One of the TOP responses I get as a vegan is the never-ending, “I could NEVER live without cheese!” People look at me as though I just asked them if they could cut off their own limbs.
Trust me when I say, “YES, yes you can.” (Give up dairy that is, not dismember yourself, silly.)
Seriously, I used to be a cheese JUNKIE. Really! I would look for any reason to eat cheese. Dinner seemed better with a thick layer of dairy melted on top. Midnight snacks would just be me, standing with the refrigerator door open, shoveling cheesy slices into my mouth. I loved it all- cheddar, mozzarella, munster, asiago, swiss…the list goes on and on. The more aged and stinky, the better. When I moved out on my own, I fell into the culinary craze of cheese, always looking for something different to add to my dinner creations.
So when I tell you that YES, you can live without dairy, please understand…I NEVER EVER wanted to give it up!
Related: Healthy Vegan Mac and Cheese
That’s why I was a vegetarian for a whole year before I became vegan. And when I first kicked dairy out of my life for good, I felt the sting of remorse. There wasn’t a lot of hip vegan cheeses on the market yet, so I had to learn to live completely without it!
But you know what? I couldn’t stand to support the system any longer. As a newbie vegetarian, I had already come to terms with the meat industry. I simply could NOT (and WILL not) support an industry that breeds for taste; one that abuses and tortures living creatures. So I had to recognize that the dairy industry is only an extension of animal agriculture. By eating dairy, I was giving my money to the very industry that disgusted me.
Why You Don’t Need to Eat Dairy
When we are kids, we are shown happy little pictures of cows in service to humans, seeing their life through rose colored glasses. It’s almost as if we think that cows are magical animals that produce milk at any time, but sadly, they don’t.
In order to serve our monstrous appetite for dairy, cows are subjected to a lifestyle that is horrific and heartbreaking. They are forced to become pregnant over and over, only to have their babies taken from them and their milk stolen. I don’t think I need to really go into the details- if you really want to open your eyes to the evils of the dairy industry, you can visit this link here (don’t worry, I spared you from graphic photos). What I found, after reading up on common procedures of factory farming and dairy production, is that this industry is not good for ANYONE, animals AND humans included.
While the cows experience a life a pain, the workers do too. Being around that type of work is not nourishing to your soul in any way. It’s also wrecking our environment on a global scale. To read about the environmental factors, please click here.
So reason numero uno why you don’t need dairy? It’s not good for the animals, the workers, or the planet.
Reason number two? It’s not good for your body either!
Contrary to popular belief, excess dairy in your system can cause a number of problems. We grew up with those famous milk mustaches telling us that milk “does a body good,” when actually that couldn’t be farther from the truth. We only need milk as infants from our own mothers, and there is no reason to consume milk after the age of 5. To read more about the health concerns of dairy consumption, please click here.
If you are concerned about calcium, reach for dark greens such as kale, collards, watercress, and other varieties. You can also drink a tall glass of orange juice or almond milk in the morning.
For me, once I became aware of how cows are treated within the industry and the health concerns of consuming milk products, it was a “no going back” type situation. I just couldn’t shake what I was really putting into my mouth– it was now tainted and not appetizing like it was before. Of course, as I said eariler, I had to adjust to living life dairy-free. I was determined to find good substitutes in the future, although at the time, they really didn’t have much to choose from on the market.
People will shudder at the thought of drinking the milk from any other mammal, but our society has been conditioning our minds for so long about cows milk, that we often disassociate from what we are actually eating.
There is also a huge push and shove when it comes to the information of health and dairy. While you will ALWAYS find health information for both sides of the argument, let’s get one thing straight- billions, if not trillions of dollars has been filtered into advertising through commercials, magazines, and articles by the meat and dairy industry; shaping how you view their products and making DAMN SURE that you buy into it.
To go against the industry, for me, is standing up for justice, truth, and above all…love. Love for other living beings, and love for yourself.
If I can stop eating cheese…YOU CAN TOO.
The process of giving up dairy doesn’t have to be overnight- milk products are so intertwined with our comfort foods and our culture that it can feel overwhelming to cut it all out at once. Start by transitioning your milk, and then move on to other areas, such as butter, ice cream, and cheese. Experiment with other textures or condiments for your dinners. For example, if you are having mexican food, leave off the cheese and load up on guacamole, diced tomatoes, and shredded lettuce instead.
Related: Mexican Fiesta Cheese Dip
Fortunately, there are many vegan alternatives these days, and they can easily be found in mainstream grocery stores. You can even buy them online!
My honest suggestion though, if you’ve never tried dairy-free cheese, is to go for a period of time without any “cheese” products at all. This gives you time to reset your taste buds. While I believe that these cheeses taste pretty damn close, if not exactly like I remember cheese to taste, recent cheese eaters may notice more of a difference.
You may be wondering how I “forget” the way cheese tastes? It’s not that my mind doesn’t remember, but it’s been about 6 years since I’ve had dairy. Over time, you become accustomed to new things. I’m just used to vegan cheese now.
Some people are “freaked out” by vegan products, because they can’t identify with the ingredients. They think that it is more processed than regular cheese, and the thought of eating vegetable-based ingredients messes with their minds.
Look, I’m going to be honest here- your “real cheese”, as some like to call it, is just as processed as my dairy-free cheese. Do you think the cheese comes out of the nipples in flavors, such as American or Mozzarella? LOL. Seriously, think about that for a moment. We humans STILL have to take that dairy through a process to get the varieties and textures of what you recognize as cheese.
Vegetable-based cheeses are not more or less processed that dairy cheese- they are BOTH put through a process to make it taste appetizing.
That being said, you don’t need dairy cheese. You don’t need vegetable cheese. We don’t NEED any of it, but our culture revolves around it.
Related: Holiday No-Cheese Cheese Ball
So if you decide to bring vegan cheese into your life (it happens!), just remember that it is only pleasing that person inside of you that was raised to eat dairy. Nothing more. Yes it tastes good, and I like to indulge every once in a while. But I know I don’t need it to live. I can do just fine without it, thank you very much!
We don’t need cheese. We don’t need dairy. We can certainly enjoy a high quality life without consuming milk products; eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds instead. For the times when you DO want dairy, there are plenty of dairy-free options available, with more products hitting the market every year.
So please, PLEASE, consider cutting dairy for good. You body will thank you, but what’s more, you will be sparing innocent lives and saying a big NO to the industry as a whole. For more on the dairy industry and the impact of raising cows for milk and consumption, please checkout the documentary, Cowspiracy, now streaming on Netflix.
Have you cut out dairy or are thinking of cutting out dairy? Share your thoughts in the comments below!