dish recipes, they're designed for meal prep. This means you can do all the hard work ahead of time and enjoy a truly delicious lunch when it's time.
Lastly, this isn't a recipe exactly, but more of a lunchtime strategy. I share tips on how to meal prep a few items each week and then mix and match them to create different lunches throughout the week!
Easy Dairy Free Dinners:
Greek in origin, moussaka is a hearty casserole where beef (or lamb), eggplant, tomatoes and spices are topped with a bechamel sauce before baking in the oven. If you're not familiar with bechamel, it includes items like butter, milk and cheese…not so good for a dairy-free meal plan! My version uses cashew cream instead and it is every bit as tasty!
That creamy ricotta layer is pretty quintessential for lasagna but it turns out you can use cashew cream here too! My recipe calls for either Greek yogurt OR cashew cream and the parmesan sprinkled on top is completely optional.
You'll actually find three quick and easy stir fry recipes in this post. Stir fry is a great dairy-free option in general since there are no substitutions to make!
Shepherd's pie is traditionally topped with a creamy mashed potato layer. My version calls for a mix of cauliflower and potatoes mashed together. I leave out the dairy elements and it still tastes great!
When you picture enchiladas you probably envision a layer of melted cheese on top. I find though that with a quality homemade enchilada sauce, that layer is unnecessary. The sauce provides plenty of flavor and keeps the enchiladas from being dry all on its own.
Nothing screams comfort food quite like meatloaf! I like to use bison here but ground beef is a great option as well. A homemade tomato sauce replaces the traditional ketchup for a more grown-up (and of course, healthier!) version.
Cashew cream to the rescue, once again! It's amazing how much creaminess this nut-based cream can add. It blends quite well into soups so feel free to substitute cashew cream for any creamy soup you love.
For many of us, pizza is one of the hardest foods to give up when going dairy-free. Sure there are dairy-free “cheeses” but some of them have some pretty strange ingredients and may not taste close enough to the real thing to satisfy your craving. Pizza soup is a great alternative! It has all of the classic pizza flavor, but in a gluten free, dairy-free soup.
Cashew cream and broth come together to create a rich, creamy bowl of mashed potatoes without any butter or cream in sight. Add some fresh herbs to give it even more flavor!
Serve these potatoes with chicken, steak or whatever protein you're in the mood for.
Have you ever tried making pesto without the parmesan? It turns out it's still totally delicious! Pesto has plenty of richness from the olive oil and plenty of flavor from the herbs, without the need for any cheese at all. Serve atop salmon as pictured, on chicken, or tossed with pasta or zoodles.
Simple Dairy Free Desserts:
A quick note on chocolate: All of the below desserts are dairy-free if you choose dairy-free chocolate when required. You can find several dairy-free options on Thrive Market like these chocolate chunks and this dark chocolate bar. You can also find dairy-free chocolate from the Enjoy Life brand at many grocery stores!
I was so happy when I realized how good banana “nice cream” tastes, and how close to the real thing! The best part? You don't even need an ice cream maker for this one and the options for mix-ins are endless.
You would never guess that avocados are the secret ingredient giving this pudding its irresistible creaminess. I know it sounds weird, but trust me on this one!
Coconut milk gives this mousse its beautiful texture and just a touch of coffee elevates the flavor to something truly special.
Can't imagine brownies without all the butter? It turns out coconut oil is the perfect replacement. The homemade raspberry sauce is optional but you won't regret the effort if you give it a try!
Dairy Free Meal Plan FAQ
What can you eat on a dairy free diet?
You can eat so many things on a dairy free diet! Fruits, Veggies, Grains, Proteins – they're all on the table. You can enjoy everything except for milk products (items like milk, cheese, butter, yogurt, etc.) on a dairy free diet, assuming you don't have other dietary restrictions.
What can you not eat on a dairy free diet?
You cannot eat anything containing milk and milk products on a dairy free diet. Note that sheep's milk and goat's milk are also considered dairy by some but you will have to decide what “dairy free” means to you.
This will limit items like butter, cheese, milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, sour cream, ice cream, etc. that are made with traditional animal milk. Also, avoid products containing whey and casein. If you have a dairy allergy or need to be strictly dairy free, I recommend checking out this article listing surprising foods that may contain dairy.
How do I start a dairy free diet?
Honestly, how to start a dairy free diet depends on your goals and purpose for going dairy free. If you have an allergy, you will of course need to cut out all dairy immediately. Remember, don't get overwhelmed, it will get easier as you find new favorite dairy free recipes and replacements.
If you don't have an allergy but desire to eat less dairy, it's up to you. Do you do better completely eliminating a temptation or knowing you can have a little of it when you really want? You may want to start by just giving up one item, like cream in your coffee, or you may want to eliminate dairy all at once to see the difference it makes in how you feel.
Want to try a dairy free meal plan for free?
As I mentioned, dairy is totally optional on our Prep Dish meal plans, with the exception of our low carb keto-friendly meal plan. Sign up for a free trial to see if these meal plans are a good fit for your family!