Dairy-Free Alternatives: Which is the best choice for me?

Dairy-Free Alternatives: Which is the best choice for me?

Oct 05, 2022Ashley Danielson, RDN, LD

Going dairy-free is a choice for some – and a necessity for others. Maybe it is part of your lifestyle. Have you noticed an upset stomach after eating a charcuterie board? Maybe you have a milk allergy. While they all play a different role with every situation, it’s important to know that there are options and alternatives to dairy!

With more and more dairy-free alternatives available – and clients that need help identifying those items – it’s fun as a dietitian to jump in and pick out some of the best options we offer. It is important to note that reading nutrition labels and ingredients are key. Words that we look for include the obvious such as yogurt, cheese and milk. The not-so-obvious words include buttermilk powder, casein or lactalbumin … and even more!

It is possible to still focus on better-for-you options when taking dairy products out of our diet. However, dairy provides an extreme amount of benefits that many other foods cannot: protein, calcium, potassium, and vitamin B12, just to name a few. So come shop along with me as I share some favorite options that you can find in the grocery store, and of course on WholeLotta Good.

Produce: This is the time for fruits and vegetables to shine! All are naturally dairy-free, so get that five-a-day or more in. Look out for refrigerated salad dressings, pre-made dressings, dips and smoothies. Unless noted that they are dairy-free, most of them have some sort of dairy source. If you do not have direct access to fresh fruits and vegetables, some easy picks include Solely Fruit Jerky and Gummies and Crunchies Freeze Dried Fruit.

Bakery: If you are heading for the sweets, be wary of ingredients like caramel and cream. Some great cookie options include Homefree Mini Chocolate Chip Cookies and Emmy's Vanilla Bean Coconut Cookies. If you are looking for a dairy-free bread, check out Pamela's Bread Mix and Schar Multigrain Bread.

Meat and Seafood: You might not expect to find dairy in the meat department. But when picking up fresh cuts, know that breading, as well as stuffed meat and seafood, can contain dairy. Always look for unseasoned or plain options. I love Wild Planet, as they have roasted chicken breast, tuna, salmon and sardines as a great protein option for a sandwich, salad or just to eat with some veggies. New Primal Lightly Peppered Turkey Stick is great to throw in your bag.

Snacks and Packaged Items: Whether it is crackers, sauces or mixes, dairy is usually hiding somewhere! On WholeLotta Good, we have so many dairy-free items lined up in this category. Some of my favorites include Hu Crackers, Siete Chips, Simple Mills Pancake Mix, and Primal Kitchen No Dairy Alfredo Sauce. Remember that canned items are still great options, especially canned fruits, vegetables and beans. You can also feel confident that items like Full Circle Steel Cut Oats are dairy-free. Bob's Red Mill Old Fashioned Oats are a perfect way to prep overnight oats with dairy-free milk, peanut butter and berries on top.  

Dairy: And, what about dairy-focused items that are dairy-free? There are plenty of options to choose from when it comes to yogurt and cheese, but make sure you look for those fortified with calcium. Blue Diamond Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk has always been a favorite of mine to add into smoothies or onto cereal; other good choices include Full Circle Oat Milk and Westsoy Organic Unsweetend Soymilk. I’m a coffee girl, and I like a little splash of creamer in my coffee. Most coffee creamers contain dairy, so I’ve been a fan of NutPods Hazelnut Coffee Creamer for years. I even take it on vacations when we road trip! Last, if you are obsessed with avocado toast like I am, try 4th & Heart Grass-Fed Ghee before adding avocado. Although not dairy-free, it is completely lactose free, and such a great substitute for butter.

Protein Bars, Powders and Drinks: Thankfully, many companies now make dairy-free protein bars, powders and drinks. Look out for words like “whey,” indicating that dairy is included in those products; instead, focus on “plant based” and “vegan.” Some of my favorite bars include Blueberry RX Bar, No Cow Chocolate Fudge Bar and GoMacro Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Protein Bar. I recommend protein powders like Orgain Vanilla Bean Protein Powder and Vega Protein Powder. Protein drinks are great to throw in your bag when you are on the go, plus they help keep you fueled. My favorites? Orgain Nutritional Shake, Performance Inspired Plant-Based Protein PowderOWYN Protein Drink and Evolve Protein Shake.

Here is a great breakfast option that features almond milk instead of regular milk. It is not only delicious, but a filling and quick breakfast you can prepare the night before.

Coffee Chia Seed Pudding
Serves 2

All you need:
½ c. Starbucks Coffee with Essential Vitamins, brewed and child
¾ c. Hy-Vee unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1/3 c. chia seeds
2 tsp. Hy-Vee 100% pure maple syrup
1 tsp. Hy-Vee vanilla extract
½ banana, sliced, for serving
2 tbsp. Hy-Vee sliced almonds, toasted, for serving

All you do:

  1. Combine brewed coffee, almond milk, chia seeds, maple syrup and vanilla in a small bowl. Divide mixture between 2 small glass containers. Chill for 4 hours or overnight.
  2. When ready to serve, top chia seed pudding with sliced bananas and toasted sliced almonds, if desired.


This list should help you get started on your dairy-free musts on WholeLotta Good. Remember that everyone is different when it comes to lifestyle preferences, so please reach out to our Hy-Vee dietitian team for more support on how we can help you with your dairy-free lifestyle.

*The blog articles, recipes and recommendations found on this site are not intended as medical advice and should not replace consulting with your medical provider. Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.

About the Registered Dietitian

Ashley Danielson, RDN, LD, is eager to guide others into health and happiness. She initially received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Entrepreneurial Studies in 2008 from Iowa State University. Following your passion is something that Ashley believes in, and so she returned to Iowa State, graduated with her Bachelor of Science in Dietetics in 2017 and completed her dietetic internship with the university.

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