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Giving Up Dairy as an Adult

Transitioning to a Cheese-Free Life, 20 Years Later

By Faith CullerPublished 5 years ago 3 min read

It may surprise you to learn that approximately 65% of adults have a decreased ability to digest lactose. In fact, it is more likely to become lactose intolerant as a teen or adult than as a child. And if you are one of the unfortunate ones who does find themselves getting stomachaches after enjoying your favorite cheesy dish, I am here to tell you that it does get easier to give up dairy, even as adult.

I grew up in an Italian household, where cheese and butter were staples in our diets. Until a little after my eighteenth birthday, when the constant stomachaches began. It started as a small discomfort and then progressed to getting even physically sick after eating my favorite cheesy dishes. I didn’t want to admit it but the signs where there: I was becoming lactose intolerant. And thus began the painful process of monitoring my diet and giving up all dairy, which is easier said than done when you have 19+ years of enjoying all things creamy and cheesy.

It was almost second nature to order anything and everything covered in cheese, and the first few months I spent a lot of time standing in the grocery store aisles analyzing the ingredients on the packaging of food. With limited cooking experience, it can seem daunting trying to find things you can eat. But all hope is not lost!

My world was changed when I actually realized that most foods have a dairy-free alternative. You can still enjoy ice cream, cheese, butter, milk, coffee creamer, sour cream, cream cheese, yogurt and many more things without compromising your stomach. Instead of just resorting to a bland diet, there are actually increasingly more options for dairy free individuals. And lots of things didn’t have dairy in them to begin with! Most breads, chips, cereals, canned foods, pastas, and packaged dinners don’t have dairy in them, or can be easily replaced with dairy free versions. Many recipes only need to be replaced with dairy free butter!

Undoubtably you will probably have dairy again at some point, either by accident or on purpose. I’ll admit that against my better judgement, I've indulged in cheese, cake icing, cream, and my biggest weakness: Flaming Hot Cheetos. Yes, even things with “fake cheese” in them still often have milk as an ingredients. But once you start finding the alternatives to dairy, both for cooking and snacking, you won’t feel like your diet is that limited.

Other than refusing to give up his whole milk, even my husband partakes in my dairy-free lifestyle. All of our favorite dinner dishes are completely dairy free, and even our first Thanksgiving was traditional dishes without dairy. Brands like Daiya, SO Delicious, Vegan Gourmet, and Silk all offer great dishes for the lactose intolerant: cheesecake, ice cream, ice cream sandwiches, milk, butter, yogurt, shredded and sliced cheese, sour cream, and cream cheeses. More and more popular dairy brands have come out with vegan alternatives everyday.

Being lactose intolerant is nothing new, yet so many people don’t know how many possibilities are out there for a dairy free diet. It’s a big change from eating whatever you want to a dietary restriction, but it’s not impossible at all. You can still go to Starbucks, eat out at restaurants and make your classic holiday dishes. Living a dairy free life has even helped my sleep, energy levels and even helped me eat a little healthier. While I still miss some things that there aren’t alternatives for yet (ricotta and Swiss cheese just to name a few) becoming lactose intolerant is not the end of eating delicious foods!


About the Creator

Faith Culler

Navy wife, food enthusiast, photographer and freelance artist.

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