Due to the impacts of commercial agriculture on the environment, animal welfare, and general health, going dairy-free has always been at the back of my mind. While dairy is ingrained into New Zealand culture like jandals and saying ‘sweet as’, I’m all for messing with what people consider ‘normal’.
As we’re in lockdown, buying dairy alternatives can be tricky due to other supermarket customers stockpiling, so I set myself a timeframe of 24 hours. Starting from 7 pm one evening last week and ending at 7 pm the next day, my dairy-free challenge included a late-night snack, breakfast, lunch, and some work-from-home snacks.
Here’s a closer look at my meals, snacks, and the challenges I faced:
Like many people in the world, I love a good nighttime snack, something around that 9 pm slot when you are chilling in bed watching The Mentalist.
During the lockdown, I have been enjoying this time more than ever to disconnect from work – as much as I can in a 60-square-metre apartment with no desk.
On this night of being dairy-free, I reached for my favourite snack pack of Cassava chips. Unfortunately, there was dairy in the seasoning. I racked my brain for ideas, including seeing if our Easter egg stash had any dairy-free options. Out of luck, I settled for some dried noodles, like I was a 13-year-old student again. Not bad, but not my first pick.
This was the easiest meal of the day to make dairy-free. I often make this winner in the morning before work, a good old banana berry smoothie with almond milk. I threw in the blender some blueberries, a sad-looking banana, some almond milk and called it breakfast.
I was lucky enough to have the delicious Dairy-free Awards category winner for local dairy-free yoghurt, Raglan Coconut Yoghurt boysenberry, in my fridge. The yoghurt made a fantastic addition to the smoothie, making it creamier and more decadent.
The smoothie had a surprisingly similar to a smoothie made with cow’s milk, it just has, wait for it, a nuttier taste. It was a solid 5/5 for this one and a bonus point for being able to drink it while on a work Zoom call at 9 am.
This is where the planning came into place. I often add a knob of butter or even cheese to meals without thinking about it. I still wanted something creamy and hearty to combat the grey Auckland skies we were experiencing.
A Christmas gift from my partner was my second cookbook from Anna Jones, A Modern Way to Eat. I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to take a more plant-based approach to their eating. Its recipes include no meat and offer vegan substitutes for the few dairy options.
I pulled from Anna’s book a coconut-milk-based, red lentil dhal. Now, this meal blew me away. I’ve been putting off making it because sometimes coconut-based dishes to me, can seem a little bland. I cannot put into words how soul-soothing this meal was. It was a perfect way to take 30 minutes for myself and return to my work with a satisfied tummy.
A positive of coconut milk is the satiety it brings to the plate. Along with lentils as the vegan protein, the meal was balanced out with some delicious carrots and green veg. It was easily my favourite meal from the challenge.
By this point, I had already come to the sad realisation that I had no dairy-free snacks in the house aside from fruit and veg. Since we were in lockdown, the supermarket was out of bounds too. A banana would have to suffice.
Minimal supermarket access and only one-litre of almond milk meant loads of planning. Store-bought dairy-free snacks can cost you an arm and a leg, but there are a few products out there that are unintentionally dairy-free. Some dairy-free products are fairly priced; do your research and check nutritional labels.
The challenge showed me the barriers that dairy-free can bring, but it also reminded me of the creativity it can bring out of you in times like these.
Overall, dairy-free is a great way to live if you can afford alternative products, and your mental health can survive the adjustment. While I won’t be making the full switch right now, I am much more aware of the ingredients in my food.