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How to Stick to a Dairy-Free and Gluten-Free Diet Long Term (and not go crazy!)

If you’re new to cutting gluten and dairy, start with Katie’s post to learn how to go gluten and dairy-free with kids. If you know you’re in it for the long haul, I’ve got you covered here with tips for a GF/CF lifestyle long term.

Gluten-free Dairy-free Nut-free Cowboy Cookies
Make the transition to a dairy-free and gluten-free diet easier with these delicious Cowboy Cookies!

I remember when I first made the decision to switch to a gluten-free diet almost nine years ago. It felt pretty monumental. Especially since gluten sensitivity wasn’t as rampant as it is today and gluten-free convenience foods were slim pickings.

I was dealing with a lot of digestive issues, hypothyroidism, and infertility. It felt like the right thing to do.

I told myself I’d try one month of foods that were naturally gluten-free and see how I felt. No expensive foods and learning new techniques. No push back from my husband about eating strange, new foods. That meant lots of rice, corn, and potatoes. And to be honest, you can make a LOT of food this way. No special ingredients required.

I did feel better, and I wanted to keep going.

But let’s face it, we all eventually want some pasta or bread! Maybe even pizza.

So after my trial run, I dove head first into gluten-free baking and have never looked back.

In the end, I truly kept up a gluten-free lifestyle for my kids. Their reactions to gluten have opened my eyes to the impact it can have (you can read more about why we eat gluten-free here).

Maintaining a Dairy-Free Diet is Harder

Eating dairy-free was a bit harder to come to grips with. It was sort of forced on our family due to food allergies. I’ve had to cut out dairy while breastfeeding for kids two, three and four. My second child has been dairy-free since he was two years old. And now five out of six of us are dairy-free.

On top of dairy-free and gluten-free I’m still egg, nut, and nightshade free! Just dairy-free doesn’t sound so bad anymore!

It’s easy to swap gluten-free flour for wheat flour. But dairy? Milk, cheese, ice cream…not as easy to replace.

We love our raw milk and supporting a farmer just down the road. At first it feels like a huge change. You only think about restrictions and what you have to give up.

But over the years I’ve learned to embrace whatever our dietary needs are and focus on what we CAN have and how we can use those foods to nourish ourselves. I’ve come to love the simplicity of our meals. My kids do too! Not to mention I’d rather make a few food swaps if it means feeling my best.

Related: Gluten-Free Snacks Kids Can Make

Do You Have to Give up Eggs if You’re Dairy-Free?

This may seem like common knowledge to some, but I hear this misconception far to often – eggs are NOT dairy.

How to Stick to a Dairy-Free and Gluten-Free Diet Long Term (and not go crazy!). Gluten-Free / Dairy-Free Kid-friendly recipes. #glutenfreedairyfree #glutenfree #dairyfree #glutenfreebaking

They are in the dairy aisle at the store…but eggs come from chickens, not cows. So you can absolutely eat eggs on a dairy-free gluten-free diet!

How to Stick to A Dairy-Free and Gluten-Free Diet Long Term

If you are on a dairy-free and gluten-free diet (DF/GF) for the long haul I’ve got some tips for you to make it easier. Life certainly doesn’t have to be boring or bland. I have yet to find a food that I ate before a DF/GF diet that I couldn’t replace. And I love challenges in the kitchen!

If you have a favorite food you want modified for a DF/GF diet let me know in the comments! Or browse my recipes…you’ll probably find what you’re looking for.

Here are my tips for sticking to a dairy-free and gluten-free diet long term.

Know Your Why

The most important component of a dairy-free and gluten-free diet is not the food at all. It’s the mindset. If you are committing to this lifestyle because “Suzy the health guru” said you should…you’re going to fail. Sorry, but it’s true.

You’ll focus on restriction and bemoan how you “have” to eat. Don’t do it. The other day my daughter (age eleven) said her friend is vegan because “it’s cool.” Do you think that will last?

If you know why you are on the diet (and it’s a valid reason), then you will have the proper mindset. It can make all the difference in the world!

Milk in a jar with a straw

There are many reasons to eat a DF/GF diet. Some are purely choices (for health or morals). Some are a necessity (allergies or autoimmune disorders). Either way, being confident in your why will help you have a positive attitude.

Find a Plant-Based Milk Alternative You Love

One of the easiest ways to eat dairy-free is to find a milk alternative that you love. Even if you don’t drink it plain, a milk substitute is very useful for both cooking and baking.

My oldest loves almond milk. My second loves rice milk. So we always have both on hand. My third child won’t drink any milk. But I use either almond or rice milk in her food.

There are plenty of other options too, including cashew milk, oat milk, sunflower seed milk and quinoa milk.

I prefer homemade milk alternatives since most store-bought versions contain synthetic vitamins and stabilizers. Not to mention many are made with fluoridated water. This super simple homemade rice milk is our favorite!

We do buy this almond milk since it only has two ingredients – almonds (use the code STEWARDSHIP for 10% off at that site!) and water!

We use dairy-free milk for baking, in scrambled eggs or baked eggs, in oatmeal (we love steel cut oats in the Instant Pot), on granola, and in smoothies.

Easy Dairy Replacements

Tortilla chips with homemade cheese sauce

If you are dairy-free long term, you are probably going to start missing some of your favorite dairy items like cheese, yogurt and ice cream. Fortunately they can all be replaced quite easily!

My biggest dairy free kitchen success was a simple cheese sauce. We use it in so many ways! Nachos, pizza, mac ‘n’ cheese, omelettes, baked potatoes, broccoli…they are all great with cheese sauce. It takes less than ten minutes to make and only uses a few, real food ingredients. My ten year old can even make it by herself. That’s how easy it is.

You can get the cheese sauce recipe along with nine other dairy substitutes HERE!

10 Simple Dairy Substitutes FREE ebook

Take note of the fat content in your dairy replacements. It will make a difference in taste and texture of your food. If you want dairy-free ice cream, you need to use a replacement with a high fat content. If you are making yogurt, the fat doesn’t matter so much.

Be Careful with Coconut when Going Dairy-Free

One of the most popular dairy substitutes is coconut. Coconut milk works amazingly well for ice cream due to its high fat content. I actually prefer the texture of coconut milk ice cream to dairy ice cream! (Use the coupon code STEWARDSHIP for 10% off at Wildly Organic)

Coconut milk is also super easy to make and works in most recipes. Plus it makes delicious yogurt. Coconut oil is a popular healthy fat in the real food world too. It makes a great butter replacement.

That being said, more and more people are becoming allergic to coconut. My third child had an extreme coconut allergy starting at five months old. We had to avoid every food from palm trees (palm shortening and even dates!). So observe how your child responds. Many people with a nut allergy find they don’t tolerate coconut either. Though technically not a nut, it can be problematic.

We don’t use many coconut products in general. Occasionally we use some coconut water, MCT oil, and refined coconut oil (use the code STEWARDSHIP to get 10% off).

Find a Gluten-Free Flour Blend You Love

Gluten-free living is a bit less complicated than dairy-free. So if you’ve made it this far on the list you’re past the hard stuff!

Gluten-Free flour

When most people think of gluten-free they immediately think of grains. Specifically replacing wheat. Thank goodness it’s not that hard!

If you are new to gluten-free baking there are two foolproof ways to ensure success:

  1. Use a well-tested recipe and follow it exactly.
  2. Buy a pre-made gluten-free flour blend. It’s usually a one-to-one swap with wheat flour in your favorite recipes.

I prefer the first option. Pretty much all gluten-free flour blends contain some type of gum to mimic the gluten. Usually this is xanthan gum. I made the decision from the start to never use xanthan gum in my gluten-free baking. I don’t use gums of any kind.

I keep a variety of gluten-free flours on hand (like white rice, sorghum, teff, and amaranth) and use a combination of two or three of them when I bake. If that sounds like a hassle you can mix up your own gluten-free flour blend in bulk so it’s ready whenever you want to bake. This guide tells you how to mix them. This recipe is a tried and true mix.

Start with Your Favorite Foods and find GF/DF Swaps

Gluten Free graham crackers

One of the easiest ways to transition to a gluten-free dairy-free diet is by swapping your favorite foods for their new counterparts. Mac ‘n’ cheese, pizza, spaghetti, even grilled cheese! You can have them all. And once you figure out how to enjoy your staple foods on a new diet you won’t feel deprived.

The funny thing is that my kids often like the replacements better! Here are recipes for some of our dairy-free gluten-free kid-friendly, family favorites.

Have Fun with New Gluten-free/Dairy-Free Recipes

Once you’ve mastered your staple foods it’s time to have some fun with new recipes!

Maybe you’ve been stuck in a rut with mac ‘n’ cheese and spaghetti as the only pasta you make. Try pesto pasta (we make pesto by blending thawed frozen peas with olive oil, salt and garlic powder) or pumpkin pasta. Brown rice pasta is readily available and holds up very well.

Do you have pizza every Friday night? Change it up. We love to have breakfast for dinner on Fridays.

Are crackers with cheese a go-to side dish with soup? Try baking a batch of double raspberry chocolate chip muffins instead.

Foods from other cultures are often naturally gluten and dairy-free. You can have fun eating a diverse assortment of dishes.

Skip the Processed Foods

I mentioned at the start of the post that gluten-free and dairy-free convenience foods hardly existed when I first started on this journey. That’s probably a good thing.

Homemade Gluten Free granola bars

Today you can find GF/DF pretty much anything you want – bread, pizza, pasta, cheese, granola bars, cookies, chicken nuggets, corn dogs,…you get the idea.

Unfortunately, they are still processed foods. And that means they are not healthy. Even if they are free of gluten and dairy.

As much as you are able, stick to homemade food. Gluten-free bread is a cinch with this recipe. You can make big batches of any DF/GF baked good to store in the freezer for convenience, like muffins or granola bars.

Get your kids involved too!


Rethink the Way You Snack

Typical snacks these days are mostly starch and dairy – crackers, cheese sticks, cereal, yogurt, chips, granola bars,…

Living a dairy-free and gluten-free lifestyle is a good excuse to rethink snacks. Focus on more fruits and veggies. They can still be low prep but with more nutrition.

My kids love cucumbers with hummus (this recipe has three ingredients and is ready in three minutes) or apple slices and bananas dipped in sunbutter.

Dairy-Free Hummus Dip with Vegetables

Dried fruit mixed with nuts is another great option. They all contain some protein and fat to keep your kids going through the day without a blood sugar spike and crash.

Although there are plenty of delicious homemade baked goods that can serve as snacks, focus on foods that are naturally gluten and dairy-free to simplify your life.

Eating Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free Away from Home

A DF/GF diet is easiest when you are at home. But that doesn’t mean you can’t eat away from home. Most restaurants now have gluten and dairy-free menus. You can call ahead to be sure they are willing to accommodate your dietary needs.

When visiting family and friends simply ask for the menu up front. Most people are very understanding of dietary restrictions. You can also offer to bring food or be the host.

Here are more tips for sticking to a special diet when you’re not at home.

Life as a Dairy-Free and Gluten-Free Family

What started as a little experiment to improve my own health has become a lifestyle for my whole family. There may come a day when we have all healed enough to be able to tolerate gluten and/or dairy again. Or we may choose to remain dairy-free and gluten-free for life. Either way, for now this is our norm.

We enjoy a wide variety of nourishing, whole foods. Nobody feels deprived. My kids are happy and healthy. That is what matters to me and motivates me to put in the effort to make so much of our food from scratch, grow our own food as much as we can, and keep a positive attitude about our diet. I don’t see it as a negative, so my kids don’t either.

A long-term dairy-free and gluten-free diet is very possible and very delicious!

What is your biggest challenge on a dairy-free and gluten-free diet? What have you found helpful?

Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.

About The Author

13 thoughts on “How to Stick to a Dairy-Free and Gluten-Free Diet Long Term (and not go crazy!)”

  1. Do you have any recipes with cassava flour? I have just started hearing more about cassava flour. Thank you!

    1. Carolyn @ Kitchen Stewardship

      This is the only cassava flour recipe on the site:

      From what I’ve heard cassava is the easiest of all the gluten-free flours to just substitute straight cup for cup with all-purpose regular flour. So you could give that a try too with some of our other recipes.

  2. I was so excited to see a recipe for dairy free chocolate pudding, and so disappointed when the link took me to a dairy version ? Would you mind checking the link? I’m DF while I do some gut healing and I’ve been craving chocolate in all forms!

  3. Thank you for the tapioca ideas.

    Any thoughts on egg substitutions for baking that really taste good.

  4. Fabulous site!!

    You and I are very similar in what we do, practice and live
    Have been for years, decades actually
    I just never wrote about it.

    Thank you for all your posts. Xoxoxo

    Now, I have a child who cannot have gluten, wheat, rice, corn, quinoa, any grains of any kind, soy, almond, potato, dairy, eggs, no legumes of any kind, no nightshades, not any histamine containing foods, not many fruits, etc. etc..

    I am trying cassava and tapioca, but haven’t quite figured it out yet. We are really not a fan of coconut and would really like to do some baking.

    Whenever you have a minute, if you could share any ideas.

    Thank you so much


    1. That is a long list, Clarissa! Did you find this out by trial and error or through a practicioner? Histamine is tricky. I’ve been on a low histamine diet. For that focus on fresh foods. Freeze leftover meat immediately. Avoid bone broth and ferments.

      Tapioca works pretty similarly to white rice flour. So if you find a recipe that calls for white rice flour try just swapping tapioca and see how it goes.

      Here are a few recipes you could try using all tapioca in place of the grains.

      1. ALL tapioca would be VERY gummy. The only recipe I have seen with all tapioca is Pao de Quejo (Pan de Queso) We’ve tried a ‘vegan’ version with garlic and nutritional yeast which is pretty good. I have not tried cassava, though it should act different since it still has the fiber in it. I have seen green banana or plantain flour (if you can do banana) If you can do seeds, my son likes flax milk, and we have tried hemp milk, just fine for baking, but a little different tasting for drinking.

        1. It depends what type of baking you do. Things like bars and crackers will work just fine with tapioca. Breads/muffins might not work as well. We tend to avoid banana, cassava, and tapioca flour because of the resistant starch.

        2. Jessica

          Thank you for all your suggestions. So very helpful.

          I agree that the tapioca is so very starchy. I still haven’t figured out the baking yet, but I will try the cassava flour with the gelatin and see what happens.
          And no we cannot do banana, not many fruits, cannot do flax, but I’ll look into hemp.

          Thanks so much

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