There are many reasons you might decide to stop eating dairy products. Perhaps they don’t agree with you any more, or maybe you have realised that an entirely vegan diet would sit better with your ethical principles. Regardless of your motivation, giving up dairy means you need to take active steps to ensure your dietary changes do not mean you’re missing out on the calcium you need to help prevent osteoporosis in later life.
Where are dairy products found?
Giving up dairy products means more than just avoiding milk. You’ll also want to avoid foods such as cheese, butter, buttermilk, yoghurt, dairy-based desserts, ice cream, malted chocolate drinks and milk chocolate. Other, less obvious sources of dairy include ghee, margarine and some processed and packaged foods such as chips and biscuits. Dairy comes in many forms, so get into the habit of reading ingredient labels and be on the look out for milk solids, skim-milk solids, non-fat milk solids, whey, casein, caseinate, lactose and milk proteins.
What can I have instead?
Try substituting cow’s milk with soy milk, oat milk, rice milk, almond milk and products made from these ingredients, choosing products that are fortified with extra calcium whenever possible. People with mild lactose intolerance are often able to tolerate small amounts of milk from goats and sheep, which contain lower levels of lactose compared to cow products, so those products may also be an option for you. Luckily, these days, giving up dairy products doesn't mean giving up the good things in life. Your supermarket or health food store will probably have a range of non-dairy treats for you to try, including gelato, sorbet, coconut milk/cream and dark chocolate. For a tasty alternative to using butter on bread, try avocado or hummus.
Alternative sources of Calcium:
In the absence of dairy products, you’ll need to obtain calcium from a range of other sources. Try to include the following in your diet as often as possible:
- Fish that are eaten with their bones, such as whitebait, sardines and canned salmon.
- Nuts and seeds, such as almonds, sunflower seeds and tahini (ground sesame seeds).
- Legumes such as navy beans, chickpeas and kidney beans.
- Leafy green vegetables, including broccoli and watercress.
- Fruit, such as figs, apricots, rhubarb and blackberries.
- Blackstrap molasses, carob and torula or brewer’s yeast.
Consider taking a Calcium Supplement
It has been estimated that fewer than half of all Australian adults obtain the recommended 1000-1300 mg of calcium from their diets. If you don’t eat dairy products, your chances of hitting this dietary target are reduced even further, so you may want to consider taking a calcium supplement. If so, we recommend that look for a formula that combines calcium with a range of other nutrients that support bone health and aid calcium absorption and utilisation, such as vitamin D3, magnesium, vitamin K2, boron and copper.