“No dairy?? How do you do it?? I would never be able to do that, I love cheese!”
These are normal things I hear whenever I mention that I don’t eat dairy anymore. Well, guess what? If an unhealthy lifestyle filled with dairy, processed foods, and other things could be the difference between you being wheelchair-bound or completely paralyzed in 20-30 years, I would hope that you would make every attempt to prevent this too. I know that not everybody has this mindset, I mean, look at the world we live in! Fast food everywhere, chemicals and toxins in everything we consume, there is no running from it. I have made it my main focus in life right now to do everything possible to be in control of my health, because who knows when I may not be able to be in control. So, how do I do it? I take it one day at a time, I stay mindful, and I put myself first. When I do these things, it comes naturally, the need to fuel my body instead of eating out of boredom or overeating when I am feeling emotional. You literally are what you eat, simple as that. I know that sounds cliche but really, when it comes down to it, you need to eat well to live well.
So, you want to cut dairy? You want to take a step towards a healthier lifestyle, maybe you also are troubled by an autoimmune disease, other disorder/condition, or maybe you’ve just been feeling rotten for sometime. The biggest thing you can do to succeed in ANYTHING you want to do is PLAN. I am not a planner by any means, but when it comes to my health I am a planning maniac. Staying routine and thinking ahead is what makes it so easy for me to stay healthy. I eat on a schedule, I write everything down. At first I was logging everything into a food tracker app but that is just too time consuming to me. I simply write everything down along with the time that I ate it. I do this so I know when I should expect to be hungry for a snack or when I should have lunch, I try to eat something every 2-3 hours. I seldom feel hungry since I eat tons of fruits and vegetables which are very filling. It just keeps it easy for me, do whatever is easy for you, but try different things to figure it out. Planning will only get you so far if you aren’t taking this seriously. You might have read the first part of this post and thought, “Isn’t she being a little over-dramatic?”, well you know what, maybe I am, but hey, you never know; that is the fun part about MS. You have no idea what the future holds; you could be fine, you could be not fine. Back to what you need to do in order to take these steps towards a better life. You need to plan and you need to take it seriously, but you also need to stay lighthearted. Laugh often, and pay attention to how you are feeling each day.
When I was first researching about MS and came across the information or theories that removing dairy from your diet could basically ‘cure’ MS, I was blown away, but I wasn’t sure where to start. There are so many great resources out there, but hopefully this blog can be one too. So let’s get started, HOW TO CUT DAIRY:
First thing is first, decide whether you will slowly phase out your dairy products for dairy alternatives, or if you are going to go cold turkey. I went cold turkey, but that is because I decided to start my whole lifestyle change on January 1st. The second thing you need to know is that dairy is not just found in milk, cheese, yogurt, and ice cream. Milk can be found, or should I say hidden, in everything, especially highly processed foods, which is why I suggest you keep it simple and really go crazy with vegetables. You need to learn what the secret names for dairy ingredients are, and you need to learn how to read labels on foods. Dairy is one of the most common allergens, so many labels will say in bold under the ingredients, CONTAINS: MILK. You will constantly find yourself ‘googling’ whether your favorite treat is dairy free or something you are looking at in the store. Stay curious, plan ahead, and when in doubt grab some broccoli!
As far as changes I had to make and products that have helped me through those days when you just need some pizza or a scoop of ice cream, here are some things that I have enjoyed:
I am an avid meal replacement shake person for breakfast, so I needed to find a new dairy-free shake mix. After a lot of research I found one I love, it is made by Garden of Life, it is a raw vegan meal replacement shake, it is organic and has lots of probiotics and superfoods. Also, it really doesn’t taste as bad as I thought it would! 🙂 I mix this with Califia Farm’s unsweetened vanilla almond milk. It is so good and keeps me full for hours!!! I also use their unsweetened original flavor whenever I am making a recipe that calls for milk. For lunch I usually have some sort of meal prepped dish with chicken, quinoa or sweet potatoes, and a veggie of my choice! For snacks I take at least 3 veggies and 3 fruits to work with me, sometimes I will have almonds, soy nuts, or a green snack shake I get from Advocare. For dinner it varies a lot, I make a lot of chicken or shrimp with veggies, I try to keep it simple. It gets a little tough some days because I am usually cooking two different meals for myself and my boyfriend, Michael, who still enjoys cheese. However, with the weather getting nicer we have really been enjoying chicken and veggies on the grill!! As far as your classics that ‘require’ cheese, I have found that Daiya Mozzarella Style Shreds actually melt! I have made awesome lasagna with this cheese and pizza. One thing I learned quickly about cheese alternatives is that less is more, unlike actual cheese, where more is more! I actually enjoy pizza with no cheese lately, homemade crust with sauteed veggies and turkey pepperoni! Yum! I also have tried Follow Your Heart Mozzarella and it was seriously amazing cold! It tasted exactly like mozzarella cheese, until I cooked it. This was before I learned less is more, so I grated the entire block onto a pizza and it just turned into weird tasting mush, but I will always remember how good it tasted cold. Mexican food is great for a dairy free lifestyle! Fajitas, tacos, or enchiladas have so much flavor already so cheese and sour cream really aren’t necessary to me! Now for the most important part. ICE CREAM! You will be happy to know that there are a TON of dairy free ice creams! Even Breyer’s and Ben & Jerry’s has started making dairy free ice cream! I really love the So Delicious brand as well, they have a mint chocolate chip ice cream that is to die for, really check out their site, they have so many great products. The dairy alternatives list goes on and on and on.
I will say though, please do not cut dairy and think you need all of these alternatives all the time, these things are processed foods, and sometimes expensive. Just because they are dairy free, doesn’t mean they are healthy or good for you! Please explore the world of fruits and vegetables, and seasonings! Color your meals with the rainbow and experiment with different flavors!
One more thing that can make a huge difference in how you feel is staying active. I am not telling you to go out and start training for a marathon tomorrow, or to become a professional body builder. I am telling you a body in motion, tends to stay in motion & a body at rest, tends to stay at rest. Go for a walk a couple times a week, try a new class at the gym, or try some yoga or a simple exercise on YouTube. I have taken a 30 day challenge of practicing Yoga every day this month and it has been really wonderful! So MOVE! Please.
You will never regret taking care of yourself. Ever!
One site that really helped me start my journey is GoDairyFree. It is a simple site with lots of information and recipes.
I am sorry it took me so long to write again, hopefully this insanely long post made up for it, and hopefully I didn’t lose you halfway through! Thank you all for the support, with it, I know I am not alone in this fight. 🙂