There are millions of reasons to give up dairy, many of which you’re probably already aware of. From conventional farming and animal cruelty to toxic nutrients and chemicals in dairy, there’s never a better time to take up the healthy habit of going dairy-free. Plus, it’s easier now than ever and totally painless!

To get you started on going dairy-free, I’ve shared some of my personal favorite tips, along with resources that can help you out. The best part is, going dairy-free isn’t expensive or hard to do. The dairy-free industry is booming right now, so take advantage of it and hop on board! You won’t only be doing your body good, but also help the animals and planet with every single step.

1. Make a List

The first tip I give to others who want to go dairy-free is to make a complete list of all the foods you like that are dairy-based or that contain dairy. The purpose of this is to allow you to get familiar with exactly what’s in your food. For instance, many people aren’t even aware the salad dressing they eat contains dairy or the box of granola bars they love may contain milk. Dairy hides in everything (along with sugar)!  So take a look at the ingredient list of all the foods you have at home and write down any on the list that say “Contains Milk” under the ingredient list. Include all shelf items, items in your fridge, and anything in your freezer such as frozen desserts or frozen meals. Cow’s milk, mayonnaise, most dressings, eggs, whipped cream, ice cream, frozen yogurt, pudding, milk-based dips, any form of cheese (except for goat), kefir, yogurt, quark, and sour cream all count as dairy unless they say they are dairy-free on the package.

2. Go to the Store

Now, it’s time to go to the store and don’t forget your list when you go! For each item, I promise there is a vegan replacement for that item. Then, it’s up to you to decide what items you want to start off replacing. The easiest thing to replace when you go dairy-free is milk. There are many vegan milks out there, but in my opinion, the option that resembles the creamy and thick texture of milk the best is unsweetened almond milk. You can buy sweetened varieties but they are very high in sugar; however, select the option that’s best for you. Other non-dairy milks include soy, rice, hemp, flax, and coconut milk. You can also find some specialty mixes as well. If you’re looking for vegan packaged foods, most of the time those items will say they are vegan on the front or back. If you’re not sure, read the ingredient label and see if it says “Contains Milk” under the ingredient tab. This will let you know if it’s dairy-free or not.

3. Keep an Open Mind

It’s important to keep an open mind when you go dairy-free. For instance, coconut yogurt may not taste exactly like Greek yogurt, but it’s actually very good and completely dairy-free. Vegan cheese is actually very similar in taste to real cheese and within a few times of eating it, you’ll likely never go back to eating real cheese. Keeping an open mind will keep you motivated and help ensure you don’t give up in the early stages.

4. Reward Yourself

Next, don’t forget to reward yourself for making a healthy choice!  The best way to do that is by making decadent, delicious vegan, and dairy-free recipes, such as dairy-free ice cream, vegan fudge, vegan pizza, or even vegan cake! This won’t only satisfy your taste buds, but also keep you excited about your new journey. Going dairy-free isn’t about deprivation, so have fun with it!

5. Keep Up the Motivation

The most important tip to go dairy-free is to stay motivated! Share your new healthy lifestyle change, any tips you have, and your eats with everyone you know. You could even start a blog where you detail your dairy-free journal and share recipes with readers. I also suggest watching some incredibly interesting films about the truth of the dairy industry, which is likely the only motivation you’ll ever need. If you get a chance, you can also visit Farm Sanctuary to meet real animals rescued from conventional farms. Plus, here are 10 Great Reasons to Ditch Dairy if you need further motivation.

Going dairy-free truly is so easy. For every dairy item in your life, I promise there’s a delicious vegan replacement – butter, mayonnaise, you name it! If you’ve went dairy-free, what’s your best tip for newbies taking this healthy step?

Image source: Vegan Cherry Garcia Ice Cream