Clean Eating Dairy And Non Dairy

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Clean eating dairy and non dairy. I get a lot of questions about what is clean and what isn’t.

I always try to help people understand that this is a very subjective topic. The answer will essentially come down to what you personally will accept in your life and nutrition plan.

I know people who won’t touch anything other than raw, organic dairy because pasteurization is, in effect, processed dairy. And technically, they are right. Regular milk, by that definition is not clean. BUT….

We all live in the real world. Not all of us want or can afford to use only raw and organic dairy. Even Tosca Reno uses regular milk in her recipes. So lets break this down into basics that just about anybody can use.

Clean Eating Dairy And Non Dairy

CURIOUS ABOUT MORE THAN JUST CLEAN EATING DAIRY AND NON DAIRY? GET INFO ON THESE FOOD ITEMS AS WELL:

CLEAN EATING DAIRY

  • Milk – The truth is, the only honestly clean milk is raw milk. But it’s hard to find, expensive to buy and even illegal in many states. So the next best choice would be organic, full fat milk.
  • Block Cheese – Avoid the non-fat stuff because non-fat cheeses have not-so-clean ingredients added to them to help with flavor. Plus, they just taste awful. Who wants to eat rubber?
  • Prepared Cheese – Avoid prepared cheeses such as shredded cheese. It’s always best to grate your own. But if you can’t or just don’t feel  like doing all that work, be sure to read the ingredient list on the packaged grated cheeses. While there are a few that are truly clean, many have added garbage that is definitely not considered clean.
  • Cottage Cheese – Technically, it’s not clean. *gasp!* (Read the ingredient list). However, for many clean eaters, it is often included in day to day menus because it is such a fantastic source of low fat, non-meat protein. Plus, it’s portable, generally considered “healthy”, and can be eaten with either sweet or savory toppings. Just watch the sodium content if you are sensitive to sodium.
  • Fake Cheese Products – This is anything that comes in a container (usually). Things like cheesy dips, spreads or that stuff that comes out of a spray bottle. Avoid them like the plague. They are not clean or healthy on any level.

 CLEAN EATING NON DAIRY

Please note that most non-dairy milks I have found are not clean. While a lot of the ingredients are vitamins for fortification, there are still some ingredients in most that are not clean. You may have to look at many packages before you find one that is appropriate for you. So far, the only non-dairy milk I have found that is JUST milk with NOTHING added is coconut milk in a can (light or regular). This doesn’t mean they don’t exist, it just means I haven’t found them yet. If you know of a good brand, please share in a comment below!

  • Coconut milk – Opt for the light coconut milk in the can. Typically, the stuff in the cartons in the refrgerator section have a ton of added garbage. Find the pure stuff in the can. This is fantastic as a coffee creamer as well! (I should mention that there may be a carton or two at the market that is clean. But I haven’t found one yet.)
  • Unsweetened Rice Milk – Rice milk is great stuff. It’s a bit more watery than regular milk and is often ridiculed for it’s lack of nutrients by comparison. But if you need something for your coffee or for cooking, it’s a good option because it’s sweet like regular milk but has very little flavor you can taste once it’s been added to something.
  • Unsweetened Almond Milk – This is the non-dairy milk I use most often. I find it to be the most mild flavored of all the non-dairy milks and it’s just a tiny bit thicker than rice milk. I use it for cooking and baking, but not in coffee.
  • Unsweetened Hazelnut Milk – This is a relatively new product for me. While I love the flavor, it seems to have an ingredient list that is a bit longer and a bit more unpronounceable than the other milks. So I don’t generally buy it. It does not impart a hazelnut flavor to cooking or baking.
  • Unsweetened Soy Milk – While soy is a very highly controversial topic in the food world, I will include it here simply because I know there are a lot of you who use it. If you use it, be sure it’s organic. Any soy that is not organic has about a 99.9% chance of being a GMO (genetically modified). The soy beans are “Roundup Ready” meaning this chemical won’t kill these plants while it’s killing everything around them. This creates a whole new host of problems. There is much evidence to show that there are many health problems beginning to arise from these crops of soy, and the same applies to corn as well!!
  • Hemp Milk – Admittedly, I do not know a lot about hemp milk. But I do know clean eaters who swear by it. My best advice here is to read the ingredient list and be sure it’s unsweetened.
  • Non-Dairy Cheeses – I have yet to find one that actually tastes good. It’s been my experience that if you are used to regular dairy cheese, you will most likely have a hard time with the non-dairy cheeses (and even yogurts, though those are a bit easier when sweetened.) If you are vegan, it will most likely be an acquired taste. Personally, I avoid these like the plague because I can’t stand the way they taste. But if you are accustomed to these cheeses, just read the ingredient list first to be sure there isn’t a bunch of unwanted extras.

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

You may be wondering where your own personal views on dairy fit into all of this.

As I mentioned above some people take their dairy to extremes (in a good way) and will only drink raw and organic. Some people won’t touch dairy for various reasons and choose the non-dairy milk they like best. Flavor plays a big part in that decision.

I think it’s fair to say that unless you take an extreme approach to your eating plan or have certain food allergies or sensitivities, you will most likely fall into the middle somewhere. It all comes down to finding a balance that feels right to you.

While I love milk, I can no longer have it. So I opt for the almond milk. While it’s not 100% clean, it’s the cleanest option for me. Your best option may be entirely different, but the point is, you need to make a choice that fits your life.

Article is an original work and is © Tiffany McCauley. It may not be reproduced for any reason without written permission by the author.

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84 Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    Lynn – The butter is organic, which makes it good butter. But it’s still a high dose of saturated fat. Most people will say no, it’s not clean. But it’s a personal choice. If you eat it in very small amounts on a limited basis and you feel good about it, then include it. Again, dairy is a subjective and based on what you will allow in your diet. Personally, it was one of the first things to go for me. But I can’t speak for others. Sorry! Wish I could be more specific. But if it helps any, I’ve never seen Tosca Reno use butter in her recipes….

    1. Gotta somewhat disagree with you on your answer to Lynn, Tiffany… 🙂

      Tosca actually has a recipe for “Do-It-Yourself Olive Butter Spread” in her Eat Clean Diet Cookbook. It’s equal parts butter and olive oil. It can be used as a spread or in recipes (such as her recipe for “Grandmother’s Favorite Oatmeal Cookies.” 🙂 Just though I’d share. I think if Lynn can get organic butter from a local dairy, that’s ideal. Made with the Olive Oil it’s a nice way to have butter once in a while and still keep it clean (or at least cleaner). 🙂

      1. Anonymous says:

        Becky – I’m not familiar with the recipe you are referring to, so I can’t comment on that. But yes, if there is a cleaner option, then by all means, go for it. As I said, it’s a personal choice. It’s not really about agreeing or disagreeing. It’s about what you feel comfortable with and what you call clean. If Lynn feels comfortable with that, then she should definitely include it. I know some clean eaters who do. I can only speak personally to my own beliefs. I choose not to include butter. (Of course, recently, that is also due to dairy intolerance, but I’ve never included it.)

  2. Kelli Ward says:

    Hi, my name is Kelli, and I am lactose intollerant. There…I admitted it…to the Gracious Pantry world. …Ok, done with the drama! =) I really enjoy/appreciate that you don’t do dairy as I am lactose intollerant (and bucking it all the way). I haven’t quit dairy completely, but when I do have it, I pay for it. I actually heard an interesting factoid that in other countries, once they are weened in childhood, they no longer drink milk or use other dairy products. I thought that was pretty interesting. I havn’t always been lactose, it just kinda creeped up on me…

    1. Anonymous says:

      Kelli – I wasn’t always lactose intolerant either. As we age, our bodies produce less and less lactase, which is the enzyme that helps us digest lactose. Many adults find that as they age, they can no longer tolerate dairy. It’s certainly nothing to be ashamed of. I gave it up several months ago, and while I miss cheese very much, I’m happy to do what’s best for my body because I know I will be healthier for it!

      And you are right, many people consider cows milk to be inappropriate for human consumption.

  3. Mccaa Erdman says:

    I always wondered about cottage cheese! I could never find a cottage cheese that didn’t have added ingredients, but you use it so much in your recipes/meal plans that I assumed that it was haha! Thank you for the clarification!

    1. Anonymous says:

      McCaa – You’re welcome! Glad I could clear that up!

  4. I too am lactose intolerant…although cheese and yogurt don’t seem to affect me as much as milk and ice creams. What about the lactose free dairy milks (like Lactaid, or Dean’s Easy 100% lactose free milks)…are those relatively clean?

    1. Anonymous says:

      Coley – I do not believe they are clean. I could be wrong, I haven’t looked at any of those containers, but I would surprised if they were clean.

      1. I would think that you could get the milk of choice and make your own cottage cheese.Google recipes

        1. The Gracious Pantry says:

          Carol – Possibly, I’ve never tried.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Jodi – Thanks for the correction. It’s really pretty frightening either way. Health problems directly related to these types of plants are already surfacing. It’s amazing to me how profits trump public health every time. Absolutely amazing.

  6. Great list! What about eggs? Wouldn’t that go under “clean non-dairy?” I always thought eggs were considered dairy. I have no idea why but glad it’s not.

    1. Anonymous says:

      Telfert – To the best of my knowledge, eggs fall under poultry. But I could be wrong. They don’t come from a cow or from milk, so I assume they are not dairy.

      Eggs are a fantastic source of protein! I eat a ton of egg whites. They are a wonderful addition to a clean eating diet.

  7. Tiffany,
    Any advice on yogurt?
    I love 0% fat Greek yogurt! Are there things to think about when looking for a clean option?
    Thanks, Tamara

  8. You can make almond milk 100% clean, by making your own!

    Just soak 1 cup whole, RAW almonds over night in water in the fridge.

    The next day, rinse the almonds, and blend them up with 3-4 cups water (depending on your taste), until there are only little bits left, and the water now looks white.

    Fasten a large piece of 2 ply cheese cloth over the wide mouth of a jar with elastic, and strain the almond milk.

    When it’s all gone through the cheesecloth, squeeze the almond pulp to get the last bits out!

    VOILA! Almond milk!

    And keep the almond meal for use in your baking!

    1. Anonymous says:

      Amacuba – Thank you for the recipe! I’ve been avoiding making my own simply because I hate the idea of straining out so much good stuff. I’ve been trying to save for a Vitamix blender so I don’t have to do that. Soon…

  9. What about dry milk and evaporated milk?

    1. Anonymous says:

      Linda – Both are processed and therefor not considered clean. I do have a recipe for clean eating condensed milk though.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Jodi – Ya, I’ve heard that somewhere they even sell a low sodium, organic cottage cheese. I’ve yet to find it!

  11. Remicami2003 says:

    What about goat milk and cheese. Are they dairy or non dairy? Are they clean

    1. Anonymous says:

      Remicami – Yes, they are dairy and as with most dairy, it all depends on how they are processed. For the most part, you can follow the same rules for goat’s milk and cheese as you do for cow’s milk and cheese. I think for the most part, they are clean. But I’m sure there are plenty of examples where they are not. You have to take it on a case by case basis.

  12. Have you ever tried Dayia ‘cheese’? Its a vegan ‘cheese’, melts wonderfully and comes in a few flavours. I love it… but I’m not sure if its clean?

    It doesn’t have a scary ingredient list, like most other vegan ‘cheese’:

    Filtered water, tapioca and /or arrowroot flours, non-GMO expeller pressed canola and /or non-GMO expeller pressed safflower oil, coconut oil, pea protein, salt, inactive yeast, vegan natural flavors, vegetable glycerin, xanthan gum, citric acid (for flavor), annatto, titanium dioxide (a naturally occurring mineral).

    Here’s a link to their site, in case you’re interested.
    http://www.daiyafoods.com/

    1. Anonymous says:

      Krista – Yes, I’ve tried it and I didn’t care for it at all. I think I threw away the package after one bite. But I know there are a lot of folks who like it. I’m not sure if it really qualifies as clean, but if you can’t have regular dairy, it’s a healthier option for sure.

  13. Andrea @ cleanupandeatup.com says:

    Thanks Tiffany for the info! Super helpful since I am going vegan on September 5th – no more dairy for me… I will miss cheese 🙁 a little too much and that is precisely why it needs to go!

    1. Anonymous says:

      Andrea – Ya, I miss cheese sooooo much! But my body is just happier without it. Just have to do what’s right for my body, not my mind sometimes. You can do this!

  14. Anonymous says:

    Sarah – Depends on the recipe. Is this just for coffee or part of an actual recipe?

  15. Lennon Patton says:

    No love for Goat’s milk?

    1. Anonymous says:

      Lennon – Umm…. no. Sorry, don’t care for it at all. But it is an alternative, I was raised on it due to milk allergies as a kid. But ya…. no.

  16. graciouspantry says:

    Plain Greek Yogurt is clean, yes.

  17. graciouspantry says:

    I haven’t heard anything about it, but you can always make your own. There are a ton of videos on YouTube that show you how. It’s pretty simple.

  18. graciouspantry says:

    I got mine at Whole Foods.

  19. graciouspantry says:

    There is none that I’m aware of. You pretty much have to make your own. I have a recipe here for condensed milk that makes excellent creamer and you can pretty much flavor it any way you like.

  20. What kind of cheese do you use on the clean eating pizza dough? I am just on my third week of clean eating and planning my menu for the weekend. The pizza is on my list but know that my family will be disappointed if we don’t have cheese!

    1. graciouspantry says:

      I love parmesan on pizza (the real stuff). But Mozzarella in moderation is fine too.

  21. I love milk and my favorite is skim! People think I’m weird cause they say its so watered down, but I think it’s great. I also know its better for me for weight loss! If I drink whole milk, it seems way too cream to me now!

  22. Nora Sihanikhom says:

    Aroy-D coconut milk is very clean. Just coconut extract (a Thai translation that the coconut meat was squeezed to get the juice) and water. You can find this at local Asian markets. All the other coconut milk have some sorta thickening like guar gum.

  23. graciouspantry says:

    The truth is, dairy is a very personal decision. The only honest to goodness clean milk is raw milk. But that’s expensive, hard to find, illegal in some states, and some people believe it to be dangerous for kids. So it really comes down to making the decisions you feel are best for you and your family. I don’t personally believe that the addition of calcium and vitamin D make it “not-clean”. What makes it “less than clean” is the processing the milk goes through in general. So again, just make the choice you feel is best for you and your family. Sorry, I know that doesn’t help much…

    1. Thanks. I am grateful for your input.

  24. Pingback: Is Cheese “Clean”? | She's Losing It!
  25. You say that the only honest to goodness clean milk is raw milk….which my family drinks…but you are a proponent of low fat dairy products including milk ..and call them “clean”. Raw milk is full fat..to me this seems like a contradiction…and why do you deem full healthy fat as unclean?

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      I don’t. There are many principles to clean eating. One of them is moderating fat intake. Many clean eaters choose to do this with lower fat dairy because for many people, raw milk is not available or illegal in their state. So they have to choose the next best thing.

  26. Is Goat Cheese clean eats?

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      If it’s just the pure stuff, then yes.

  27. If an item lists “natural enzymes” as an ingredient, what does that mean?

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Enzymes generally help with digestion. They should be okay, but if you are really concerned, your best bet is to contact the manufacturer directly.

  28. Allergy Girl says:

    I have a severe allergy to milk and milk by products (whey, casein etc.) and have an anaphylactic reaction (I will stop breathing).

    Gracious Pantry I agreED with you about alternate choices for cheese. It took me YEARS to even try and I threw out the Dayia as well.

    I did, however, find an option I actually like! VEGAN GOURMET. I made lasagna with it and has my husband try it (even though it wasn’t as good as the “regular lasagna” for him) he said it was actually good and he would eat it again.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Interesting! Thanks! 🙂

  29. Thanks on the clarification on the cottage cheese. All the cottage cheeses I was finding had the extra junk in it, so I was confused. I did find a “somewhat” local dairy (in the next state over from me) who operates organic and ships a clean cottage cheese to a grocery store in my town…however one that is still kind of far from me. I haven’t made the special trip over there to check it out, and I was a bit scared of the price…if ya know what I mean! But, I’d love to buy it just once to taste it…who knows, I may be hooked!

    It’s good to know that regular cottage cheese is acceptable for every day cooking. Sometimes this new lifestyle gets a bit on the confusing side! Especially when you don’t necessarily have the money to buy all organic and shop at Whole Foods!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Tammie – Just purchase the best you can afford. The fact that you are eating balanced, whole food meals is a huge jump in the right direction.

  30. A question about nut milks, I’m confused…. If pasteurization renders milk “not clean” (because it heats the milk, presumably?) then how come almond milk is clean? Surely the almonds have been heated & cooked?

    Or is it not the heating element of pasteurization which renders the milk “not clean”? What technically makes the milk not clean, in that case?

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Laura – Pasteurization and homogenization are a huge process. I could be wrong, but I don’t believe almond milk goes through the same process. That said, almond milk is not clean unless you make it at home. However, some clean eaters who can’t have dairy make an exception where almond and other non-dairy milks are concerned because they have few other options. I haven’t yet tried making my own, but plan to in the near future.

  31. SezNoDairy says:

    What about Oat Milk, apparently it contains more calcium than cow’s milk?
    I drink oat milk all the time and love it (took some getting used to when I stopped dairy) but the texture is quite thick similar to cows milk

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      SezNoDairy – I’ve never heard of it, but if it’s clean, it sounds good!

  32. Daisy brand cottage cheese has only Cultured skim milk, cream, salt

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Becky – Thanks! That’s great to know!

  33. What brand of almond milk do you use? I assume the Silk brand is not clean.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Jordan – No, it’s not. But the truth is, I haven’t found a single one on the market that is clean. It’s one of those “personal choice” things if you can’t have dairy. That said, you can also make your own pretty easily if you have a good blender. That is most certainly clean.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Jordan – My pleasure! 🙂

  34. ok, so I am very very new to clean eating! I want to get healthy, so I have decided to do the clean eating, I found your site and am loving all of your information, but I am on an overload of information and I am getting so confused! So on the “no dairy”, I would probably be completely ok in not having the milk to drink, I have drank nothing but skim milk for a long time! The thing I am worried about is, if we don’t do dairy, where are you all getting your calcium from? Do you all take a calcium supplement?

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Karen – You may want to research it a bit for your own knowledge, but there are plenty of foods to get calcium from that are not dairy-based. And yes, if you’re concerned, you can always talk to your doctor about a supplement.

  35. Helen Alford says:

    Still can’t find something I enjoy putting in my coffee. If milk is considered (mostly) clean, what about just using good old cream or half n half in small amounts?

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Helen – You could. I would opt for organic cream, not half and half. But if that’s too much fat, you can always try organic whole milk.

  36. The best cottage cheese that I’ve found is Daisy brand. The ingredients are milk, cream, salt

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Melanie – Really? Wow! do you know if they have an organic version?

  37. Unfortunately I haven’t seen it. 🙁

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Melanie – No worries! It’s still great that it’s even available!!

  38. Hi , above you said the cleanist choice of cows milk would be organuc full fat , but when i proceded to download your shopping list for beginers it says to buy skimmed milk ? Which 1 is te right 1 for me to buy ???

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Ellie – Sorry about that. I need to update the list. The cleanest version is full fat dairy. Low fat or non-fat is very processed.

  39. Genevieve says:

    Thank you for the post. So my question would be, is string cheese acceptable for my kids and myself? And I was wondering what your opinion is on peanut butter. My family loves the stuff. I want to start eating clean but I worry because me and my husband have opposite body types. I’m naturally underweight and he is overweight.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Genevieve – It would depend on the cheese. I think many of them are clean, but that doesn’t mean they all are. A good start would be to avoid any low fat or non fat string cheese and buy organic if you can afford it. But you really have to read the ingredient list to know for sure.

      Here’s an article on how to read labels for clean eating: https://www.thegraciouspantry.com/reading-labels-for-clean-eating/

      Here’s an article on how to find clean peanut butter: https://www.thegraciouspantry.com/what-is-clean-peanut-butter/

  40. I fail to understand how non-dairy ‘cheese’ is even remotely clean! It’s a fake product and heavily processed. Just because people eat it doesn’t make it clean.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Paypal – You’re right. But people take different approaches to clean eating. I keep things general so that everyone can use my information. If a particular item doesn’t work for you, then ignore it. Many people don’t feel that shrimp or pork are clean either. But that’s totally a personal choice.

  41. Is there something I can use as a clean substitution for cream cheese?

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Chynna – I know there are some vegan recipes out there made from cashews. Might be worth a shot!

  42. Jane Williams says:

    Are raisins and sultanas clean ? I imagine they are dried fruit but have been ‘processed’ somehow?

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Jane – They are clean. But you still want to read ingredients. Some have added preservatives or even sugar.

  43. Kelly Sawyer says:

    What are your thoughts on powdered milk? I’m thinking it would be nice to make some around for mornings like this when I’m out of milk but just want coffee! But of course there are many varieties and options for powdered milk; thoughts?

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Kelly – Clean eating is about avoiding processed foods. Consuming foods that are in their natural state. Powdered milk is not a natural state. It has to be processed to get it that way. So it would not be clean. That being said, if it’s something you use on rare occasion and you use it in small amounts, I would just call it good. Remember the 80/20 rule in clean eating. Eat 100% clean, 80-90% of the time. The rest gives you a little wiggle room for things like this. 🙂

  44. Amber Blanco says:

    Hi, wondering if there is a clean cream cheese option? Just starting this clean journey, and am so grateful I found your site! Thank you in advance for any tip on cream cheese.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Amber – Cream cheese is no more processed than regular cheese. The reason most clean eaters avoid it is because of it’s fat content, which most cheese has anyway. So I recommend small amounts if you want to use it.

  45. Denisha Meidinger says:

    Hi there, this was super helpful information. Thank you so much!

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