Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Day Without Dairy

As a follow-up to my "Eat & Run" post, I decided to see if I could go one day without any dairy products.  That may sound pretty easy, but dairy is a huge component of my diet.  I found it pretty easy to eliminate meat and still get enough protein, but I was getting about half of my protein from dairy products.

For this experiment to be meaningful, I had to eating a diet that was sustainable.  That meant I still needed to get all required nutrients, and I had to convince myself that the foods I was eating were satisfying enough that I wouldn’t miss dairy products if I continued to omit them.  OK, who are we kidding here?  You know I would eventually miss pizza.  That’s why I only committed to a one day experiment.

I realized how hard it was going to be as soon as I thought about how I start my day.  I always start my day with a cup or two of tea, and I take my tea with a splash of milk.

Let me back up.  When I was in college, I started eating a typical American diet.  That means, among other things, I drank Coke with every meal.  Eventually, I switched to Dr. Pepper, but you get the idea.  I got addicted to sweetened caffeinated beverages.

By my mid-20s, I was gaining weight.  As I started the first of several diets, the first thing to go was soft drinks with sugar.  I replaced my Dr. Pepper with Diet Dr. Pepper.  I couldn’t start the work day without a can.  I drank about three cans a day.

Two years ago, after 25 years of drinking Diet Coke or Diet Dr. Pepper, I gave up artificial sweeteners.  That wasn’t easy.  I needed to find something satisfying to replace it.  I find water refreshing when I’m running, but it doesn’t cut it the rest of the time.  I need something with flavor.  I tried to develop a taste for unsweetened tea, but it wasn’t very satisfying.  I tried Earl Grey and teas with various other flavors, but I still couldn’t get excited about it.  Then I tried adding about an ounce of skim milk.  Boom!  Somehow about that small amount of milk transformed the flavor and texture into something I could get excited about.  As soon as I wake up, I look forward to that first cup of tea.  I could switch back to plain black tea, but I knew I wouldn’t be excited about it.

Deb and I went grocery shopping yesterday.  Among other things, we picked up ingredients for two recipes in “Eat & Run” that I wanted to try.  While we were at the store, I also picked up some almond milk.  I wasn’t sure if it would transform my tea like regular milk does, but it was worth a try.

I didn’t sleep well last night.  When I woke up this morning, I really needed my morning cup of tea.  I had a cup of tea with an ounce of almond milk.  I expected the difference to be subtle, so I held off on eating breakfast.  My first impression was that tea with almond milk was just like tea with regular milk.  I figured it would take several days to know if I would get excited about it, but it was a promising start.

For breakfast, I normally have a slice of whole wheat toast with peanut butter.  Instead, I had a whole wheat bagel with peanut butter.  Bagels are fairly high in protein, and I wanted to get off to a good start.  I also had another cup of tea with almond milk.

After a morning workout, I wanted another cup of tea.  Without thinking, I put regular milk in my tea.  Oops.  I guess my experiment wasn’t going to be perfect.  FWIW, that wouldn’t have happened if we didn’t have milk in the refrigerator.

For lunch, I had a salad and a glass of grape juice.  The salad was a combination of spinach and arugula with raspberry vinaigrette dressing and walnuts.  I usually top this salad with mandarin oranges and parmesan cheese.  I substituted the raspberry vinaigrette and walnuts, since I needed to omit the cheese.  The walnuts replaced the protein that I used to get from the cheese.  They’re also filling, and they’re a source of omega 3 fatty acids.  The juice was 100% Concord grape juice – no other juices or added sugar.

For an afternoon snack, I ate a fresh peach.

Dinner was a lentil-mushroom burger on a whole wheat bun, a cup of Minnesota winter chili, and a glass of V8 V-Fusion peach mango juice.  The lentil-mushroom burger and the chili were both recipes from “Eat & Run.”  It was the first time I tried either recipe.

We both liked the chili, although Deb would have preferred fewer large chunks of tomatoes.  It’s definitely a recipe I’ll make again, but instead of diced tomatoes, we should buy the petite diced tomatoes.

The “burger” didn’t do it for either of us.  I wasn’t excited about the flavor, and the texture was too soft.  Deb didn’t mind the texture, but hated the flavor.  In retrospect, it probably would have been better with lettuce, tomato and onions on top, but I wanted to try it plain first.  The recipe made a dozen patties, so I can try different toppings.

Two of the ingredients, balsamic vinegar and Dijon mustard, were probably included just to add flavor.  Unfortunately, those are flavors I don’t like.  It was probably the vinegar that ruined it for me.  I could probably tinker with the recipe to add flavors I like better, but I really don’t need a burger substitute.  I’m more apt to search for entrées that are new and different.

In case anyone’s interested, I calculated nutritional information for the both burger patties and the chili.  Each lentil-mushroom patty has 197 calories, 1 gram of saturated fat, 10 grams of total fat, and 9 grams of protein.  That’s assuming you use half a loaf of Ezekiel 4:9 sprouted grain bread for the breadcrumbs.  One cup of Minnesota winter chili contains 167 calories, 0.5 grams saturated fat, 4 grams total fat, and 7 grams of protein.

If you’re wondering how I came up with those numbers, let’s just say I’m addicted to spreadsheets and leave it at that.

I usually eat a small snack in the evening, and today was no exception.  I ended the day with a serving of squash soufflé and a glass of almond milk.  It’s worth noting that the soufflé contained egg whites, but I’m not worried about eggs right now.

I keep track of certain nutritional info when I’m not traveling.  My totals for the day were 1,784 calories, 5.5 grams of saturated fat, no trans-fat, 64 grams of total fat, 59 grams of protein, 5 servings of vegetables and 3 servings of fruit.

The protein total was a little lower than my target, but I only had a salad for lunch.  I take multivitamins and flaxseed oil pills, so I’m pretty sure I was OK on other important nutrients.  In particular, the walnuts on my salad and the flaxseed meal and walnuts in the “burger” were good sources of omega 3 fatty acids.

While it was only one day, it seems like giving up dairy will take some effort.  If I do it, it will have to be a gradual change.


  1. Check out MyFitnessPal - you can also use a Google Chrome add in to show the % macros for each meal and for the whole day.

    1. I may have to check that out. Does it let you enter the data for home recipes?

  2. You did well for your one-day experiment (I’m giving you a pass on the accidental splash of milk). I have gone or about a month with reducing my dairy intake. I have not cut it out entirely (I’ve had pizza too…and a few other things). Here are some things that have worked for me to replace the protein and the dairy products I was accustomed to. I hope some of this is helpful if you decide to extend your experiment.
    • Instead of non-fat half & half in my coffee, I’m using coconut milk creamer. Not just regular coconut milk, but the So Delicious brand product that is specifically meant to be a creamer. I like it better than soy creamer and better than almond milk. It has little nutritional value, so for me it is just a dressing for my coffee.
    • Instead of cheese in salads, I make sure the other ingredients are very flavorful. I like a tahini-based dressing (either homemade or Annie’s Goddess Dressing); it gives me some creaminess and some flavor. Almost every salad I make has some form of nut or seed (pepitas, almonds, sunflower seeds). And almost every salad I make has some sort of protein source like tempeh or beans.
    • Instead of cheese & crackers, I’m happy with pita & hummus or chips & guacamole.
    • Guacamole or even just plain avocado is also great for tacos, burritos or other Mexican items instead of cheese.
    • Instead of yogurt in my smoothies, I use a vegan protein powder from Vega. It’s not as creamy, but at least it provides the protein and some other nutrients.
    • For dinner, I often make a simple pasta with a basic marinara sauce and mix it with sautéed spinach and any kind of canned beans (cannellini, chick peas, black beans). It’s pretty filling and pretty healthy when a lot of the bowl is filled with beans and spinach and a little less pasta. Also – more flavor!

    1. Thanks, Sandy. Today I easily could have gone without dairy. I had some milk just because I need to use it up. The day's not over, and excluding the milk, I've had 81 g. protein.