I'm a girl who needs her morning cup of coffee to survive, and I've never learned to take it black, so finding a creamer substitute was priority one. There are tons of options, from almond milk to coconut milk to hemp. But after sampling them all, I vastly preferred the consistency of soy creamer, which seems to blend the best into my coffee. At home, I use Silk soy creamer, and when I'm out, I can always count on Starbucks for a soy latte.
However, for drinking straight, taste matters more than consistency, and to me that means almond milk. My favorite brand is Califia Farms, which I find at Whole Foods, because it's creamier and has more flavor than others I have tried. And while the healthiest choice would be unsweetened, this almond milk comes in some fun flavors -- even seasonal egg nog. If you have time on your hands, you can even make your own almond milk and flavor it as you like with vanilla extract, dates or maple syrup.
Photo: Califia Farms
When I first shopped for a butter alternative, I took home a tub of Country Crock, not realizing it contains whey, which is a milk product. So that was my first lesson in carefully reading ingredients. Then I found Earth Balance buttery spread, which is not only dairy-free and non-GMO but insanely delicious. Plus, I like how easily it spreads on toast. It comes in several varieties, including olive oil--our favorite--and you can also buy it in stick form for baking. It's so good that even when my baby outgrows her dairy allergy, we'll probably still use Earth Balance.
Photo: Earth Balance
Good news for ice cream lovers: You will not suffer going dairy free because there are so many truly delicious cow's milk alternatives out there. My guiltiest pleasure? Chocolate-covered salted caramel pops from Coconut Bliss. Made with organic coconut milk, they are completely non-dairy yet rich and satisfying--so much so that my 5-year-old keeps stealing them, unaware they are not real ice cream. More good news: Ben & Jerry just came out with four non-dairy flavors made with almond milk, including Chunky Monkey. It's a good time to be dairy-free.
Photo: Coconut Bliss
It was hard for me to give up my daily breakfast of Greek yogurt and fruit. It was even harder on my stomach. My doctor recommended a daily probiotic capsule to replace the good bacteria I had been getting from yogurt. While some yogurts made with milk alternatives do contain probiotics, they are not always the tastiest on the market, so I recommend doing some experimenting. When it comes to straight up flavor, I love So Delicious, which makes excellent coconut milk and almond milk yogurts. (Sometimes soy yogurt can have a weird aftertaste.) One thing to note is that these faux yogurts are not as filling as the real thing, so I'll add nuts or granola and fruit to feel satisfied.
Photo: So Delicious
Some people swear by faux cheeses. I am not one of those people. I find the consistency weird, especially when melted (ugh). Instead of trying to replace real cheese with fake cheese, I seek substitutes for the cheese experience. For example, when I miss the creaminess of cheese, I'll eat more rich and creamy avocado, hummus or peanut butter, all of which are great on a sandwich. When I crave the salty crunch of parmesan flakes on my pasta, I brown bread crumbs in garlic and olive oil. Since I used to always scramble my eggs with cheese, now I fry them on a tortilla with beans and salsa and get all the flavor kick I need.
As for pizza, my favorite trick is to order it sans cheese, but loaded with vegetables. Okay, so it's more of a flatbread at that point, but still delicious. The one exception to my fake cheese ban is Tofutti's Better Than Cream Cheese. Layered onto a bagel with sliced tomatoes, it's bland but not bad. You can also use it to make dips and desserts.