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How to Remove Dairy from Your Diet in 12 Weeks

You shouldn’t try to quit dairy overnight. Instead, take several weeks and gradually eliminate dairy products from your lifestyle. Read some books, talk to dairy-free friends, analyze your diet and begin skipping the milk. Remove the cheese, yogurt and ice cream from your kitchen (and your body) and get used to ordering dairy-free entrees at restaurants over a period of 12 weeks.

There’s no right or wrong way to break down your plan to go dairy-free. It’s all a matter of what feels right to you and how quickly you can adjust to the change.

As you attempt to de-milk your diet, work in small steps. Think about a series of logical steps you can take as you make the transition to a dairy-free lifestyle. As you master each step, you gain a sense of accomplishment that can help to keep you motivated as you continue.

Do anticipate a few bumps in the road as you make the transition, however. These challenges are a natural part of any big change. As you gain experience, you’ll gain confidence. You’ll also continue to discover and practice new meal-planning skills. A dairy-free lifestyle will become easier with time.

To create a plan with simple steps, write down what you want to do in a notebook, on a calendar, or on an erasable board. Tailor your plan to your own needs.

Just think about what the major steps will be for you and in what order you’d like to tackle them. Then sketch it out in a timeline. This table outlines one suggested approach for going dairy-free over a 12-week period of time. Follow this plan as is or modify it to suit your needs.

12 Weeks to a Dairy-Free Eating Style
Time Frame What to Do
Weeks 1 and 2 Read about dairy-free nutrition, meal planning, dealing with social situations, and other aspects of living dairy-free. Borrow books from the library, buy a few good resources at a bookstore, and check out online blogs and other materials on the Web. Soak up information and gain knowledge about this new lifestyle.
Week 3 Begin to reduce your intake of dairy products. Go dairy-free for two or three days this week, experiment with new products, and make a list of some of the dairy-free entrees and other foods you already enjoy.
Weeks 4 through 6 Cut back even more on your intake of milk and dairy products. Plan five dairy-free days each of these weeks. After Week 4, stop buying milk and other dairy products, and replace them with nondairy alternatives (if you haven’t already). In order to gauge your progress later, keep a diary or log of everything you eat for several days.
Weeks 6 through 8 Get some support. Look for opportunities to socialize with people you know will make it easy on you. These are people who will be sympathetic and accommodating and won’t give you grief for taking a step out of the mainstream. Continue reading and absorbing information and experimenting with new recipes. Go out to eat and order dairy-free meals at restaurants.
Weeks 9 through 12 Practice new skills and continue to educate yourself. Socialize and invite friends and family members to your home for dairy-free meals. Think about the past several weeks, and evaluate how you’ve handled various occasions. If you need more practice to master certain situations, such as eating away from home or finding quick and easy meal ideas, work on those. Keep a food diary for several days and compare it to your first one to see how far you’ve come.

Don’t be discouraged if you have a lapse now and then in your new eating style. Slip-ups happen. They’re especially likely when you have a break in your routine, such as when you’re on vacation, when you’re trying to survive the holidays, or when you get into a particularly hectic time at work or at home.

When you’re under stress or you have an interruption in a new routine, it’s natural to fall back into familiar lifestyle patterns. If this happens to you, don’t dwell on your lapse. Just pick up where you left off and get back into your new eating style as soon as you can. Move on from there and don’t look back.

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