While meandering through supermarkets, it’s difficult to ignore the growing vegan replacements for everyday items. Animal-free products like Tofurkey, Sheese, and Toona grant shoppers with dietary restrictions the freedom to pursue their individual lifestyles. These transformative products not only exist on the shelves, but also in the homes of thousands of people around the world. The popularity of this modern-day diet historically stemmed from its health benefits and moral implications. In recent years, veganism has gained more serious traction for its additional economic, environmental, and even political advantages. While vegan lifestyles can be incredibly healthy and public-spirited, it is a large commitment that requires thorough education and access to the appropriate resources. Low-dairy and dairy-free diets are great options for addressing social concerns and easily transitioning into veganism.  

The Overconsumption of Dairy Products

dairy, butter, dairy product, milk, cheese
Caroline Ingalls

Over the past few decades, cheese has found a home in nearly all sectors of the American diet: stuffed in pizza crusts, spread from packets, and sprayed out of cans. Americans eat as much as thirty-three pounds of cheese a year, annually increasing by three pounds since 2001. While many people find it difficult to imagine their diets without milk, butter, and cheese, the dairy-free community has grown significantly in recent years. Today, animal-free products continue to compete with their dairy counterparts, forcing consumers to make important decisions regarding their preferences.

There are a multitude of arguments supporting a dairy-free lifestyle, one of the strongest being its immense health benefits. Since humans are the only species that consume milk past childhood, some food scientists argue it no longer has a place in our diets. From a biological perspective, cow’s milk functions to catalyze growth in their offspring; these growth factors are irrelevant and unnecessary for human adults, as they have fully matured. From a health perspective, dairy products contain high levels of saturated fats, which doctors associate with an increased risk of diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular problems. Studies have also found a correlation between increased cheese consumption and weight gain.

In the past few years, researchers have identified more complicated relationships between rising dairy consumption and certain environmental, political, and economic issues. For instance, a study conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2004 found that farms with 2,500 dairy cows produce the same amount of waste as a city of 411,000 people. Additionally, the meat and dairy industries use around one-third of the Earth’s available fresh water, leaving dairy to play a substantial role in climate change and increasing global waste.

Become a Devotee of Dairy-Free

vegetable, salad, chicken, meat, chickpeas
Rita Cliffton

Minimizing, or completely eliminating, dairy consumption can be a real herculean task; however, with the right approach, it can be easily replaced within any diet. When dining at home, people can substitute dairy products with many plant-based options. Instead of cow’s milk, individuals can use nut, soy, and oat milk, which provide a similar taste with a plethora of vitamins and minerals, mainly lower levels of fat, and no cholesterol. Soy milk is of a comparable consistency and contains a similar level of fat and protein to regular milk, making it a prime substitute for milk-based beverages and savory dishes. When satisfying a sweet tooth, bakers can use coconut milk, since it has a naturally creamy and tasty flavor. Similar to milk, there are many plant-based alternatives for cheese, from soy protein to nuts to nutritional yeast.

Dairy-free options extend beyond the supermarket and into the realm of restaurants. Aside from strategically snatching the best vegan groceries, individuals can find a plethora of dairy free options at both local and chain restaurants. Since the restaurant industry is constantly adjusting to current trends and trajectories, eateries across the country have been increasingly incorporating dairy-free and plant-based dishes into their menus. Happy Cow, a website that recommends dairy-free and vegan restaurants in users’ areas, has identified thousands of accommodating restaurants across the country. From fast food to sit-down restaurants, chefs across the globe continue to ease the transition into dairy-free and vegan lifestyles.