“Dairy Free” Not so Much
of a Choice for Me
By M.P. Cremer
Last week, I got the opportunity to speak with members of the Gallatin County 4-H Club who have beef projects for their county fair. My speech focused on transparency and finding your place in agriculture, and as most public speakers, I opened the floor up for questions following my half hour lecture. One of the questions I received was from someone who had done their homework on me, as they asked to talk about the one time I went vegan.
For those of you who are new to this column, two years ago, I went vegan for the season of Lent to see if the vegan diet really was all it’s cracked up to be, to learn more about how the vegan diet affected my carbon footprint and to better understand the vegan community and hopefully relate to them a little more. I won’t get hung up about this experience, but if you want to learn more about the nitty-gritty of my experience, visit activistsvsagriculture.com.
However, there is one thing the vegan diet taught me which I haven’t really discussed; I’m lactose intolerant and it sucks.
When I went vegan, I had to give up eating animal products, meaning dairy products were off limits. For six weeks, I yearned for string cheese; I longed for ice cream made with real milk; I loathed everyone who ate a slice of pizza in front of me. When my six weeks was up, naturally, I promptly ate a massive amount of cheese.
In case you’ve never been on a diet before, I’ll let you in on a secret. When you give something up, then go whole-hog and eat it (the opposite of quitting something cold turkey), you get slightly sick – which is exactly what happened to me. But I thought, “No biggie, it’ll take my body some time to get readjusted to stomaching dairy again.”
Then, “some time” came and went and my body still wasn’t readjusted. After a year and a half of not eating dairy for a while then eating it because, c’mon, I didn’t want to give up cheese, I finally went to the doctor. After lots of tests and some different dietary restrictions, I became a card-carrying lactose intolerant.
My friends and family tried to help me reason through this: Was I born this way? Did going vegan make me this way? It felt dramatic, like a bad high school, Lifetime movie centered around the fact I couldn’t indulge in cheese anymore. Nevertheless, all the crying and whining in the world can’t help me, so, I’ve decided to roll with the punches.
I’ve learned to substitute some recipes with non-dairy (not as good, in my opinion) options such as coconut milk or nutritional yeast. And yes, I do buy “fake” dairy products every now and then, but I make sure to only purchase them from companies I have researched and know for a fact don’t speak out against animal ag. I know, some of y’all may think I’m phony as an agvocate for using margarine instead of butter now, but c’mon, I can’t help it!
One of the key takeaways I have from this whole ordeal is there’s dairy in so many of the food products on the market right now. No complaints there from the agvocate side – bring on more dairy and support the industry – but from a personal, will toss my cookies if I eat some good old, buttered pumpkin bread side, it’s not fun.
The past few months, however, have made me be more creative in ways I can support the dairy industry. I’m currently exploring the lactose-free side of the dairy industry. On my quest for the best lactose free products, I’ve also been exposed to many family-owned, farm-to-table dairy producers as well. And the coconut milk Reddi-Wip on top of all of this is, my husband could drink a gallon of milk a day if he wanted, so I feel like he consumes enough dairy for the both of us.
It’s not so fun being dairy free, but another silver lining is it has forced me to learn more about an industry I was not raised in like I was with beef. I’ve learned to appreciate the dairy industry a little more, have learned some interesting facts and met incredible people along the way.
I don’t really know how to close this one out, so I guess I’ll end it with a dramatic but true statement. Enjoy your dairy filled lives, because there’re some of us out here who really wish they could from a moral, nutritional and tasteful standpoint.