Foodie sound off: why being dairy free sucks

I’ve been sharing my story of eating school lunches at Blissdom and also telling people that I’m now gluten-free and dairy-free. Their reaction — stunned silence.

That’s what happens when someone with a sensitive system decides to do what I did all year. Crazy. Or dumb. Or both.

The truth is I feel terrific now. I never think about my tummy like I did before. It never breaks consciousness. I can spend a whole day talking, working, playing and not once think “my tummy hurts,” “ouch,” “what was that pain?”

It’s freedom.


I miss some stuff.

It’s not wheat — I’ve found some terrific products that taste just as good.
It’s not cow’s milk — I got almond milk.
It’s not yogurt — there’s coconut milk yogurt

I miss cheese….

smoked gouda
mozzarella balls
grated parmesan
plain old sharp cheddar

Do you love cheese?

(lunches to follow tonight)

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51 thoughts on “Foodie sound off: why being dairy free sucks

  1. I miss some food sometimes..but it is so worth it not to have the pain, bloating, and crankiness. 🙂 And most times I have a craving I can make things with lactose free milk or cheese (both easily available in Spain).

  2. Oh, I love cheese. mmmm. I was dairy-free for 2 years when breastfeeding my son with an allergy. He outgrew that allergy, but it was very easy to be dairy free (and multiple other-free, as he had multiple food allergies) for that period of time. Now, I'd have to be totally convinced that dairy would make a difference for me to give up cheese. And as well, I could do without any other dairy–there are viable substitutes.

    I just went gluten-free again, after eating wheat (but not barley, rye, or oats) for 2 years (and I was gluten free for 4 1/2 years before that). And I had a moment yesterday that made me think of you! It was "baked mozzarella sticks" day at lunch. (ooh, cheese too!) I love them. It's the only thing I've ever eaten from the school lunch. Yum. So, I bought them, and while waiting to pay for them, took one bite and THEN remembered that I'm now gluten free. Oops. Thankfully it was just one bite, and the effects weren't too severe.

    When my son first went gluten free (other son, it's my elder son who is gluten free, younger son who outgrew multiple food allergies), he also had to be dairy free. But after 2 years of dairy free, he's been fine on dairy ever since. So, keep in mind that your gut could heal and be able to eat dairy again. Some day.

    1. Right on! I was “officially” diagnosed, by an allergy specialist, in the 1970s, as being allergic to wheat and milk. It took me many years of avoiding wheat and milk before a daughter convinced me that this was not allergies, but celiac disease. I insisted that since an allergy specialist had diagnosed it as allergies, that’s what it was.

      How wrong I was! After being on a totally gluten-free diet for two years, I hesitantly started trying milk products again, starting with yogurt. I can now eat any dairy products, in any amount, without the horrible bloating and every kind of abdominal pain you can imagine.

      My theory was that, after being entirely gluten-free for a period of time, my gut healed so it would tolerate the dairy products.

  3. Cheese is my lifeblood. I am from VT and we have wonderful Cabot Cheese that makes the best sharp cheddar. Soooo good.

    I can go without milk or ice cream, maybe even yogurt (though I do love it) but cheese…no way.

  4. I am a lacto-ovo vegetarian (though that is more like LACTO-ovo, as I hardly ever eat eggs) and one of the main reasons I can't give up dairy products is cheese and yoghurt. AND hot chocolate and Ice cream.

    I have to say, btw, that although I realise you are not subliminally advertising the laptop bentos on purpose (it's just what you use), I am really beginning to want one myself.

  5. I agree completely. Cheese is so hard to give up! When I start thinking about how good it tastes, I remind myself what it is. A cow's (or goat's) breast milk, that instead of going to their little baby, is converted into cheese. It grosses me out to think of it like that so it helps me to not want cheese. Doesn't always work though.

  6. Mrs. Q–I came to believe that cheese is good on almost everything and that it can make everything better. It's the ultimate comfort food.

  7. I miss cheese too! luckily, Daiya cheese tastes pretty good and some pizza places with GF crusts will serve their vegan cheese. its delicious as a grilled cheese on Udi bread!

  8. I am fairly certain that I'm sensitive to milk (although not lactose intolerant according to my blood tests) but I have decided I am prepared to accept the stomach aches, occasional upsets and bloating so that I don't have to miss out on cheese. It is soooooo good.

    1. Have you tried going on a totally gluten-free diet? It could be that you have celiac disease, and if your gut is messed up with all that gluten it could cause the stomach problems that you describe. You could try avoiding all gluten AND dairy for awhile, then _gradually_ try milk products again.

  9. I never thought I liked cheese or bread while I was growing up, but it turned out that it was because they were always around! Cheese "finishes" many vegetable-based meals for me; I'm not sure if it's because of the fat content or the protein-stringiness, but I'm far more content with my beans and rice if there's a sprinkle of monterey jack to top it off.

  10. Nuts, meant to include this in the last comment. I'm pretty sure cheese in general has less lactose than unprocessed milk, and the harder cheeses generally contain the least of all. So while mozzarella or gouda might be problematic, you could probably enjoy a small piece of cheddar or parmesan from time to time, as long as you don't have a sensitivity to tyramine.

  11. I've been gluten- and dairy-free since last November (2010). Like you, I feel so much better that most of the time I don't mind. But boy, do I miss cheese. It's the one thing that almost causes me to "fall off the wagon", when I'm at a social gathering and everyone is enjoying cheese. But I don't want to end up in the hospital again with an asthma attack, so I refrain.

    On the bright side, I've lost 25 pounds since Thanksgiving because I've eliminated the gluten and dairy. That sure is nice.


  12. Unlurking to say that cheese is pretty much the only thing I miss since going dairy-free, but I miss it a lot! My daughter is very allergic to soy and tree nuts so I don't feel safe having soy- or nut-based cheeses in the house. And rice cheese just doesn't do it for me.

    To the person missing milkshakes, I did too until I found the So Delicious brand of coconut milk products. Their refrigerated coconut milk beverage is really milk-like and does not taste like coconut at all, and their coconut milk ice creams are so creamy you'd swear they were dairy. All you need is a blender! (I am not affiliated with the company in any way, I just love their products.)

  13. I am lactose intolerant as well! I've tried every almond milk, soy milk.. they all taste chalky and horrible to me! I love coconut milk, but it has quite a high fat content. I drink skim lactaid and have had no problems with it. I actually think it tastes better than regular milk. For the most part I avoid dairy, but I found that if I take a probiotic I can usually tolerate cheese well. For ice cream, milkshakes, etc I take a Lactaid tablet which you can find at any major store–I get a big box from Sam's Club. I don't eat much ice cream/gelato or milkshakes, but when I do it's nice to know I won't have to pay for it later! I once found lactose intolerant ice cream from I believe Breyer's brand, but all they had was vanilla! Maybe someday they will come out with more flavors for us poor folks. hehe

  14. Cheese is incredible! And the fake options aren't really that good…

    I don't envy it. But cinnamon almond milk should definitely help you curb cravings 🙂

  15. Cheese is the hardest part for me too. I LOVE cheese, all of it. I gave up dairy a year ago and I feel like cheese is everywhere. Recently I discovered Daiya, it has changed my life. I'm telling you , it's so cheese like it could fool anybody. It's stringy, it melts and it actually taste like cheese. It's also gluten and soy free.
    At around 6.oo a bag I won't be eating it regularly but at least it opens up possibilities for pizza again.

  16. We're total cheese addicts at my house! Of course since my husband and I've been married, we've lived in cheese producing areas (like Wisconsin…) Couldn't live without it!

  17. Many people who are lactose intolerant can handle raw dairy products with no problem. Have you tried any raw milk cheeses? Whole Foods used to have a fabulous selection. I moved a few years ago, and haven't shopped there since then, so I don't know if they have changed their cheese department selections.

    I love cheese way to much to ever give it up. If I had lactose issues, I would definitely try raw milk cheese.

  18. I also meant to add that lactase, the enzyme that helps digest lactose, is destroyed by pasteurization. Obviously, in raw cheeses it's not destroyed, and that is why many people who are lactose intolerant or sensitive can eat raw dairy. I hope you give it a try!

  19. I have been a vegetarian for almost 25 years, and the only reason I haven't gone vegan is cheese, lovely cheese. I probably eat it 9 days out of 10.

  20. For sure. I feel your pain in the lactose department. Fortunately I can still get away with small amounts of ice cream, yogurt is fine (it is for most LI's actually), and a splash of cream in my milk, provided I go easy on the stuff.

    But what I really miss?

    Milkshakes and creamed soup from restaurants. Oh, I KNOW I can make my own potato soup at home using lactose free milk but seriously… when you walk into an Outback steakhouse and stare longingly at the walkabout potato soup on the menu, loaded with sour cream and cheese… or cream of broccoli from Marie Callender's… That's the stuff that makes me want to bang my head on the table and hide my head under the menu while I have a tantrum for the first time in 20-someodd years… 🙁

  21. I get almost all of my daily protein intake from dairy and from vegetables and for example soy based "meat" products (you wouldn't know it's not meat the way I season it!) and the about 4 times a week worth of sea food.

    I do eat meat, but most of my meals (especially lunches) are essentially otherwise vegetarian, except they come with different fantastic pieces of cheese. The small, individually packaged pieces of cheese stay fresh enough in a thermally insulated Laptop Lunch box/bag, and they often add a tasty element to the dish. Like grilled beetroot with grilled halloumi cheese as my lunch was one of my favourite lunches in the past week(s).

    I'd be hard pressed to cut cheese and yoghurt out of my diet entirely. However cutting out milk is possible, and I often drink soy milk or homemade sesame seed or almond milk in stead of cow's milk.

    I have friends who may be lactose intolerant against cow's milk, but not goat's milk, my dad and sister are allergic to a specific protein in goat's milk, and some lactose intolerant people I know aren't intolerant of some long matured cheeses, because the manufacturing process ends up converting the lactose into other, less irritating compounds.'

    It may be worth giving the matured cheese option a go, if you have a few days to spare in case there are tummy issues. And remember, there is medication that helps neutralise lactose, if you do end up choosing to eat cheese. Ask your doctor about it. That gave my friend S. a way to enjoy cheese from time to time.

  22. I do not believe I could live without cheese. Especially goat cheese. Couldn't you tolerate at least a little of the harder cheeses?

  23. I feel the same way. I have soy milk and other replacements, but just plain cheeses, oh how I miss them. You are right, being gluten free is doable…cheese…I feel sad!

  24. I come from France where (almost) every meal would include bread & cheese! It's been hard for me, adjusting to a gluten-free dairy-free diet…I miss the baguettes (rice bread just doesn't have the same texture!) and camembert/brie cheeses!! fortunately i can still have goat cheese (yum!) and mozarella/feta. good luck with your diet, Mrs. Q!

  25. Are you sheep and goat dairy free as well? I just moved to the Northeast and there are so many sheep and goat creameries around this area, the substitutions for cow milk cheese are endless.

  26. I've been vegetarian since I was 13 (I'm 28 now – don't remind me), but I was vegan for two years, while in college. I have to say, after the first couple months, I didn't crave cheese at all. Actually, I craved the taste of things without cheese. Like homemade pizza with tomato sauce, olives, and bell peppers – no cheese. But the thing that converted me back to my dairy ways was yogurt. I just couldn't stop dreaming about it. And I swear, for the past six years, I haven't gone a day without it. I'm serious. I eat it every day.

  27. Regarding goat milk and cheese — I appear to be sensitive to them as well. The good news on that front is that my son isn't sensitive to goat milk. Sort of odd, but everyone is different!

  28. I miss lattes and cheese! And really, I miss the ease of making something for dinner with cheese or dairy in it that my kids would willingly eat and I could eat too. Meals for the whole family are a much bigger challenge for me. Not the gluten free part, that's pretty easy. It's only in the past year that I suddenly can't eat dairy or I get terrible stomach pain and sickness. Why now? It's a huge bummer that I haven't really adjusted to.

  29. So far as an omnivore, a practicing vegetarian and even as a practicing vegan, I would have said that I l-o-v-e cheese. However, I didn't love cheese in the big picture, you know, with the havarti and brie and gouda and anything else I would have had to Google or search for in Wikipedia.

    I was the mozzarella and sharp cheddar cheese kind of person. I liked American "cheese" (which sometimes has so little dairy in it I almost considered it vegan–JUST kidding!) in a grilled cheese sandwich. I fell head over heels for a grilled cheese sandwich and scrambled eggs with cheddar cheese whenever I'd hit a diner with friends.

    I do realize how easy it was for me to be a vegetarian compared to being a vegan because consuming dairy and eggs still keeps you in the loop with omnivorous friends and family. I could have at least eaten pizza and lasagna ("normal" vegetarian foods that non-vegtarians don't wince at). I could have had the omelet at brunch without having to ask the waitstaff a million questions. I didn't get nervous at the Parmesan shredder over my salad or pasta. I can eat all kinds of desserts. I didn't want to create a scene with my food issues and I understand that food is emotional and cultural but I also had to ask myself, Who am I doing this for?

    At first, I still ate cheese with not much care since, first, being a vegetarian, I was excited to have Caprese salads as a usual option at lunch or dinner in restaurants! I still enjoyed my grilled cheese sandwiches and scrambled eggs and was excited when family members often made me lasagna when I came to visit them.

    Then, mostly as a vegan, I tried to replace cheese. At first it seemed so easy. There seemed to always be this one brand of "vegetarian" cheese available in supermarkets. The problem was, it was "vegetarian" and not vegan. I thought, You could have tried harder, XYZ company! I later discovered vegan cheese alternatives or mock cheeses at local "healthy" stores and supermarkets. Along with this discovery came sticker shock but I guess when you put so much mental and physical effort into your grocery shopping–especially for such specific diet–you know your options are limited and you sort of just suck up the higher costs. You think, it's for my health, right?! (Although, as much vegan talk recommends, it's not the health argument we should lean on.)

    I've moved on from cheese and most other dairy at this point. I am a practicing vegan though I have my slip ups. I don't try to replace cheese. The mock alternatives like the Daiya and Teese out there will not be on my grocery list often (though my introduction to Teese Cheese was great!). Nut "cheeses" have impressed me, though, and I may incorporate them more in my life and just not try to think or say that it's a cheese alternative.

    I've moved on from cheese because there is so much more out there! I know for a person like me who ate American-Cheddar-Mozzarella with the random Muenster moment in high school isn't missing much since I wasn't a connoisseur, amateur or otherwise.

    ANd in the end…vegans still have a lot of dessert options out there! Maybe too many! 🙂

  30. I have to agree with a few of the others above and say that Daiya is an awesome dairy free cheese. While I am not gluten free, I am vegan. I was not impressed with any of the other vegan cheeses on the market, and for 7 years did without. And then came Daiya. The first time I made homemade macaroni and cheese with it the heavens opened! I can enjoy nachos and grilled cheese again! In my opinion, definitely worth trying!

  31. Fresh mozzarella. I adore it.

    Like many here, I could go meat-free much more easily than I could go dairy-free. Cheese is that lovely thing that makes everything taste a little better…

  32. Cheese is definitely the most addictive … I hear your same complaint almost daily from readers! But stick with it, those cravings do go away 🙂

  33. I was a vegetarian who wanted to go vegan for a long time and kept failing. It was health reasons directly and immediately related to eating dairy that eventually tipped the scales for me. I've been vegan for nearly 4 years and don't at all miss dairy anymore. When you've had a nice long break from cheese, try some of the vegan cheese out there. Daiya, Teese, Cheezely, Sheese, Dr. Cow and We Can't Say It's Cheese all have some good products out there. There's also the Uncheese Cookbook, which has some really good recipes.

    Not to go all vegan preachy, but one of the things that makes me not miss cheese is really learning about how badly animals in factory farm settings are treated, even the dairy cows. And I used to have 17 varieties of cheese in my fridge at a time- the addiction can be broken!

  34. I have many dietary restrictions due to IBS, and most of them aren't that difficult for me, but cheese…I miss it so! There really isn't any replacement for it in my book. Yes, Daiya is pretty good, but it still not the same as a good piece of cheese. I have dreams about feta..LOL!

  35. My husband and I both have an allergy to the protein in cow's milk, causes sinus issues, not stomach ones. We use rice based cheese and just recently found if you add olive oil to it, it bakes and doesn't get crispy! It was very exciting. Sometimes a little ice cream is worth the stuffed nose.

  36. have you ever had almond or rice cheese?it's pretty spendy,but you might like it.
    That's a bummer about the goat cheese!I love goat cheese.

  37. I know this is coming in a little late but perhaps you will do okay with sheep's milk. I am in the midst of starting up my own aged (unpasteurized) sheep's milk cheese company and we will be able to make all of those cheeses listed above.

    I was not a huge cheese eater before we began our product and had eaten a very small variety of cheeses before now. We have been trying every sheep's cheese we can get our hands on and they are very tasty. The proteins and enzymes in sheep's milk compared to goat's or cow's milk differ significantly and for this reason many people who cannot tolerate lactose or other components of cow/goat milk are able to eat sheep's milk products without any issues. Perhaps this might help you bring some brie back into your life! Good luck!

  38. Mrs.Q, if your son doesn't react negatively to goat's cheese, that's good news. For example for snacks, you can chop up chives or red bell pepper or such, and roll little balls of soft goat's cheese in them, or for example sesame seeds or similar. They keep decently in the fridge, and are an easy lunchbox filler. 🙂

  39. I’m still new to this lactose free diet and I’m very put out with breakfast in the morning. I miss my white toast with bacon and eggs, it always gives me problems. Cheeses are hit and miss, I’m fine with hard cheese, it’s the soft ones that bother my digestion. Cream cheese, processed cheese slices, mozzarella, brie, etc. I remember prior to being lactose intolerant that I always imagined this was THE absolute worst thing that could happen to me, other than a life threatening disease of course. I loved my dairy and I do miss it but there are a lot of substitues out there that make life bearable. Wish someone would make lactose free white bread.

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