Clean Eating Dairy And Non Dairy

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



  • 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.


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.


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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  1. 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.

  2. 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!

  3. 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.

  4. 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. 🙂

  5. 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.

  6. Denisha Meidinger says:

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

  7. Have you tried the MALK products? I use the unsweetened Almond Malk. Ingredients are Organic Almonds, Himalayan Salt, and filtered water.