Going Paleo for Real - Giving Up Dairy. Sort of.

A few months ago, I wrote about my early efforts in switching my eating habits to a paleo diet.  Trying to eat what the cavemen ate.  No processed foods.  No breads, pasta, or other grains. Mostly just meat and vegetables.  Some fruit and nuts.  That's about it.  I've been learning to switch my eating habits and find ways to make my more limited choices for food delicious.  I've been coming up with new go-to recipes.  It's been going pretty well.  Meat of some sort and roasted vegetables with a pan sauce it a pretty common dinner at our house now.  I have learned to use almond meal in meatloaf and even made some grain- and dairy-free "tortillas" for taco night.  It's working.

But.  Another food group that is not found in the paleo-style of eating is dairy.  In my first post about going primal I mentioned that I was not willing to give up milk.  In fact, I haven't done a very good job of giving up dairy in general.  Cheese.  Sour cream.  Milk (especially frothed in my coffee).  Ice cream.  No way.  I thought I just couldn't do it.  However, I have rethought my stance on this and decided to give it another try.  So, I'm giving up dairy, including milk and ice cream.  There are two reasons for this.  First is that my post-pregnancy weight loss has been excruciatingly slow, and I thought this would help.  The other is that I have something called keratosis pilaris, which is a fancy name for a yucky rash on the backs of my upper arms, and I heard from a couple of sources that this could be due to a mild food allergy and that cutting out grain and dairy could help.  I had already cut the grain.  Didn't work.  What can I say?  I am vain.  I had to try to cut the dairy to see if I could get the arm thing to go away.

I have pretty much been dairy-free for about two weeks now.  I had a bit of pizza when we were out of town for Labor Day weekend and a little bit of ice cream.  Twice.  Oh, and once I had a Starbucks mocha. But other than that, no dairy.  I haven't seen much change on my arms yet.  Some, but not much.  This might be due to the fact that I think this keratosis pilaris is also hormone-related to some degree, as it always gets worse when I'm pregnant and for a while after (anyone else have this problem?).  So maybe I just have to wait a bit longer for all that to get back to normal.  On the up side, I've lost about seven pounds since ditching the dairy.  Not too shabby.

So, how has life been with no dairy?  Surprisingly not bad.  I can make a decent substitute for sour cream with coconut milk and vinegar.  I don't miss cheese or yogurt.  Much.  I have begun using almond milk or coconut milk in my coffee.  This has been great, except when I go somewhere to meet a friend for coffee and know they won't have almond milk or coconut milk there.  In those cases I bring my own.

Yes, that is almond milk in the same type of bottle into which breast milk is typically pumped.  Yes, I took this into the coffee shop today and poured it into my coffee.  And yes I did clarify, to my friend and also the women working there, that it was almond milk, not breast milk.

Coffee was one of the biggest hurdles for me to overcome in the move away from dairy.  I do love frothed milk in a coffee.  But almond milk is an excellent substitute, so that doesn't really feel like a sacrifice anymore.  Another big hurdle has been trying to figure out what to eat throughout the day.  With three kids under four, I don't have time to get real elaborate with the things I eat.  I used to eat a Zone bar a couple of times a day (gave those up about a month ago) and maybe a piece of muenster cheese here, a yogurt there.  Since the dairy drop I have had to get more creative, but it hasn't been too hard.  So what do I eat now? I have a few go-to items during the day:

- Lunch meat or grilled chicken breasts from the deli

- Salad - I have invested in some excellent olive oil and balsamic vinegar for this and stopped putting feta or bleu cheese in with my greens

- Foil packs of salmon or tuna - I scoop the salmon out and add a little bit of olive oil, lemon juice, and salt, or just eat the tuna out of the pack.  The flavored packs of tuna are great, especially the herb and garlic flavor.

- Baby carrots

- Apples.  I eat a lot of apples.

- Trail mix made up of raisins, dried dates, and cashews.  I try to keep this to a minimum, but it's my favorite treat.

Other things I don't go to as often but have on my list are hard boiled eggs (I never bother to boil the eggs), cut up veggies like bell peppers, cucumbers, etc. (I never get around to cutting up the veggies), and berries (these usually get devoured by my kids).  I never realized, until making a point of changing my eating, how much my eating used to be dictated by convenience.  It's so easy to grab a scoop of cottage cheese or a stick of string cheese or a yogurt cup or a bowl of cereal.  It's getting easier to see the other choices as convenient too.

The hardest thing, by far, is not having ice cream.  Okay, truth?  The hardest thing is the idea of not having ice cream.  Coconut milk ice cream and almond milk ice cream are okay, but they're just not the same.  I have actually had real ice cream twice and frozen yogurt once (in-a-little-over-two-weeks-insert-sheepish-grin-here), and still look for excuses to eat it, even more than I did before I "gave it up."  I guess the thought that I can't have it anymore makes me think about it more and want to eat it all the time.  I don't give in most of the time.  But give me any "occasion" and I'm all over it.  Date night?  You bet.  Cookout with friends?  Why not?  A special treat after today's lunch picnic with the girls?  Sure!  A pint of Hagen Daz split three ways isn't too much anyway ... right?

Going dairy-free has not been as difficult as I thought it would be.  I sometimes miss milk, and maybe some day I'll go back to it.  But for now, I'm happy to be giving this a try.  It really is helping me to get over the hump with my baby-weight loss.  Imagine where I'd be if I could just kick the ice cream. ...

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