How to Give up Dairy When You Love Cheese

Tips for Getting Over Your Cheese Addiction

How are you supposed to give up dairy when you love cheese? This problem stumps so many people who are interested in eating a plant-based diet.

It’s not uncommon for people to love cheese and other dairy products. When you are one of these people, and you want to cut it out of your diet, there’s a little problem. You’re going to find that it’s much easier said than done.

Maybe your doctor advised you to stay away from cheese, or perhaps this your first step to a healthy, vegan lifestyle. Regardless of what your motivation may be, the struggle that this decision brings remains the same.

The good thing is that the process you must go through is the same no matter the motivation behind it. This means you can successfully apply the tips below to help you get over your cheese addiction.

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1. Focus On What You Can Eat

One of the problems I’ve noticed with people who want to give up cheese is that they’re always focused on cheese. Imagine your life without cheese for a moment. Does that sound like a nightmare?

Now think about every food that you love that doesn’t include cheese. Even with cheese out of the picture, you still have all these favorite meals that you can chow down on to your heart’s content.

Your favorite cheese-filled meals likely have a delicious dairy-free version that you can try. If anything, this journey means that you can start to explore new places to eat out that you never have noticed before.

There are more vegan and dairy-free restaurants out there than I can count. I recommend trying at least a few of them out.

How did you find out that you liked the foods you already do? It was a process of discovery, wasn’t it? So how are you going to find more things that you enjoy if you don’t give yourself a chance to try them?

There are more delicious dishes without cheese in them than there are ones with cheese in them. There’s no time like the present to start pleasing your palette in ways you never thought possible.

I’m not sure what your kitchen routine looks like, but chances are that you have a few signature recipes with cheese in them. I have two things to say about this.

First, you don’t have to lose these meals altogether. I’m going to be sharing some substitutes you can use that do the job well.

Second, this is your chance to let your creative and cooking juices flow. You have access to an endless number of cheese-free recipes on the internet, so why not give them a shot?

Here are some of my favorite dairy-free recipes:

2. Keep Your Pantry Well-Stocked

When food runs out, you run to the grocery store to buy more stuff. Though that’s an easy routine to fall into, I want you to put a real concentrated effort into making sure that you have foods you like on hand.

Your snack cupboard should be one of the main areas of focus here. There’s a good reason for this.

You’re making a significant lifestyle change and when you’re hungry or stressed, you want something satisfying. If you’re out of your favorite dairy-free foods, you’re going to resort to old habits that include cheese.

So, my advice is to keep lots of food options handy that aren’t cheese. The same way you’d normally snack on cheese, you can start snacking on whatever it is that you buy in its place.

3. Eat Out Less In The Beginning

Here I’m telling you to eat out less when just a few paragraphs earlier I was mentioning exploring new dairy-free restaurants. During the initial timeframe of giving up cheese, it’s best to explore places that aren’t serving cheese in anything.

As you get more comfortable and you have more control over your cheesy desires, you can return to eating out, based on your normal routine.

The reason for this is simple. The more control you have over the food you prepare, the higher likelihood you’ll stick with being cheese-free.

You can buy groceries and intentionally leave the cheese out of the equation. Even if you do get a craving, there’s no cheese easily available, so you must do without.

Putting yourself in such a cycle eventually makes it your norm.

If you constantly eat out at cheese-filled restaurants, imagine what happens when the craving comes on while you’re at an Italian restaurant. Even if you intend to get a cheese-free dish, there’s a lot of temptation around with cheese sticks and grated Parmesan.

4. Use Vegan Cheese Alternatives

Let me start with a very simple, yet effective piece of advice. Leave cheese alternatives alone until you feel yourself adjusting to the non-cheese lifestyle.

My reason for this is your mentality.

When you’re just starting to work on giving up cheese, you are going to desire it a lot. That means you may subconsciously think nothing can satisfy you but cheese.

I’ve seen people experience this problem, and they form incorrect conclusions about vegan alternatives to cheese.

They tell themselves it’s not the same, and the flavor and texture don’t compare to those of cheese. On the flip side, there are the people who wait until they’ve kicked their cheese addictions before trying the vegan alternatives, and they tend to enjoy them.

Once you are ready to start trying these alternatives out, you can use them in place of cheese in all your favorite recipes. Non-dairy cheeses with great taste and texture are available in spades.

One of the easiest ways to find a cheese alternative is to look for the word “vegan” on the label. Additionally, check to ensure that whatever cheese you’re choosing doesn’t contain sodium caseinate or casein.

Why should you do this? Well, those proteins come from milk and if the cheese contains them, you aren’t walking that non-dairy path.

Some of the best vegan cheese alternative brands are:

  • Dr. Cow Tree Nut Cheese
  • Parmela Creamery
  • Punk Rawk Labs
  • Vromage
  • Treeline Tree Nut Cheese
  • Daiya Foods
  • Kite-Hill Artisan Vegan Cheese
  • Miyoko’s Creamery

Luckily, you’re trying to find vegan cheese alternatives now and not when vegan cheesemakers just started trying to create alternatives. Back then, all they cared about was making the cheese look like traditional cheese.

As you can imagine, that meant that the flavors were nothing like cheese. Old-style vegan cheeses tasted gritty and didn’t melt.

Thankfully, they realized the error of their ways and started working on the taste as well. Today’s vegan cheese is creamy, melty, and tastes very similar to dairy-based cheese.

How is Vegan Dairy-Free Cheese Made?

The vegan cheese creation process looks a lot like the one used for traditional cheese. Of course, everything comes from plant protein.

The sources of protein include nuts, such as macadamias and cashews, as well as soy and vegetable oil. Tapioca, peas, arrowroot, and agar may also be used to make the cheese.

Of course, it takes quite a bit of processing to get vegan cheese out of such ingredients. To this end, you are likely to find starches and thickeners, which include carrageenan and xanthan gum added. 

Vegan cheesemakers use bacteria to separate the plant proteins. After this, the oils and thickeners help create the cheese texture that I know you desire.

As is the case with normal cheese, time is a big part of achieving the desired result. The bacteria and protein must be given a long enough period to stay and breakdown further.

Do All Vegan Cheese’s Taste The Same?

Each brand and style of vegan cheese tastes different, just like how every type of dairy cheese has a distinct flavor.

While I gave you several amazing brands that make vegan cheese, I advise you to try out the different options and find one that appeals to you.

I say this because I want to encourage you not to completely form your vegan cheese impression, based on the first brand you try.

The bacteria and protein in normal cheese bond with each other innately. This makes it easier to for them to create the desired flavor. Plant protein doesn’t work the same way, which is why the processing is different.

While some vegan cheese brands hit the nail on the head, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that others slightly miss the mark. 

So, if the first plant cheese that you try tastes great and melts the way you like, you can stick with it. If the cheese is just OK, I say try something else.

Vegan cheese is far from boring, and once you find the right flavor, it’s going to seamlessly become a part of your life.

Just remember my advice about holding off on the alternatives until you’re a bit more comfortable not eating traditional cheese. 

5. Try Nutritional Yeast

Vegan cheese alternatives aim to replicate the taste and texture of traditional cheese. What if the appearance doesn’t matter to you, and you just want the flavor?

That’s where nutritional yeast comes into the mix. I can’t express how many vegans think of nutritional yeast as their best friend.

This flavor substitute is yet another reason why you’ve chosen the perfect time to get away from traditional cheese. In the past, nutritional yeast was not the easiest thing to get your hands on.

Thankfully, the internet changed that, and it’s also way more readily available in grocery stores.

If you have mashed potatoes, popcorn, or even pasta dishes, feel free to break out the nutritional yeast to add that cheesy flavor that you love. You can even use it as a substitute in “cheese” sauces. 

Just in case you are sensitive to yeast, there is no need for you to worry. The yeast used in this cheese flavor alternative is all deactivated, which means you shouldn’t see any adverse effects. 

Here is a little information for those who want to learn the vegan jargon on a more personal note. As you’ve probably realized, saying “nutritional yeast” is a bit of a mouthful.

I’m not sure if that’s the reason for this slang term, but nutritional yeast is affectionately known as “nooch.”

If you happen to be out of nutritional yeast but still want to get that umami flavor, check out these nutritional yeast substitutes. There’s no true substitute but the ones listed in that article are the closest you can get.

6. Seek Out Advice

I know I don’t have to tell you this but you’re not the first person who decided to cut cheese out of your diet. Whether it’s cheese only or dairy overall, many people before you have made the switch and they’re doing well.

So, the question is, how can you do just as well or even better? 

One thing I appreciate about the vegan community is the lack of toxicity present. Everyone understands that new people are trying to make these health-conscious decisions daily.

Remember that they were also just starting this journey at one point. What that means is that they can be fountains of information for you. 

My advice here is the seek out as much knowledge as you can get from these people. The chances are that they faced the same struggles you did and they were as lost as you probably feel right now.

Maybe if they had all this to read, things would be a bit easier but who knows? 

In any case, try to think about everything that you’re either unfamiliar with, or you don’t understand fully.

Whether it’s vegan events, vegan restaurants, or even internet forums, ask all the questions you can, and seek whatever clarification you need on the responses.

I’m not telling you to do exactly what someone else did, as it may not work for you. You still need to consider how you are going to handle your journey.

Though this is your nutritional journey, you don’t have to go through the whole thing alone.

It’s OK if you talk to others and make use of the community until you’re able to do it on your own. When you get there, remember to pay it forward to other new vegans.

Conclusion

While cheese addiction isn’t a real medical diagnosis, it is a large stumbling block many people have when trying to give up dairy. The best tips are to set yourself up for success.

This means having cheese-free snacks on hand and finding dairy-free versions of your favorite recipes. Once you get through cheese cravings, you can start adding in vegan cheese alternatives.

While you’re on this vegan journey, expect to make mistakes and have the transition take longer than you expect. It’ll be alright! Look for people who have been there to share some knowledge and offer a well of information.

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Stephanie Mantilla

Plant-Based Diet & Vegan Lifestyle Expert

Stephanie is the founder of Plant Prosperous, a plant-based vegan living, and parenting blog. She has been eating a plant-based diet for over 24 years along with a B.S. in Biology & Environmental Science. She also has over 14 years of experience working in the environmental and conservation sectors. Stephanie is currently raising her son on a plant-based diet and hopes to help others who are wanting to do the same. You can read more about her here.

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