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What It Means to Be Dairy-Free

People go dairy-free for a number of reasons. Some are lactose intolerant and can’t digest milk products. Others do it for ecological or health reasons. Some have beliefs and views that lead them to be very compassionate to the animals and people involved in the dairy industry. And some simply don’t like the taste of milk.

In some countries, dairy foods aren’t a major component of the culture’s diet. In fact, they may not be eaten at all. As more people from other countries move to the United States, they bring with them their food traditions. These newcomers also are a growing market for products such as the soymilk, almond milk and nondairy cheeses you may have noticed showing up more frequently in your neighborhood supermarket.

All this mobility around the world is creating a shift in eating habits and driving more people to go dairy-free. Newcomers to dairy-centric parts of the world, such as the United States and Canada, may already be used to a diet that’s largely dairy-free. And they’re exposing everybody else to the alternatives to the preferred dairy products. When given the choice, you may opt to go dairy-free.

Doing without dairy requires being conscious of the varied places milk and milk products are used. You easily can find the obvious sources of milk, including a glass of milk served with a slice of chocolate cake or the milk used to make pudding, ice cream, or cream of broccoli soup. Milk also is used to make yogurt, whipped cream, cream cheese, and other cheeses. Small bits of dairy may be used in foods when you eat out, too. For example, Parmesan cheese often is added to Caesar salads, and buttermilk may be used to make a stack of pancakes.

But even if you don’t see them, dairy products are used in many other foods as well. Byproducts of milk, such as skim milk solids and casein, sometimes are used as ingredients in processed foods, including commercial piecrust, cookies, and crackers.

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