Dialing Down the Dairy

I grew up drinking milk, eating cheese and living for ice cream. They’re delicious! But as I grow older and learn more about dairy’s role in human nutrition and the way animals are treated so we can get a good chunk of feta, I’m dialing back.

I’m not a vegan, but I do unwittingly have vegan days – whole 24 hour periods where I will unintentionally not consume any animal products. After experimenting with vegetarianism and going full swing a few years ago, it just happens. It would probably be more accurate to describe me as “vegan-adjacent.”

While I haven’t dropped dairy altogether, I have cut back dramatically. After years of going without meat but occasionally enjoying fish, my thinking on the whole subject of animal consumption is evolving. Sticking with the things I was raised on is easy. It’s what I know. But as I keep thinking, learning and seeing more over time, dairy is growing harder for me to justify.

These days, my approach to things like cheese and ice cream is like my approach to marijuana before I got sober. I never sought it out (or even bought it, for that matter), but if weed happened to be around and getting passed my way, I’d take a few tokes. I’m the same way with cheese. I don’t seek it or buy it, but if it’s on an hors d’oeuvre tray at a party or an event, I’ll take a cube or a slice. If there’s pizza, and there is a meatless option, I’ll have a slice or two of cheese pizza.

But as time goes on, I find myself pulling back even further. As studies in dairy and nutrition have revealed, humans really don’t require any animal milk products. In fact, when I think about it, I find it kind of weird that we have built an entire food group around a substance that’s designed to nourish a baby calf until it’s an adult cow. It’s not intended for humans. It’s produced by mother cows for their baby cows.

Vegetarianism, veganism or going dairy-free are not the weird and fringy ideas that they used to be. The growing exploration, acceptance and practice of animal-free or animal-less diets has made adopting them much easier. More food brands, grocery stores and restaurants than ever are making vegetarian and vegan options available. Terrific solutions for people who are lactose intolerant have never been so good.

And they’re not just available… They’re delicious. When I lived in New York, I’d often go to Two Boots Pizza around the corner from my apartment to get a slice or two (or a whole pie) of their “V” is for Vegan pizza. It was ridiculously good.

A slice of the fabulous “‘V’ is for Vegan” pizza at Two Boots, NYC. It’s made with Daiya non-dairy cheese, artichokes, shiitakes, red onions and a criss-cross of basil and red pepper pestos. I could eat this every night.
As far as milk goes, I cannot remember how many years it’s been since I bought it. My move away from it started with a roommate who was lactose intolerant. He used to buy soy milk, which I started to really enjoy. I’ve since settled on unsweetened almond milk, which I enjoy even more.

Blue Diamond “Almond Breeze” almond milk, unsweetened. My go-to with cereal.
Yogurt was tricky at first, since one of my favorite breakfasts was yogurt with granola, fresh berries and honey. But I recently stumbled on a dairy-free yogurt alternative made with coconut milk. It comes in vanilla, regular or unsweetened (my preference), and it’s out of this world. In taste and texture, it’s reminiscent of the traditional yogurt from Stonyfield. Yummy.

So Delicious, my new favorite with granola and berries.
And speaking of coconut milk… I love a good sorbet. Who doesn’t? But there’s really nothing like a good ice cream. There is a family-owned ice cream company here in Cleveland called Mitchell’s who makes a salted caramel and pecan non-dairy ice cream alternative, made with coconut milk. Oh… Emm… Eff… Geee… It’s my new favorite thing. (I just scooped a spoonful of it after I wrote that sentence.) When I was still in NYC, I also found insanely delicious non-dairy ice cream alternatives from Van Leeuwen.

Don’t get me started.
Cream cheese was another stumbling block for me, because I absolutely love it on a bagel. Then my brother Mark recently introduced me to Daiya’s dairy-free cream cheese style spread.

Daiya non-dairy cream cheese spread. Delicious.
The point of this post is not to preach or pontificate. This is just my journey. This blog is about the pursuit of sartorial stealth and effective living. To me, the pursuit of effective living involves a willingness to explore different and hopefully better goods, services and ideas that enable me to live a reasonably contented, productive, healthy and happy life, while being mindful of the impact that my choices have on not just other people but on all sentient beings. Rethinking the way I eat for my benefit and for the benefit of animals – something very important to me – is essential to that pursuit.

As of this writing, when I’m at a party where apple pie a la mode is being served for dessert, I’ll eat the ice cream. The point isn’t across-the-board absolutism for me. It’s about progress and willingness to change. Maybe one day that progress will inspire me to take the plunge and go totally vegan. For the moment, that progress is about dialing down, at the very least.

If you have any suggestions of other ideas or non-dairy products, please leave a comment below. As I pull away from dairy, not only am I finding delicious alternative options, but I’m also feeling very good.


  1. I really like oat “diary” – milk, yoghurt, cream etc. In Sweden, where I live, there are also great whipping cream made on the base of coconut oil etc. so that might be a good idea for all cakes and pastries. I still did not find anything to replace eggs though.

  2. I love the way you are approaching healthy living and I on the same journey as I get older, trying to be as health conscious as I can. I definitely have a problem tolerating dairy and started using almond milk, but you have to be careful as some brands such as Almond Breeze contains carrageenan. See Dr. Weil’s article. I use the Dilk brand now and Costco carries it.

  3. Kevin Fine Reply

    I adopted a vegetarian diet about four years ago (and marathon running), and also use almond and cashew milk, but still get a lot of protein from Greek yogurt and cheese. I know that the transition to less dairy is next for me, and found your suggestions really pragmatic and simple to implement (which, as a non-chef-type, I need), as are almost all your style, and lifestyle, insights.

    Still sorry you left NYC, but hope Ohio is treating you well.

  4. Nice one George ! Try replacing the yogurt out of the Granola with almond milk matcha green tea. Boom. Oh and that pizza looks ‘king amazing!

  5. Seeing this post on a men’s lifestyle site is absolutely heartwarming. Next month marks 5 years vegan for me, and I cannot say enough awesome things about cutting dairy (and for me, all animal products).

    I’ve never felt better. I’m almost 33 and I’m looking ten years younger than so many from my high school class. But putting that and the issues I take with animal agriculture from an ethical and environmental position, the food is amazing!

    First, your tastes change as you move away from the incredible amounts of salt so many animal products include. You start to appreciate spices and real flavors of each item. You want dessert? Cool, mainstreamers Ben & Jerry’s just released its 4th and 5th vegan flavors (one tastes like somoa girl scout cookes). Breyer’s dropped 2 vegan ice cream flavors this week.

    Meat alternatives exist, and you can create your own using soy curls and “better than bouillon”. Vegan sushi, a burger that “bleeds” and wins worldwide competitions, and so much more!

    I won’t keep going, but please, anyone that is ever interested in learning more, feel free to reach out to me. I went 27 years not being vegan, so I have no place to judge anyone when the light flips on for them.

    Thank you again – this article made my day!

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