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Dairy-free cooking is a way of cooking without incorporating any type of dairy products, usually because of such issues as allergies or lactose intolerance. A dairy-free diet does not contain dairy products such as milk, cheese or cream. Lactose, which is a type of sugar found in dairy products, can cause some people stomach problems, including bloating, pain and diarrhea. Cooking dairy-free does not have to be difficult and can generally be accomplished with some basic food substitutions and some creative recipes.
A vegan diet is a naturally dairy-free diet, though eating dairy-free does not necessarily mean eating vegan. Someone who follows a vegan diet does not typically eat any type of animal products, including meat, fish, eggs or dairy products of any kind. A dairy-free diet, however, may contain meat, fish and eggs, depending on the reasons for avoiding dairy in the diet. If lactose intolerance is the reason, then other animal products may not cause digestive problems.
Most dairy-free products such as milk, cheese and sour cream substitutes do not contain lactose or casein, a protein in milk that causes allergic reactions in some people. These substitutes may help ease cravings for those types of foods. Some brands are probably better than others, so it might be necessary to try several different types. Milk substitutes include such beverages as soy, almond or rice milk. Cheeses and creamy foods made from soy and other ingredients may also help.
One of the best tips to remember when cooking without dairy is to focus on what can be eaten rather than all the things that do not fit into the diet. Dairy products such as butter, cheese, milk, ice cream and yogurt are typically found in most people's diets, so dairy-free cooking may be difficult to adjust to. Focusing on the many types of foods that can be eaten instead can put the emphasis back on the positive aspects of the eating plan. Fruits, vegetables, meats, grains, eggs, nuts and many other foods typically fit very well into dairy-free recipes.
Nutritional yeast is a product often used by vegans to add protein and nutrition to their animal-free diets. Many people claim it has a nutty, slightly cheesy taste. It can be used in dairy-free cooking to give a slightly cheesy taste to some dishes, sauces and toppings. Several food manufacturers make special dairy-free substitutes for most dairy products, including cream cheese, ice cream, sour cream and some types of cheeses, that can also work well in dairy-free cooking. It is important to read the food labels to look for lactose and casein ingredients on most items if the reason for eating dairy-free is to avoid these elements.