Since I started working at The Everygirl, I’ve heard one coffee order repeated every single day, several times a day. Every time one of our editors goes on a coffee run, choruses of, “Can you get me an iced almond-milk latte? I’ll venmo you!” ring through our office.
As a girl who never strays from regular milk, I always felt left out of the club but was too into my habit to ever decide to make the switch to plant-based milk.
At my core, I’m pretty against diet fads. I’m a pretty healthy eater and know what I like, so I never have felt the need to completely jump into anything that limited me. Unfortunately, my body doesn’t always completely agree with my philosophy. Since I can remember, I’ve had a lot of stomach problems. The issues come in waves, with some weeks being perfectly fine and others leaving me in so much physical pain that I can’t do anything but lie in bed. I’ve been to a million doctors, all of which have had the same conclusion: nothing is medically wrong with me, and the only way to figure out what is bothering me is by doing an elimination diet — which I’ve tried and failed countless times. I’m a pretty healthy eater, so I always chalked it up as something that was out of my control.
Since my stomach isn’t always bothering me, I’ve always found it hard to stick to something that cuts out so many of the foods that I love. I’d start the process, and then one happy hour invite later, I’d be back to square one. I could never find a common thread between what made me feel sick, so it has always felt hopeless in trying to figure out exactly what I’m sensitive to.
Through my rollercoaster, I’ve always had a hunch that dairy was one of the main things that upset my stomach, but I’ve always hated the taste of nut milks and dairy-free products — until I found Mooala. Mooala is dedicated to creating high-quality, dairy-free beverages without sacrificing flavor. Their products aren’t the flavorless, watery almond milk that made me want to swear off of it for good. Their flavors — like chocolate bananamilk and vanilla bean creamer — are fun and unrivaled, and for the first time, made me not miss my go-to dairy products. So, I decided it was time to finally give a dairy-free diet a shot. I was going to go full-on dairy-free for two weeks, see how I felt, and go from there.
I always knew that going dairy-free would include a lot of the foods that I eat every day — but I didn’t realize just how many it would cut out. I thought I’d be nixing cheese and chocolate; I didn’t realize I’d be standing over a box of office donuts debating with my coworkers whether or not they were dairy-free.
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My biggest concern was my morning coffee
My coffee has always been something that I don’t mess with. I like iced coffee with half-and-half or a latte with real milk — nothing else. I’ve always felt that almond-milk lattes tasted watery, and non-dairy creamers left me running back to what I’m used to and what I actually like. That was until I found my new holy grail.
Mooala’s plant-based creamer is the dairy-free alternative that I’ve always assumed doesn’t exist. Most plant-based creamers that taste good have loads of added sugar — which defeated the purpose of the healthy swap for me. With Mooala, I could not taste the difference between that and my regular creamer in my coffee, and it sweetens it with zero grams of sugar per serving — which is doing the impossible for me. For the first time, I actually found a dairy-free coffee situation that I still looked forward to every morning. Their Vanilla Bean creamer rivals the taste of my $6 guilty-pleasure latte that’s loaded with added sugar.
It made smoothies even better
I’m also a smoothie addict and drink one every morning after my workout, and Mooala’s bananamilk has taken them to another level. It makes them creamier, sweet-but-not-too-sweet, and loads it with other real ingredients, like organic bananas and organic sunflower seeds. The consistency is similar to 2 percent milk, so it ensures that my smoothies aren’t watered-down. It has zero grams of sugar per serving — the only sweetness is coming from the actual bananas themselves.
I felt noticeably better
After making all of my dairy-free swaps, I couldn’t believe how different my stomach felt. At night when I tend to feel my worst, my stomach wasn’t bloated and didn’t feel uncomfortable like it usually does. On top of that, I felt more energized and felt that my body was functioning like it was supposed to. I definitely have sensitivities that go beyond just dairy, but cutting out dairy completely was an amazing first step in figuring it out.
Being dairy-free made my eating healthier in ways I didn’t expect. When I’m feeling lazy and don’t want to cook, I’ll pick up food on my way home from work — much of which has dairy in it (hello, pizza). It pushed me to make homemade foods as much as I could so I knew I had a dairy-free meal ready to go. My go-to breakfast was cereal with a milk alternative and a bowl of fruit, and it filled me up for the entire morning and made me feel charged up for my day.
For dinner, I made a lot of makeshift stir-frys with rice or cauliflower rice and veggies with Asian spices, finished with a fried egg on top. When I didn’t stop and get dinner, this took me about 10 minutes and was delicious and kept me full all night. I would usually make double what I needed so I could also take it for lunch the next day to avoid being tempted to get mac and cheese at the hot bar next to our office.
I’m not one to stray from my go-to foods, so I actually got excited to challenge myself to make more meals at home, both so I knew what was going into them and so I didn’t end up getting too hungry and eating whatever was easiest.
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My experience definitely wasn’t perfect… and that’s OK
I didn’t realize that when you’re trying to have a diet restriction, that you need to think about it all. the. time. I’m used to eating anything at any time, so it was a hard habit to break. I’d be lying if I didn’t disclose that on a day we ordered Mexican for lunch, I had about half a bowl of queso before someone pointed out what I’d done — and that yes, queso is obviously dairy.
With all wellness and health issues, it’s important to remember that perfection isn’t realistic. I’m never going to eat perfectly, no matter what I do — and I don’t want to! Getting into a mentality where I’m doing the best things for my health but don’t get angry at myself when I stray from my plan is vital. Going forward, I want to be dairy-free as much as I possibly can, but know that there will be days that I absolutely need a milkshake or a slice of cheddar on my burger. It doesn’t need to be perfect or all-or-nothing like I always imagined it needed to be — but I’m excited to do the best I can do with the help of Mooala (click here to find it in stores near you), and keep checking in with how my body feels along the way.
I never thought that at the end of the two weeks I would be committed to eliminating dairy where I can, but here I am three weeks later, large almond-milk latte in hand.
This post was in partnership with Mooala, but all of the opinions within are those of The Everygirl editorial board.