I want to report on my recent, voluntary week of a dairy-free diet. It was interesting, challenging even.
First off, I didn’t plan very well. That became evident very quickly. I thought I kind of had. I moved anything dairy out of sight. I even decided it would be an egg-free week too. But what I didn’t do to any great extent was plan what I would eat. I typically have some kind of dairy every day – cheese, yogurt, and milk are the main ones. But there’s others occasionally (ricotta cheese, sour cream, butter, parmesan or romano in the plastic canisters; cream cheese and ice cream rarely). Dairy is a big group!
What no dairy for seven days did was force me to come up with substitutes and that was the big takeaway. If you’re eating less cheese, maybe you’re eating more vegetables for instance. Eating less eggs, maybe eating more whole grains. I sure wasn’t going to eat crap in place of no dairy, not when I was thinking about it so much.
Because I am already mostly vegetarian, it was a week of vegetables, home-made soup, beans, fruits, pasta, breads, whole grains, nuts & seeds, and fish (one can of tuna, two small frozen whiting fillets, and canned salmon in a soup). The only place I messed up was when I cracked open a little jar of pesto and had that with a couple meals, only to remember later that it has cheese in it! Right there on the tiny label, Romano cheese. I just wasn’t thinking. I didn’t eat any candy or chips or crackers and stuck with stove-topped popcorn and home-made cookies that aren’t full of junk for snacking and treats. I did make wonderful little dates/walnuts/coconut treats (recipe coming in future post, super easy) that someone had just posted on Facebook although I made my version just a bit healthier. (I am not one of those people who claims to have no sweet, salty or fatty cravings.)
The dairy free week made me think about how many meals I make. Even if it’s two a day most days, just to be conservative, that’s easily 700 meals a year!!! I don’t know why that never occurred to me before. It’s work to put together wholesome, non-toxic, nutrient-rich meals from scratch on a daily basis. And I like variety (I don’t want to eat the same things every day, not even for breakfast).
The no-eggs was challenging too. Although I love eggs and with no repercussions would eat them daily, same as cheese, I try not to over-indulge. If I’m going to guess, I expect I eat 12 (a carton) every month or 6 weeks. On night 6 my week of no dairy or eggs I had a dream that I made scrambled eggs just for me USING 8 EGGS. In real life, I eat only one egg at a time, whether it’s adding one egg to a recipe (even if it calls for 2 or more), or adding one hard-boiled egg to a salad, or making one scrambled egg for toast or a sandwich. ONE. Only one. Dream-me was going to scarf down 8 in one sitting!
So far as feeling better or seeing any big changes, I didn’t notice anything in particular; I felt normal, regular. My allergies (to molds, dust, etc) seemed about the same, no worse. My energy was okay, nothing amazing. (Typically, if you’re going to try out a vegetarian or vegan diet, 3 weeks is the suggestion.) For me, one week of trying something – whatever it is – seems sufficient to “re-wire” my brain. I mean, that breaks my habits and makes me sufficiently conscious of them.
All said, I’ve decided to cut back on cheese. While my previous limit was no more than an ounce a day (based on something I read as “okay”) I didn’t measure it and kind of guessed. And even though I predominantly chose lower fat varieties, they’re still pretty fatty. I’m not wholly anti-fat but I haven’t seen anything convincing to negate the conventional wisdom that saturated fats contribute to the top killer of Americans, namely heart disease. I certainly have older relatives who either had or died of heart disease. Also, I’d gotten into a habit of frequently buying packaged shredded cheeses and I have to say I was never comfortable with the “anti-caking” or other preservatives that many brands contain but I kept on eating them because they were convenient and tasted good. I think I can do better now.
The little grocery store closest to me sells store brands of sliced provolone, Monterey jack, and Swiss cheese in 8 ounce packages. There are no weird additives. Each has 12 slices per pack, so each portion is well under 1 ounce. They cost more per pound than the cheeses I usually buy but I really like the idea of knowing how much I’m having (rather than guessing and probably “rounding” in my favor). This means I’ll put one slice per home-made pizza, one slice to go in a big salad, or one slice for a grilled cheese.
If I buy a block of cheese, I can cut it into portions to freeze. I’ve done this before but not so much with the idea of measuring or limiting portions. If I cut 8 portions from a one pound block to freeze, I’ll know that each one is no less than a two-day ration. This gives me a guideline. I keep improving my diet over the years and I feel good about this. I think it’s the right direction. Particularly as I noted above, in that it forces me to come up with other/better substitutes. It sure isn’t as if I’m in danger of eating too many vegetables.
(p.s. THIS week is my self-imposed Amazon-free week. No shopping, no looking at the site, no Amazon. I have my reasons for this, one of which is simply breaking a habit. This one might be harder than cheese, not sure!)
NOTE: Please forgive 1-2 days’ delay in responding to comments; I definitely want to read them.