Ten Favorite Dairy-Free & Vegan Products.

So I've been dairy-free for awhile now. Right before Christmas, I decided to give up dairy to see if it would help how I had been feeling. I am a huge cheese lover and used to have ice cream way too often. Unfortunately, what I enjoy eating, and what my body enjoys, seem to be two very different things. I found that when I eliminated dairy from my diet, I started feeling much better (NOT perfect by any means, but better). I saw an improvement in the stomach issues I've been struggling with. I also think that it may have helped the frequency/intensity of my migraines and headaches, and that I may have shed a few pounds in the process. I honestly don't know if its done anything for my skin as my skin has just been cranky lately in general.

While it hasn't been perfect or easy to eliminate dairy (trust me, I still crave things like a cheeseburger, or a grilled cheese), thanks to all the alternatives out there, it also hasn't been half bad. I've decided to compile a list of some of the things I've discovered in this process because I think that having options definitely helps. If you're looking to eliminate dairy, for whatever reason, I hope that this list helps you to find some yummy non-dairy alternatives! Everything on this list is also vegan friendly!!

Earth Balance Sticks - I have to start out by simply mentioning these. They're nothing earth shattering (ha, ha), and we've actually been using Earth Balance for a couple years now, but I recently started picking up these sticks because I love to bake and these offer an easy replacement for butter. So far, I've just been swapping them in for however much butter a recipe calls for (I'm making cookies and cakes here...so its simple enough). It works great in frostings too. I've already been cooking with it, and these sticks make baking just as easy. The price is nearly the same as a lb. of butter too so that helps!

So Delicious CocoWhip! - I've tried a bunch of different non-dairy whipped cream type products but this one wins hands down. It's like cool-whip but without the chemically aftertaste. It's all a slightly thicker consistency which holds up well on top of pies or other deserts. My favorite way to use this is with fresh strawberries and blueberries. So delicious indeed!

So Delicious Cashew Ice Cream - So Delicious also makes what I think, is the best non-dairy ice cream you can get in the freezer section. Their cashew milk ice cream range is just incredible. Although they do have other ice creams - made with almond or coconut, the cashew milk ice creams are where its at. I find that coconut overpowers the other flavors sometimes, and that almond just gets too icy in consistency. Cashews are super creamy, so it makes sense that they would help to create such a creamy ice cream. I will say though, you do have to let it temper just a little before digging in, so plan accordingly! PS- I once made a non-dairy ice cream cake with the coconut and cashew ice creams from So Delicious, as well as their CocoWhip, and it was SO SO SO GOOD!!!

Chao Tomato Cayenne Cheese - I'm pretty picky about non-dairy/vegan cheeses, but this one is a winner. It's spicy, which I think helps to balance it out taste wise, and it's just so good!! It's creamy and melts well - I've made some really killer grilled cheese sandwiches with this. I've tried the regular flavor and while its alright, it just doesn't compare to this one!!

Parmela Creamery Nut Cheeses - I've tried a few different vegan cheeses and to be quite honest, most have been pretty horrendous experiences. I love real cheese, so it's difficult to find something that replicates it well enough to please me. When I found Parmela Creamery on the grocery shelves, I was intrigued because they are nut based cheeses and I find that with dairy alternatives, I have the best luck with nut based products. I've only tried two of their cheeses so far - the mozzarella and cheddar styles, but after a browse on their website, I see that they've got quite an impressive range of options! I try to keep a bag of each on hand because they make cooking so easy. I live with dairy eaters, so this way I can easily make modifications to please everyone. The other night I made homemade pizza and one had regular cheese, while the other had the Parmela Creamery mozzarella (it melts really well!!) and it was just delicious. Paired with all the other pizza goodies, you honestly aren't even aware that its vegan cheese. Compared to some I've tried, this stuff is a godsend!

Go Veggie Parm - Okay, one last cheese. Being part Italian and Sicilian, pasta is a pretty big staple in my cooking repertoire. I guess I could go without Parmesan on everything...but why?? Go Veggie makes a great vegan parm that you can use on top of your pasta, or in creating other sauces and meals. I've used this to make a sauce for a vegan green bean casserole that I made for Christmas and it was DELICIOUS!!! This vegan grated parm is a great substitute - so long as you can find it! I've been having a hard time finding it stocked lately so you might have an easier shot grabbing this one online.

Enjoy Life Dairy Free Chips - since I like baking so much, I've had to find some substitutes and that included chocolate chips. Chocolate chip cookies are a frequent request in this house so I'm really glad I came across the chocolate chips from Enjoy Life. The mini chips are my favorite, but I've used the chunks before and those are great as well. I haven't tried their dark varieties yet, but once I find the right recipe, I might just have to!

Green and Blacks Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt  -if you're looking for a good chocolate bar for eating rather than baking, this particular variety from Green & Blacks is my favorite. I keep a bar in my night stand drawer and honestly, a full bar can last me a month - sometimes more! I don't always like eating straight chocolate but sometimes I crave a little bit, particularly when I'm reading for some reason - I have no idea why!! I've had plenty of sea salted chocolate over the years but this one is just the right balance. Also, the chocolate is dark with still being smooth. Love!!!

Amy's Pad Thai - sometimes I just want a quick and easy meal. Whether it's because I'm not feeling all that great or I'm busy with work, it's always nice to have some quick heat-up meals available. The pad thai from Amy's has long been a favorite, well before I gave up dairy. Honestly, it's so delicious, I'm blown away by the fact that a microwaveable meal, every time I make it!! You really can't go wrong with any of the Amy's offerings (they also make my favorite veggie burgers. SO GOOD!!), so start with this one and explore the rest of the range because you're bound to find a few favorites!

Annie Chun's Peanut Sesame Noodle Bowl - Clearly I have a thing for thai flavors! Again, this is another great lunch option. It's not just dairy free, but also vegan and it's not at all short on flavors! Bonus: it's got enough of a kick that if you're congested at all, you likely won't be after you eat this!

Now that I've shared some of my favorites, let me tell you something that I HATED: I was so excited to try the Annie's vegan mac and cheese (had to order online because not even Whole Foods carried it?!?!), but omg - it was no bueno!! So if you've got a good vegan mac and cheese - Please let me know!!! 

I hope that this list helps you if you're trying to give up dairy, and if you've got any product suggestions for me, please let me know in the comments!!

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