Let me preface this blog by saying that I love dairy products, and specifically I love cheese. Creamy pasta with oozing cheese, pizza with a perfect melting mozzarella, and the ultimate in indulgence, the cheese board – I can’t get enough of the stuff.

After being plagued with health problems mainly to do with chest and sinus congestion over the past ten years, I finally started researching how food can affect your body and cutting out certain foods that had been proved to have an adverse effect.

The heart-breaking moment came when it became apparent that my main issue was dairy. I may have ignored this for a little while, but after the initial writhing and insisting “NEVER”, my health reached a low point and I was forced to give it a go.

Dairy-free eating isn’t the easiest when shopping and eating out, but it’s certainly a lot easier now than a few years ago. According to a report in April, more than half of us bought a ‘free-from’ product in the previous three months.* In response to this demand, UK supermarkets are upping their game, increasingly stocking a wide range of products and ‘free-from’ sales grew by 36% last year alone.* Younger people are the most likely to veer towards the dairy and gluten-free ranges*, and the term ‘vegan’ has seen a 90% increase on google searches.^

It’s clear that ‘free-from’ is big, but some restaurants still have a way to go to catch up. 12% of UK households are dairy-free due to health reasons, whilst 10% are gluten-free.** Although gluten-free options are increasingly being seen on menus, restaurants still don’t provide many dairy free alternatives to usually creamy / cheesy dishes. 61% of those eating dairy-free find it difficult to find a dessert to suit the dietary needs.** With everything containing dairy including pizza, pasta, and even the butter and cream that makes mash so delicious, I find it hard to find something that I really want to eat.

Going dairy-free has involved a lot more effort and thought into what I order and cook, but it has been worth it as I have seen a vast improvement in the way I have been feeling. Here is a little insight into my first month:

Week 1

Breakfast was an easy swap, discovering Oatly Oat Drink makes a perfect substitute for milk in my daily porridge. Changing our dinner habits has been a bit more difficult, with my boyfriend and I usually reverting to quiche, pizza or a quick creamy pasta on our more busy days. We find ourselves having to cook from scratch a lot more, which is no bad thing for our health in general.

Week 2

I dream of cheese. Black coffee offers little satisfaction and most milk alternatives seem to split in my drink. Tea has been largely cut out as I can’t abide a bad tasting cuppa. How will I continue?

Week 3

I’m feeling a lot better. My horrid daily cough is largely a thing of the past and breathing has become clearer. Surely cutting out cheese but being able to breathe is a fair swap. I have even discovered Oatly Barista Milk, a lighter alternative that doesn’t split in my hot drink. Milk coffee has returned and tea is back in my life!

Week 4

I hardly recognise myself. I have become obsessed.

I search the aisles of supermarkets for all the alternatives I can. I curse the layout of the supermarkets that have dairy-free milk in both the fridge section and the baking section. Some supermarkets have dairy-free cheese with other cheese and some in a fridge of its own two aisles down. I am visiting Holland and Barret to ask them to order in my favourite milk. I’m stocking up whenever I see a good selection.

I find myself texting my mum pictures of dairy free milkshakes I find, and the discovery of Oatly Crème Fraiche (Crème Fraiche being my constant companion when it comes to cooking) had me annoying everyone around me by going on about it.

I may have had to become a detective and try everything to find the really good alternatives, but it has been easy for it to become obsession when you’re feeling so much better. And with the announcement that Ben and Jerry’s vegan ice cream is being launch in the UK this month, things are looking up!^^

Caveat: I wasn’t paid in any way to promote Oatly products in this blog – it’s just that they’re so good!

* http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-39488047
** http://www.fatc.co.uk/allergy-labelling-how-confident-is-the-freefrom-customer-when-eating-out
^^ http://metro.co.uk/2017/09/06/ben-jerrys-dairy-free-ice-cream-for-vegans-is-finally-here-in-the-uk-6905820/

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