When you restrict the dairy products you eat or drink, you need to be particularly careful that you get enough calcium and vitamin D. Experiment with these ideas to get good nutrition even when dairy is not on the menu:
- Green vegetables like broccoli, kale, watercress, and collard greens are good sources of cow-free calcium. Sweet blackstrap molasses is another natural option. Some packaged foods also have added calcium. In fact, fortified orange juice can have almost as much calcium as milk. Enriched cereals, soy-based foods, canned tomatoes, and stone ground flour can all have calcium added during processing. Read nutrition labels for your best sources.
- Sip a milk substitute. Check your health food store or the natural foods aisle for milk substitutes such as rice milk, almond milk, or oat milk. They can be surprisingly tasty and healthy.
For example, oat drinks are usually made from an oat base, with water, oil, vitamins, and flavoring added. They are 100 percent nondairy, contain no lactose, and are low in sodium. And there’s more good news. Since they are a plant product, you don’t have to worry about saturated animal fat and cholesterol either.
- Do not forget yogurt contains less lactose than many dairy products, or that research finds bacteria in yogurt may help process that hard-to-digest milk sugar. It may not be the answer for every person with lactose intolerance, but try dipping into some smooth yogurt and see if your stomach tolerates it better than milk.
- Even if you do not miss the taste of milk, you will miss the benefits of vitamin D. Fortunately, dairy foods are not the only ones fortified with vitamin D. Read the labels on ready-to-eat cereals until you find some that include vitamin D as one of their fortified nutrients. Try them with a healthy milk substitute. And do not worry if that milk substitute has a little fat. Fat helps your body absorb this vitamin.
- Finally, have a healthy two-for-one deal, occasionally. Get both calcium and vitamin D from cold-water fish like salmon, sardines, and herring.