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Lighten Up With Dairy Alternatives

brown_rice_pudding Any chance you've noticed the number of non-dairy milk, cheese and ice cream replacements available these days? The choices are soaring - even in conventional grocery stores! Plenty of people stay away from dairy products for a number of reasons, including allergies, lactose intolerance and concern over the environment or the way animals are raised and treated. While organic dairy products can be a healthy option, some people feel better, lighter or less congested with fewer dairy products or none at all. If you are one of these people, take heart! It's never been easier to lighten up or go dairy-free than it is right now, and it keeps getting easier. Want a simple replacement for milk? Here's a list to get you started, but bear in mind that both soy and tree nuts can be potential allergens or problematic in some cases, so be sure to check with your doctor or qualified health care practitioner if you have any questions.
  • Almond milk - the unsweetened version is great for baking, quiches, cereals and puddings.
  • Hazelnut milk - try this for hot chocolate! Also good for cereal and baking.
  • Rice milk - this can be on the sweet side; it's easy to digest for many people and a good replacement for hot or cold cereal and in smoothies and other beverages.
  • mixed_fruit_smoothie
  • Soy milk - hands down, the most common replacement of all! It's sold in milk cartons on the dairy isle and in aseptic packages on the grocery isle. Unsweetened versions can be a little "beany" flavored, but many people find they get used to the flavor quickly and enjoy it for many different uses.
  • Oat Milk - great for hot cereals and custards but remember this is NOT okay if you are avoiding gluten!
  • Hemp Milk - good for baking and using in smoothies.
  • Coconut Milk - great substitute for milk or cream, try it for quiche, desserts, in pies, puddings, custards and cold on cereal. It can be a bit thick so you may want to try it thinned out with a bit of other non-dairy "milk.
coconut_ice_creamMany milk replacements are available unsweetened, sweetened and flavored. Start with the unsweetened first as some have a lot of added sugar. When it comes to cheese replacements, there are versions made with rice milk, almond milk or soy milk. Many have natural yellow coloring added to simulate real cheese. Because they can be mild in flavor, adding some spices or other ingredients can help pick up the flavor. Here are some uses for non-dairy cheese:
  • Make a grilled "cheese" sandwich. Add tomatoes and some spicy mustard or a sprinkling of nutritional yeast for a "cheesy" flavor.
  • Sprinkle over salads - great with dried fruit and nuts.
  • Try a pita pizza with non-dairy "cheese," tomatoes, mushrooms, onions and peppers.
  • Make an omelet with eggs that have been whisked with a bit of lite coconut milk. Top with shredded non-dairy cheese, olives and a dollop of guacamole.
  • Add to tacos or burritos. Spice it up with salsa or your favorite hot sauce.
You know you need those probiotics! Here's the dairy-free way:
  • Coconut milk kefir and yogurt - pretty new to the market; available in lots of flavors and naturally fermented for good probiotics. Use just as you would yogurt or kefir in smoothies, desserts or enjoyed plain. Try the plain version as a buttermilk replacement.
  • Soy yogurt and probiotic drinks - a little "beany" flavored if you're not used to it - so try the fruit flavored first. Use just as you would yogurt or kefir.
There's more:
  • "Cream cheese" made from tofu - spread on toast or bagels; use in dips and sauces.
  • "Sour cream" made from tofu - try on potatoes or in dips and sauces.
  • "Whipped cream" made from cashew nuts - great on pies or cakes or for a real treat, dollop a bit over hot coffee or non-dairy cocoa.
  • Coconut or soy milk creamers - for coffee, tea, chai, and other beverages, iced or hot. I like the coconut creamer (just a bit) over hot oatmeal in the morning.
  • "Parmesan cheese" made from rice - when tossed with a little nutritional yeast, you get a stronger cheese flavor. Try this with extra virgin olive oil over pasta or in salad. Also good sprinkled over soup and steamed or sautéed veggies.
  • "Ice cream" made from soy milk, rice milk or my favorite: coconut milk - these all vary a bit in flavor. Enjoy as they are or make ice cream-like desserts: parfaits, ice cream cakes, smoothies, etc.
blueberry_banana_smoothieExperiment to find what you like best - you'll be surprised at how easy it is go dairy free without sacrificing good taste. You'll find tons of dairy-free recipes on the recipe pages of our website. I like using the advanced recipe search so you can select "dairy-free" and then search by meal course, cuisine, main ingredient, etc. Please note that I've seen all of the products I mention here in at least one Whole Foods Market store, but our product mix does vary. If your local store doesn't carry a dairy-free item mentioned, simply ask if they can order it for you. Got a dairy-free dish you love or a favorite way to use a dairy replacement? I'd love to hear.

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69 comments

Comments

Food Makes Fun Fuel says …

Almond milk is by far my favorite in taste and texture for baking and drinking. Coconut milk kefir is AMAZING. I use it when I make chocolate avocado pudding and it comes out perfect everytime--thick and creamy

Donna Zurick says …

Hope that the Boston stores carry the coconut milk items. I'm going to look for them! I try to limit soy due to thyroid issues, so coconut sounds wonderful!

Erin says …

I was so excited when we found the coconut versions of creamer, milk, ice cream, and kefir. The creamer doesn't taste strange when mixed with hot coffee, the milk is delicious, the ice cream is OM NOM NOM, and the plain kefir has made me happy again- pour a cup in after you've made stew, and it tastes like you put in sour cream. We're all lactose-intolerant, and it's wonderful to have such fabulous alternatives. Totally, absolutely worth the price.

Brooke says …

My son is allergic to milk and soy. While there are several rice options available, almost all use milk protein (casein or lactose)and are not a viable option for food allergies. I would love to see more options which are truly dairy free

A Pickett says …

My spouse and I are both Type 2 diabetics, and unsweetened almond milk is a wonderful substitute for all kinds of uses. Current favorite is a "milkshake" with chocolate almond milk, plain non fat yogurt, splenda, a scoop of protein whey powder, vanilla extract and shaved ice. Many of the non dairy choices have carb counts to contend with, but I plan to investigate hazelnut milk.

Juanita says …

I love So Delicious coconut milk yogurt and kefir! I never would have thought of using the kefir as a replacement for buttermilk in recipes. What a great idea, thanks!

Mimi says …

I sensitive to milk, egg, soy, and wheat, but b/c of Whole foods, I can eat ice cream, pizza, grilled cheese sandwiches and hot chocolate. I love rice milk, almond milk, coconut milk, goat cheeses - thank God WF carries mozzerella, cheddar and jack flavored goat cheese - like them better than the rice cheeses. I love the coconut ice cream as well, and the Wonder (name/spelling?) coco!

ABC says …

I love the unsweetened Almond Milk in my coffee and cereal.

NK says …

I like the coconut and cashew dairy-free ice cream from Alkemie. They are in the Bay Area.

Bea Elliott says …

Hello and thanks for pointing out the many tasty dairy alternatives... I eliminated dairy about 2 years ago because of animal concerns. I never realized my health would benefit as well. As a 53 year old in the height of menopause... I suffered severe "hot flashes" - Within 2 months of substituting alternatives to milk products... My symptoms all but disappeared. Turns out - It isn't all that wise to consume another species hormonal fluids at all! Another thing that improved was my skin... and the arthritis in my hands and knees also subsided - This along with desired weight loss has convinced me that eliminating dairy was the best thing for my health, as well as the treatment of animals. It's no wonder so many delicious alternatives are showing up on the shelves! :) Thanks for inviting comment.

Alisa - Go Dairy Free says …

I will say Whole Foods does an awesome job in stocking the dairy-free products. Whenever there is a hard to find natural food product I want, it is there! As for dairy alternatives - two big thumbs up to almond milk and the new coconut milk beverage. I don't use many of the other alternatives with regularity, but the industry is becoming impressive.

pat moore says …

what do you think of goat's milk?

Sara Kruhmin says …

Thanks for posting this. My husband and I made the switch from dairy to alternatives for health reasons about 6 months ago. Removing the dairy has helped our health. It seems like we find new alternatives weekly. Our favorites right now are unsweetened chocolate almond milk and vanilla oat milk - both are delicious for making smoothies and chai. I also discovered coconut milk and made a fettuccine alfredo with it - delicious! Please keep the alternative products coming!

Marilyn Ellis says …

When I first went vegan I was told that coconut milk was not a healthy mile, but I find a lot of it lately. Can you explaing?

Caroli says …

I haven't had dairy milk for years. I love Silk in the chocolate flavor, either hot or cold. For my cereal and for cooking I enjoy Rice Vanilla milk. I also enjoy Tofutti sour cream and cream cheese. For yogurt I get O-Soy in various flavors. Yum! I enjoy any of the dairy-free ice creams, too. I don't miss drinking or using milk products from cows, but I do love to PAT cows!

Kelsey J says …

If you're looking for a great dairy free ice cream substitute be sure to try Arctic Zero "frozen dessert." It comes in flavors like chocolate peanut butter, strawberry, and maple vanilla. It's basically a frozen protein shake that taste great! Also it doesn't hurt that it only have 132 calories per pint! I know some Whole Foods stores already carry it, while some on the East coast won't be stocking it until May unfortunately...

Mary http://www.mygreendiet.com says …

I really like this post! I just watched an undercover YouTube video about the dairy industry and I am really upset about it. It was absolutely heartbreaking.

Chad says …

The So Delicious Coconut Beverage is AMAZING!!

Tara says …

I have been going dairy-free for the last two weeks - I love the alternatives!!

Laura says …

I tried the Coconut Milk Ice Cream NadaMoo and OMG!!! It is so creamy and delicious. The texture is rich and creamy like regular dairy ice-cream. Try the chocolate or the Java. It's so good!!!

Christina says …

I started having lactose problems while pregnant with our 3rd baby. I bought rice milk and almond milk and for me, hands down the 365 Rice Milk is wonderful! If you are used to something thick, try the almond. The rice milk is more "watery" like skim but still wonderful. (I used to drink 1%) I will say though, to use up the alond milk that I didn't care to drink straight up in a glass, I cooked with it and couldn't even tell a difference! Does anyone know if Rice milk can be sub'ed in a homemade icecream recipe?

Tiffany says …

I agree with Erin! The Coconut Bliss ice cream is probably my favorite "sinful" treat! If you're not into the coconutty flavor, the Mint Galactica is so minty, you can barely taste the coconut! It's definitely a delicious alternative!

Shannon says …

I know that goat's milk is still technically dairy, but it is also a good alternative to cow dairy, and it actually tastes and works just like cow's milk.

Kimberly says …

I recently developed dairy allergies (severe rash)and have switched to rice milk, which as stated is on the sweet side. It's almost like drinking rice pudding. But I am also allergic to carrageenan. I have yet to find a dairy free cheese that does not use carrageenan. I have not tried the almond milk because the brands I have seen in stores also use carrageenan ad a thickener. Carrageenan is a derivative of seaweed. So if you are allergic to shellfish, as I am, be very careful.

Lisa says …

THANK YOU FOR HAVING SUCH A GREAT SELECTION OF VEGETARIAN AND VEGAN PRODUCTS IN YOUR STORES. i'VE SHOPPED AROUND AND YOUR PRICES ARE FAIR. I'VE BEEN A VEGETARIAN ALL MY LIFE...37 YEARS. I'VE BEEN VEGAN FOR OVER A YEAR NOW. I ENJOY COOKING AND EXPERIMENTING WITH DAIRY ALTERNATIVES. THEY ARE REALLY QUITE VERSATILE! I LOVE THE SOY YOGURTS!

Naomi says …

Thank you! I'm a vegan so love new ideas for dairy-free alternatives. I like soy milk but these other 'milks' sound good too!

jennifer mcknight says …

I need more info if anyone could help! My son is 15 months ols, so he already can't have nuts and other things. Now he can't have dairy. I need alternatives for cheese, yogurt, ice cream and many other things. This post did help, but I'm still lost, as I love cheese, ice cream, and all dairy. PLEASE help!

marsh overstedt says …

I have a rather urgent need for goat's milk. Can you tell me whether your store(s) in Johnson County, Kansas, carry this product? Thank you.

Bepkom says …

Most of our locations do carry goat milk. However, product selection can vary throughout our dairy departments so you should double check with the store where you shop.

Shawn Bennett says …

I just wanted to add that there are people ( like myself) that suffer from renal failure who need to follow a low phosphorus diet. This means we must not eat dairy or beans because they are high in phosphorus. My dialysis nutritionist told me to try rice products (i.e. rice milk and rice ice cream) and I find them amazing. I just wish I could find the ice cream at more stores near me. I think I'm not alone on this since there are more people on dialysis than ever. I'm just saying :)

Jim says …

cannot find Everyday Whey powder to order or ingredient list on your website

renee edmisten says …

I am so... pleased you are carrying So Delicious coconut milk products. I have had dairy and soy related digestive problems for many years. Now I am in coconut heaven ! Please encourage the company to make CHEESE products ! Thank you, thank you!

Larry LeFoy says …

My wife is allergic to dairy products, milk, cheese, etc. Anything made with cow's milk. I would like to make homemade pizza for her with mushrooms, bell peppers and of course Mozzarella cheese. Is their a substitute for dairy Mozzarella cheese made with Soy milk?

says …

@Larry Many of our stores sell a dairy free mozzarella substitute made from soy or from almonds. Reach out to the Team Members at your Cheese Department next time you're in the store and have them show you all the dairy free cheese substitutes. They'll be happy to talk you through all our options. :)

Timmy says …

I've tried the Silk Almond milk (sweetened) vanilla flavor. While it doesn't taste anywhere near milk from a cow, it does have an amazing taste... It's kind of like having a lighter vanilla milkshake. It has a nice medium texture, not too thin or thick... It's also. FREE OF CARRAGEEAN. That's actually the reason I went with the almond milk. It's thickened with locust bean gum so none of that weird digestive issues that come with carrageean (am I spelling this right? Haha) while it doesn't have the protein soy milk has, it certainly is amazing.

Dana says …

Hi, I was wondering if you sold a rice base coffee creamer made by Good Karma. And if so, which store in San Diego has it? I cannot stand the coconut coffee creamer and I am allergic to soy. In desperate need of a good creamer. Help!! Thanks

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@DANA - Our products vary between regions and store locations so you will need to reach out to a specific store in San Diego to see if they carry that specific product. If they don't have Good Karma it's possible they have an alternative rice creamer recommendation!

Catherine says …

CHEESE! You guys carry the best casein-free dairy-free CHEESE on the planet, ever. Okay, okay, it's the only one I've ever had, but as an ex-cheese-lover, it's good! What is it called?

Deon Nelson says …

I have not been able to find the non-dairy sour cream substitute "IMO" brand anywhere, which seems odd as this product has been around for decades and tastes great, my parents used it. Is it no longer being manufactured? Or do customers need to request it for it to make back on the grocery shelves? Our family is newly Low fat Vegan and looking for healthy non-dairy alternatives. The Cashew cream is nice but still to high in fat for our needs. If IMO is out, do you have any recommendations? Thank you for your time and consideration.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@DEON - I researched the brand a little and some comments online mentioned the IMO had been discontinued. While our exact products vary between locations, we should carry a dairy free sour cream option. Often, there is a tofu option available in our dairy department. I would encourage you to reach out to your local store to see what they have in stock: http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/list.

Billy says …

I'm concerned about the carrageenan in the 365 Soy and Rice Milks.

GENATTA says …

DIARY FREE

KATHY CAMPOLI D'AMORE says …

Do you carry Go Dairy Free KEFIR at the RIDGE HILL WHOLE FOODS? If so please email me asap. Thank you.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@KATHY - Our products differ between locations so I would check with the specific store you plan to shop with.

Skye says …

What dairy-free sour cream products does the Palm Beach Gardens, FL Whole Foods carry?

Angélica - Community Moderator says …

@SKYE- Since each of our stores carry different products, I suggest you contact them directly at 561-691-8550. Thanks!

Susan Moore says …

Does Whole Foods carry a cheese substitute that is dairy-free, soy-free, and does not have pea protein. Granddaughter is allergic to: wheat, dairy, egg, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, beans, beef, and peas. We are trying to find a cheese substitute for her.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@SUSAN - Our products vary between stores. Check with your local store to see if this something they carry!

Judy says …

Have you found a replacement for Whole Soy & Co. Soy yogurt?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@JUDY - The last I heard they were switching manufacturer facilities and they should be back on the shelves soon!

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