I've always loved dairy products--I grew up eating cold cereal with cow's milk for breakfast and after-school snack, and if you had asked me in my preteen years to describe my ideal diet, my answer would have included a lot of Kraft macaroni and cheese. (I was an American child of the 80s, when processed foods were proliferating). But in my early twenties I started noticing that certain yogurts gave me gas, and after I got food poisoning in Hungary, I started experiencing brief but recurrent stomach pain. It took a miserable (but free) nasogastroscopie in France for me to understand that my stomach was fine, but it could no longer digest the dairy products I was putting into it.
Nonetheless, it wasn't until I read Alisa Marie Fleming's nutritional guide and cookbook, Go Dairy Free, that I realized that replacing dairy products with plant-based foods was probably one of the best nutritional actions I could take--and it was much easier than I had realized.
These were my excuses for not eliminating dairy from my diet:
Without any major symptoms besides occasional gas, I don't have a reason to give up dairy products. Actually, cow's milk products are high in unsaturated fat, and even low-fat dairy products are linked to ovarian and prostate cancer, acne, headaches, and high cholesterol. I suspect my recurrent ear infections as a child were linked to my dairy intake.
I need dairy products for the calcium. This might be America's best kept nutrition secret: green vegetables like kale and broccoli are far higher in calcium than cheese and milk products. Nuts and whole grains are also good calcium sources.
Avoiding dairy products in America is nearly impossible. While most baked items do include butter or milk, it's simple to substitute healthier oils or plant-based milks like rice or almond milk. I've learned that homemade pizza still tastes delicious without cheese, and my friend recently shared a recipe for making decent coconut milk yogurt at home.
On Gaining Weight in France (and Losing It in America)
God has blessed me with a high metabolism and a runner's physique, but on the two occasions that I lived with host families in France, I came back to America a tad more plump. Walking was my main form of transportation in France, so I'm confident that my weight gain was due to the higher amount of dairy products I ate there--mainly in the forms of butter, yogurt, and cheese. (In America, my body's set point became a few pounds lower after I eliminated dairy.) So how do the French retain their svelte reputation while Americans continue to struggle with obesity? That's a topic for an upcoming post when I review French Kids Eat Everything, but I believe it is largely because the French educational system teaches everyone to enjoy balanced meals revolving around a variety of whole foods and food made from quality ingredients.
What diet guidelines does your family follow? How has travel and culture shaped your food choices?
This post is part of the Living Without series here at Intentional Mama. Other posts in this series include:
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