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!