Cutting Back on Dairy at Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

A recent United Nations Food and Agricultural Report revealed that dairy production accounts for 4 percent of man-made greenhouse gas emissions. That may seem like small potatoes compared to the 14-22 percent contribution from the meat industry, but that four percent adds up to over 1.3 billion tons of greenhouse gases per year!

Cutting dairy out of your diet completely might feel a little extreme for some folks, but even cutting back consumption can make a huge difference in your food’s environmental impact. Luckily, it’s simple and delicious to plan dairy-free meals! Here are some substitution ideas for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.


At breakfast time, peanut butter or other nut- and seed-butters are your best dairy replacements. Try spreading peanut, cashew, or almond butter on your toast instead of the dairy sort. A tablespoon of PB turns a regular bowl of oatmeal into a hearty breakfast, too!

If you’re more of a grits kind of breakfast-eater, you can substitute non-hydrogenated margarine or even a tablespoon or olive oil for that pat of butter. It’s better for your heart and just as tasty!

Looking to lighten your coffee or tea without dairy? No problem! There are a number of good soy creamers on the market. A new product, Mimicreme, is also excellent and contains no soy products, in case you’re trying to cut back on your soy intake. If you want to keep it simple, plain old almond milk is excellent in coffee and tea!

Next: Reducing dairy at lunch and dinner time


Instead of cheese on your lunchtime sandwich, you might spread a couple of tablespoons of hummus onto that bread. It adds a bit of protein and makes any sandwich more substantial. Avocado is another great cheese replacer in sandwiches and wraps.

For salads, a handful of nuts or seeds goes a long way. Avocado works wonders on replacing the cheese here, too. Since skipping the cheese means leaving out some fat, you might want to be a bit more heavy-handed with the oil in your dressing. This isn’t about dieting or feeling deprived, so treat yourself!

If soups are your thing, try some diced onions instead of a sprinkle of cheese on top. To make up for the calories you’d be missing, it helps to have a nice piece of crusty bread to dip into the bowl.


Missing that jar of Parmesan cheese on the dinner table? Nutritional yeast has a similar cheesy flavor without the impacts of dairy. Shake it onto pastas, soups, salads, or even potatoes. Speaking of potatoes, there are some really great dairy alternatives here, too. You can drizzle a baked potato with olive oil or top with a nice salsa. For mashed potatoes, olive oil and almond milk replace the butter and cow milk nicely.

If you’re making a casserole, you might try just leaving out the cheese and covering the top with a sprinkling of breadcrumbs and a drizzle of olive oil. Non-dairy cheeses don’t always go over well with omnivores, but if you’re feeling adventurous, Follow Your Heart and Daiya brand cheeses both melt nicely in a casserole situation.

Of course, it would be tough to cover every sort of dish in this context, but hopefully this provides a good jumping off point. The trick to subbing out the dairy in food is getting a feel for what options are out there and what works well in different sorts of dishes. It’s not science, so experiment and have fun with it!

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John chapman
John chapman1 years ago

I haven't used butter, or margarine in way over 25 years.

Once you get used to things without it.

I can't eat it on anything.

Peanyt butter is great on toast, or pancakes.

Kumar A.
Kumar A.4 years ago

Thank-you for the information, now i will share with rest as i love eating cheese and drinking milk. Never thought of the health problem it can cause besides its contribution to the greenhouse effect which is over 1.3 billion tons of green house gases per year. So its i am going for other alternative from now on.

Julia K.
Past Member 5 years ago

Great article! I avoid dairy products because they make me sick. Dairy production does contribute water pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Dairy products also play a major role in serious health problems such as cardiovascular disease, obesity,diabetes and even some types of cancer. It does not really matter if it is raw milk from grass-fed cows or standard "supermarket" milk, it is not the ideal food for humans, it is meant for calves!!

Rosie M.
Rosie M.5 years ago

I usually don't drink cow's milk or eat ice cream because I'm lactose intolerant, but I love cheese and yogurt. I tend to eat more cheese like feta or manchego, and Greek or organic yogurt.

Chinmayee Jog
Chinmayee Jog5 years ago

I didn't think about the hummus instead of cheese, what a great idea! Especially home-made hummus, yum :) Also, most of my daily dairy intake comes with my daily cup of coffee or tea - it's hard to use creamer or any other kind of non-dairy milk when your coffee comes from a designer cafe! Thanks for sharing...

Megan S.
Megan S.5 years ago

I just had almond milk for the first time, and I love it! More than soy! I hate real milk, butter, cheese, and yogurt is becoming less and less appealing- I would just spoon it down, but now I have to pound the wheat germ in it to makeit taste good..

The natural vegan process is happening to me, and let's hope I can persuade my mom to let me do it within the next year :)
I'm going for 2 days a week that are vegan, and after the tub of yogurt in the fridge is gone, I won't eat anymore animal products straight, except for maybe the occasional eggs when visiting family or icecream cone when on vacation and dont have much of a choice without family thinking Im starving myself

Lois K.
Lois K.5 years ago

I don't drink milk anymore, having substituted soy or almond milk. These are great on cereal! I've also cut back on cheese, but margarine is just AWFUL! I haven't tasted one yet that's anywhere near as good as butter. And isn't margarine supposed to be unhealthy, too, because of the hydrogenation process? Or has that changed in recent years? Honestly, I've lost track of what we're supposed to eat!

Lori A.
Lori A.5 years ago

Thanks for sharing!

Henrique Marsh
Past Member 5 years ago

Try spreading peanut, cashew or almond butter toast instead of milk to order. A spoonful of PB becomes a bowl of oatmeal should be a regular breakfast, too!
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Pete C.
Pete C.5 years ago

i only have a 1/2 cup every morning for a quick shot of carb to the muscles because i workout. i do also have a greek yogurt at my first snack because of the high protien content.