In a world where milk is an essential ingredient in foods such as cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese, cream cheese, sour cream, cookies, and baked goods (which are all items I thoroughly enjoy), I was shocked when my doctor recommended that I eliminate dairy products from my diet completely. My mind became full of questions: “What foods can I eat that still provide the nutrition I need, and how do I prepare them? What are the substitutes for dairy? What daily vitamins do I need to take now?”

In this lifestyle change, a healthy diet became my top priority. The first step was to take the doctor-recommended vitamins, then build a non-dairy food plan that still incorporates calcium. While researching alternatives, I found a great guide to dairy-free foods that contain calcium. After making the switch, I now eat lots of spinach, arugula, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, almond milk, and dairy-free yogurt in my day-to-day. Changing my diet has taken months of trying new foods, ingredients, and recipes, but I am proud to say that I feel healthier than ever!

The new diet forced me to (in the words of our netlogx mantra) “make change work for you.” I was pleasantly surprised when I realized that the work I have done in Project Management with netlogx helped prepare me for this lifestyle change. Throughout the whole process, my mindset transitioned out of uncertainty and into clarity—from wondering what I should be consuming, to knowing what foods will benefit me. I started planning dairy-free meals, re-trained myself how to cook with substitute foods (initially wondering what the heck tofu, nutritional yeast, and chia seeds were), and managed the change over time. 

My decision to change required the practice of patience, especially since I started reading every label at the supermarket to confirm that no dairy is in the foods I buy. I’ve learned to prepare my food in an entirely different way, and my food choices have morphed into eating fresher, farm-to-table foods like meat, fish, fruits, and vegetables. I no longer eat fast food, and rarely dine in at restaurants, because in my opinion, the food I prepare is just as good! When I do dine out, I stick to the vegan menu to avoid any dairy. Although I spend more money on plant-based or dairy-free items at the grocery store, I don’t eat out as much, so my expenses balance out, and often find myself actually saving money.

Don’t peg me as a “non-dairy wellness freak” though! I still get my sweet fix and treats, sustained by dairy-free products. My top picks are Mondelez International’s Double-Stuff Oreos, Target’s Dark Chocolate Covered Almonds, and Kroger’s awesome selection of plant-based staples like butter, sour cream, & cream cheese! 

My family and friends have thoughtfully accommodated my healthy dairy-free diet, and I am extremely grateful. There always seem to be dairy-free options at our get-togethers, and I often get texts ahead of time as they plan their meals, so there are always some dairy-free options available for me. My sister even bought a dairy-free cookbook, Go Dairy Free, for me which contains everything I need from recipes, tasty dairy substitutes, ingredients, and preparation recommendations. Now, when I am asked for advice on good dairy-free foods, I have an earful of recommendations to share!

I never imagined that such a change in my lifestyle would result in a healthier me, but thanks to my family, friends, netlogx, and organizations that produce dairy-free products, I am surviving and thriving in my new dairy-free world, “until the cows come home!”