Okay, confession time: this post was totally going to be called 'cutting OUT dairy', but as it turns out lockdown is really really hard, and after months and months of being pretty much completely dairy free (apart from the odd biscuit or milk powder in something), I've started eating little bits of dairy here and there. It's hard to keep control of everything at this weird point in history, and honestly if making millionaire's shortbread over a weekend makes me feel better, then I'm going to do it.
Anyway, I just wanted to give that way over lengthy explanation because after almost a year of cutting dairy out I really wanted to post this, despite the recent setbacks. I gave it up initially mostly because it makes me feel unwell - eating lots of dairy makes me sick, gives me stomach cramps and makes my joints hurt. I feel a lot better without it, but obviously saying goodbye to cheese isn't easy.
1.) Don't feel as if you have to cut it all out at once. I haven't drunk milk in about six years, and I really don't miss it. Not having to give this up at the same time as cheese, chocolate etc, made the whole process a lot easier. Now in lockdown when I'm struggling with the no dairy thing, I've still managed to completely avoid cheese, so when I get stricter again saying no to things with chocolate in shouldn't be so hard.
2.) Try different alternatives until you find ones that suit you. I'm a big fan of rice or coconut milk, Asda's own free from chocolate, Food heaven whipped cream, Violife original flavour block and Morrison's grated mozzarella. It took a while to find things I enjoyed as replacements, but I would really struggle with no replacements. It means I can still enjoy chocolate when I want to and a jacket potato with beans and cheese (the ultimate comfort food) isn't off the menu.
3.) Look up restaurant menus before heading out to eat. Although it's getting much easier to find good dairy-free options in restaurants because of the rise in veganism, there are some that really aren't great at it. I'm quite fussy when it comes to food so finding good dairy-free options that I'll like can be hard if restaurants only have one or two options.
4.) Speak to friends and family about it. I've had a lot of amazing recommendations for dairy-free/vegan food from friends that I would never have managed to come across without speaking about making this lifestyle change. It also makes things a lot easier when it comes to big family meals or outings.
5.) Accept that some times are more difficult than others. Sometimes I go weeks without missing dairy at all, and then Easter rolls around and all I can think about is mini-eggs. Or my period rears its head and I get into a proper mood because I can't eat a twirl bar. It's much easier to accept that you might slip up, or might crave it at more times than others than it is to beat yourself up about missing and wanting dairy.
Not eating dairy is something I'm really struggling with at the moment as I mentioned at the start of this post, so it feels like a bit of a weird time to be writing this. However, I think it's good for me to think about how I've done this *almost* completely successfully over the last year, and to acknowledge that things are difficult now but I haven't completely back peddled on everything.