My No-Dairy Diet Experiment (With Accompanying Hellacious Meal Plan)

Doing a no-dairy diet was no fun.

Use my one-week no-dairy meal plan to test and see how your body reacts to not having dairy. You may be surprised.

In May, I started school … again. I didn’t go back to the MBA program I entered last year. I enrolled in the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN). I am training to become a certified holistic health counselor, and I couldn’t be more excited! Finally, school is an enlightening, positive influence again (as it should be) instead of a frustrating, stressful chore.

One of the requirements of the IIN health counseling curriculum is that we work with our own health counselor. My health coach, Supreet Sandhu at Yuva Aesthetics & Wellness based in Calgary, Canada, has been helping me create a healthier, happier life.

In my first session with Supreet, we analyzed a typical day’s worth of meals for me. A normal day for me would be a fruit and veggie smoothie for breakfast and a cup of coffee, a homemade deli sandwich for lunch with some fruit, a Kind bar or some pistachios for a snack, if I needed one, and some veggie pasta for dinner with parmesan cheese.

The good news: I eat pretty healthy, overall. I incorporate fruits and veggies into most of my meals.

The bad news: I include dairy in every meal (or most meals). A little dairy is fine, but a lot of dairy can be hard on some people’s digestion, making them more sluggish and bloated, among other health concerns.

I told Supreet that one of my health goals was to have more energy. She suggested that for one week, I eliminate dairy from my diet. Then, on the eighth day, eat normally again and pay attention to how I felt.

Sure, one week of no dairy. No problem. I was prepared; I had a meal plan. Couldn’t be that hard, right? My non-dairy meal plan for one week.

It was atrocious.

Here are a few of my daily notes:

Day 1

  • Slept almost nine hours, yet found it hard to get up this morning
  • Tried rice milk; don’t like it
  • Didn’t drink coffee, just peach-flavored green tea and water
  • Walked for 40 minutes
  • Didn’t notice any side effects from going non-dairy

Day 2

  • Slept about seven hours; still found it hard to get up
  • Had one 10-ounce cup of coffee
  • Drank lots of water
  • Jogged for 40 minutes
  • Felt very sluggish and tired all day
  • Felt hungry most of the day; constantly felt as if I needed to eat more
  • Felt better after the run and great after dinner

Day 3

  • Woke up with dull headache, still hard to get up
  • Drank one 10-ounce cup of coffee
  • Drank four glasses of water
  • Went to Piyo class at the gym
  • Again, felt sluggish and tired
  • Again, felt hungry
  • Felt anxious and had difficult concentrating
  • Was sure I would have a terrible workout, but did great
  • Felt tired again after dinner though
  • Drank two glasses of red wine

The rest of the week’s sentiments echoed similar themes: I felt deprived, tired, irritable, and craved dairy even though I was drinking lots of water, getting at least seven hours of sleep and exercising.

I have quit smoking permanently, given up coffee here and there, given up alcohol here and there, and the willpower this required was more than all of those combined.

Interesting Findings From the No-Dairy Diet Experiment

Another thing I discovered is just how many delicious things have dairy in them! My “whole wheat bread” had milk in it, so I bought barley bread from Trader Joe’s. I couldn’t use any of our salad dressings because those all had buttermilk in them.

Thank goodness for Smart Balance butter: It is gluten-free and contains less than two percent of whey from milk. I also learned along the way that most coffee creamers are lactose-free.

Near the end of the week, I was fantasizing about my smoothies, pizza and gourmet cheeses from The Cellar. When I did eat all of these foods on the eighth day, it was glorious.

And I felt fine.

I’d be lying if I said I felt great, but that was probably because I wasn’t having just a little dairy, I was having a ton of dairy.

I discussed the results from my no-dairy experiment with Supreet on our next session, and we had a good laugh. We agreed that while dairy isn’t for everyone, my body needs it. Eliminating it did not give me more energy. In fact, it did the opposite. Plus, if I try to deprive myself of dairy, I overindulge when I do eat it, which defeats the purpose.

Now I’m back to moderation. I usually have a little bit of dairy in most of my meals. However, I try to have one meal a day that is dairy-free. Plus, I actually really like the barley bread, and I enjoy making my own salad dressings.

Have you tried a no-dairy diet experiment on yourself? What were your results?

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6 Responses to My No-Dairy Diet Experiment (With Accompanying Hellacious Meal Plan)

  1. YEP! When I was going through IIN I did a 7-day elimination diet of all dairy and wheat. My experiment went the opposite of yours thou: I discovered I’m actually ALLERGIC to dairy and wheat/gluten!!

    Over the course of 7 days of not eating dairy or wheat I had the following things occur: my life-long stuffy nose stopped being stuffy, I was no longer bloated all day long, I no longer had weird stomach and side pain, and (best of all) the acne I suffered with for 10 years CLEARED UP!! It CLEARED UP!! In 7 DAYS!!! I spent 10 years of my life trying every product I could find to clear up my acne and nothing worked. Yet in 7 days of not eating dairy or wheat, I did what I had been previously unable to do: cleared up my acne.

    That in itself is worth living a dairy-free, wheat-free life. Of course, as you pointed out in this post, it’s damn-near impossible to find things to eat that don’t contain dairy or wheat. I barely get to eat out anymore; I have to make all my food from scratch, which takes a lot of extra prep time… but I feel the best I’ve ever felt in my life.

    Thanks for sharing the results from your experiment with us!

  2. Sarah J says:

    I am an IIN student as of…Monday! I haven’t done the assigned elimination diet, but on my own I did try to eliminate dairy for one week, to see how I felt. The “no dairy diet” is so trendy right now. I wanted to see what all the hype was about. I felt fine. Not great, not terrible. But on the last day of my diary fast I couldn’t get to sleep. I had horrible anxiety, my heart was beating rapidly and I couldn’t stop thinking about greek yogurt! Haha! I don’t usually have very strong food cravings and I’m telling you, I would have killed a person for some greek yogurt. After hours of tossing and turning, I gave in and headed to the fridge. I had a few bites of my waiting fat free plain greek yogurt left over from the previous week. And sure enough, I curled up in bed and after about 20 min, slept like a baby.

    While I haven’t gone back to eating the amount I was before, I clearly need some dairy in my life. I don’t overdo it and I’m finding that with this more moderate amount of dairy, I do seem to have more energy.

    I really enjoyed your post. It made me feel less crazy about my crazy dairy craving!

    -Sarah J

  3. Laura Lee Bloor says:

    Hey Jennifer,

    Yeah, I remember you telling me about that. That is so crazy (in a good way)! Glad to hear giving up dairy had such a transformative effect on your life. It’s so funny how the same foods can affect people so differently!

  4. Laura Lee Bloor says:

    Hey Sarah,

    Yay — a fellow Greek yogurt lover! That is the dairy staple item I probably use most. It’s such a great base for different dishes. Congrats on trying the no-dairy experiment! Glad you found what works for you.

  5. Interesting post. Good to see that I’m not the only one who needs dairy! I tried a no dairy diet. It wasn’t on purpose though. I spent 3 weeks in Bali, Indonesia (so lucky!) and rarely had any dairy–they don’t serve it. They also eat a lot of rice and noodles.

    I, like you Laura, eat a lot of dairy products normally. I limit my carbs to a couple times a week. It was a tough adjustment. I felt sluggish and bloated. This is the opposite of what is “supposed to happen.”

    Immediately when I got home, I craved dairy and had no desire to eat carbs. Once I get over my jet-lag, I’ll be back in tiptop shape!


  6. Laura Lee Bloor says:

    Hey Katie,
    So glad to see a fellow dairy lover! Keep listening to your body and have fun on your travels!

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