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Veganism and considering the health and welfare of both the animals and the planet aside, there are other reasons for deciding to go dairy free, and one of them is our skin.
For some of us, what we eat, or what we choose not to eat, has a profound effect on our skin. Not least an allergy or intolerance to dairy, which can cause our skin to misbehave, break out and become irritated.
So, if you have an allergy or intolerance to dairy, you might be feeling stuck on what to consume instead of milk, cheese and other common dairy products. You might feel the same if you’re thinking about going vegan or looking for dairy alternatives for other reasons too.
Here at Sönd we advocate for an alkaline diet, which is one rich in vegetables, and very low in meat and dairy (or completely eliminating all animal products). So we know a thing or two about dairy alternatives.
Here’s our take on the wide array of choices you have if you’re deciding to ditch the dairy to help support your skin or for any other reason.
Dairy alternatives for milk are perhaps the most common dairy free products on the market, and were (probably) the first.
In days gone by, soya milk was the only option, but nowadays, there’s so many different nut and seed milks that there’s one to suit all tastes. (That’s why this section is so much longer than the rest!)
Here’s just some of the milk alternatives that are on offer…
- Oat - the best dairy milk alternative for many as it doesn’t split in hot drinks, makes great smoothies and is a fantastic all rounder (and tastes creamy but not sweet). Plus, oats have the least impact on the environment and are generally grown in Europe rather than in sunnier climes, further afield. We’ve even found one that’s grown and produced in the UK. Look out for versions that use oats grown without the use of the harmful pesticide, glyphosate.
- Pea - yep, pea milk, and it’s not green in colour! Peas (or yellow split peas, to be precise) are rich in protein so are great in protein smoothies for pre or post workouts. It also tastes uncannily like cow’s milk - great if you love that taste, not so great if you don’t.
- Hemp - a relatively new kid on the block in terms of dairy alternators for milk, hemp is free from THC, the chemical present in cannabis that’s responsible for its ‘high’ and psychoactive effects. So hemp milk or any other hemp product won’t have a mind altering effect. Hemp milk is also great, sustainability wise. It has a nutty taste, not too sweet but can be fairly thin and watery.
- Rice - Many find rice milk to be too thin, watery and sweet to be of much use in hot drinks, smoothies, baking or on cereal. But if you like your tea or coffee sweetened, this could be a way of adding a touch of sweetness, without adding actual sugar.
- Soya - the bog standard dairy alternative for milk usually offered at hotel breakfasts as a dairy alternative, soya milk is quite divisive. Many don’t like the taste as it’s quite sweet, however, it is rich in protein. Some people prefer to avoid soya products as soya contains phytoestrogens, or plant oestrogens that can mimic our own (oestrogens are female hormones). These can cause a hormone imbalance, which can lead to a worsening of acne. Not great if you’re avoiding dairy for skin reasons! That said, if you only use a splash or two a day in hot drinks, then it’s unlikely to make too much of a difference.
- Coconut - rich, indulgent and creamy, coconut milk is tasty, but calorific! Perhaps best saved for treats and baking if you’re trying to avoid too much fat or a high calorie diet. It also comes with a hefty side of carbon footprint since coconuts can only be grown in tropical climates and transported to us in the UK.
- Almond - almond milk has recently lost its trendy dairy alternative for milk crown since they use so much water to grow, generally in California where water shortages are a real problem. However, almond milk is a good all rounder for cereals and baking, although you may find it splits in hot drinks. It’s rich and creamy, with a slightly sweet taste.
There are also lots of other dairy free milks such as hazelnut, cashew, tiger nut and even quinoa milks that are on the up. The fun is in the experimenting so get trialling! There are so many brands, too many to mention, so give them all a follow on social media and see which ones look like they align with your wants and needs.
But in our opinion, if you’re looking for the best dairy milk alternative and all rounder that doesn't split, works in everything, isn’t sweetened (although some are), tastes good and has a low environmental impact, then oat milk should be your go to.
Barista Style Dairy Free Alternatives
You’ll probably notice some “barista style” milks on the supermarket shelves. These are milks (usually oat, although we have seen pea) that have been developed to be even better in tea and coffee.
The problem, as we mentioned above, with dairy free alternatives, is that they often split, or curdle, when mixed with hot water and acidity from coffee. This results in a hot drink looking like it’s had either scrambled egg or cottage cheese added to it. Yep, gross.
But barista style dairy free alternative milks are different. They generally contain an added fat (in small quantities) to allow the milk to ‘stretch’ like the fats do in dairy milk, and form a satisfying foam, rather than grouping together in gross clumps.
This fat is usually an oil, such as sunflower oil. If you’re using a splash in hot drinks, it's unlikely to affect your calorie intake much, if you’re concerned about that.
How Good Are Dairy Free Milks in Tea and Coffee?
Thanks to the newer barista style dairy free milks, tea and coffee resembling cottage cheese are a thing of the past. So if your previous experience of dairy free milks in hot drinks is pretty poor, then try again!
We don’t think it’s right to ‘trick’ anyone into drinking dairy free milk, because we don’t think it’s right to knowingly get someone to consume something they’re not aware of. Not least because of nut allergies.
But if someone does visit us, we’ll always offer a cuppa. Then we admit that we don’t have ‘normal’ milk (almost apologetically).
Possibly because they’ve already committed to us putting the kettle on for them, they always say that’s ok. And they drink it! 100% of the time, they've said it didn’t taste any different. So unless they’ve actually chucked it in a flower pot, that means that in our “scientific” experiments, 100% of people like oat milk in their tea/coffee.* *This probably won’t appear in the Lancet anytime soon.
OK, so enough about milk, here’s a run down of the other items you might want to consider in your quest for going dairy free.
Unbelievably, some breads contain milk powders, in particular some cheaper breads used to make shop bought sandwiches. So always check the label if you’re trying to avoid all dairy. Also, some fresh breads found in bakeries may be brushed with butter to make them crispier, so be sure to ask your baker.
As a side note, if wheat and gluten causes your skin to react or you have an allergy or intolerance to gluten, then Genius Bread is perfect for you! Free from gluten, this range is chewy, tasty and perfect for sandwiches and toast. The range is also free from milk.
Until very recently, the only dairy free butter alternatives were dairy free spreads, aka margarines. If you’re like us, you won’t like the taste of these as margarine can taste plasticy. But now, all hail Naturli!
The Naturli Block tastes so much like ‘proper’ butter that it can make you wonder if you’re being hoodwinked. But you’re not, we promise. It’s delicious, and most definitely free from dairy.
Naturli isn’t available everywhere yet, so as another dairy free butter alternative, plump for sunflower or olive oil spreads that are labelled as dairy free. Just watch out for whey (which is a type of protein found in milk and milk products) in some olive oil spreads.
For years now, many people have been talking about their dislike of vegan cheese. Pre veganism for many people meant they LOVED cheese. So trying to find a dairy free alternative that tasted as good was a real mission, and one that many are still on.
Vegan cheese, unlike many plant based meat alternatives, simply doesn’t taste right. So it really is a case of trial and error until you find one that you like. Most, if not all, supermarkets now offer their own brand dairy free cheeses and there are lots of independents also doing the same.
Stand out dairy free cheese brands for us include Applewood for melting on toast or over a jacket potato and Violife for sandwiches and spreadables. One that we’re really impressed with is Nush. Their almond milk and chive ‘cheese’ spread is great on oatcakes.
As far as yoghurts go, dairy free versions are pretty good. Most are based on soya milk, so if you choose to avoid soya products, then these are best left on the supermarket shelves. Watch out too, for yoghurts with excessive amounts of sugar in them.
Again, Nush wins hands for us in this category as their Raspberry Yog is divine and a staple in our fridges! Made with almond milk, vegan cultures and no added sugars, it ticks all the boxes for flavour and health.
Dairy free cream alternatives, custards and even crème fraîche are now also becoming mainstream (yay, dessert time!). Trendy Swedish brand, Oatly, are leading the pack with their oat based dairy free cream alternatives.
(We must point out a recent controversy with Oatly though, over their decision to sell part of the company to a US investment company linked with various nasties. You can read the story here. They were also criticised for taking our beloved Glebe Farm to court, and losing, over an alleged copyright infringement.)
Many protein powders are made using whey, which as we discovered above, is a main constituent of milk (remember Little Miss Muffet with her curds and whey?). However, there are a huge array of protein powders that are dairy free alternatives.
Look for powders made with hemp and pea for the highest amount of protein per scoop. Vega is a great brand and contains no dairy or nasty fillers. Pulsin Pea Protein is also one of our faves.
There are many new dairy free ice cream brands now popping up. Check out Booja Booja, Swedish Glace and the Coconut Collaborative. We’ve also spotted that big brands such as Magnum, Cornetto and Ben & Jerrys are also now in on the act with vegan versions of their classics.
Aahhh chocolate! Nothing else quite satisfies like chocolate when all you want is chocolate. Dairy free versions are, in our opinion, a little bit hit and miss and sometimes don’t itch that scratch of wanting chocolate. (A bit like when, as a Brit, you try American chocolate, and it tastes weird.)
But we urge you to try the Vego range of bars and chocolate spread because they’re quite honestly divine. For true not to be shared (definitely hide the box from partners, housemates and kids) indulgence though, try Booja Booja truffles. Trust us, they’re a game changer, albeit a pricey one.
Galaxy Vegan is also a worthy food cupboard staple (that you can share) and it’s also worth remembering that most dark chocolate is naturally dairy free.
Finally, a word on the foods that sometimes contain an unexpected dollop of butter, milk powder or whey, where you really wouldn’t expect them. These foods contain what we call ‘sneaky dairy’ and include crisps (including some Doritos), meat products including hot dogs and pepperoni, soups, dressings and sauces.
Always read the label to be sure. Plus, look out for labels that say a product is suitable for vegans, as this will guarantee that a product is free from dairy.
We also have a meal plan filled with recipes that are completely dairy free that can help you plan and prepare skin friendly meals. Enjoy!
This article is not meant to treat or diagnose. Please visit your doctor for advice about any health concerns you may have.