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. 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.

    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 @ 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.