So I’m smack in the middle of a month-long experiment. It’s totally unscientific, and completely non-fact-based, but an experiment nonetheless…


I’m going dairy-free for the month of January. No milk, butter or cheese. No pizza, chicken parm or malteds. No traditional baked goods.


 “Cow Wallpaper (Pink on Yellow)”, 1966, image courtesy of The Andy Warhol Museum

Over the last few years I have too often felt “on the verge” of getting sick. I’ve  had one too many sinus infections and have  gone through several stretches of just feeling plain crappy.  And I couldn’t figure out why. On most nights I get enough sleep. And I exercise regularly. I even get a check-up once a year (and get a clean bill of health every time).

So I started thinking about all the areas of my life that could use some tweaking. That maybe I could take a modified holistic approach, and see – if by making some minor changes – I could realize a difference in my day-to-day energy level, and overall well-being.

My diet was the first thing that came to mind, and I decided to eliminate one food group per month, for three months. There is so much talk these days about “trigger foods” and people being diagnosed with later-in-life food allergies that it was obvious to me that this was something worth exploring.

The three food groups I decided to “take away” were dairy, gluten and sugar. I also set these goals:

*Go cold turkey on the 1st of the month and not cheat – even a little – for 30 days.
*Find, make and share really great recipes and resources with all of you.
*Make minimal use of what I call “fake foods” (tofurkey, anyone?), using “real” ingredients wherever possible to make dishes that I would genuinely want to eat – even baked goods.

I set the bar pretty high, but why the hell not? I even put it on my life list to make it “real” (numbers 71, 72 and 73 to be exact). We’re talking 30 days, not a lifetime.

My plan was to start with gluten, which I figured was the biggest culprit.

And then Chelsea came home from school, and announced that she was a vegan.

And this is what the inside of my head looked like:

psycho shower scene

image courtesy of Rex Features

Now, I was totally supportive of Chelsea – and more than impressed with her commitment to seeing this through. But it was like, No – I cannot learn one more new thing. Please don’t make me. I can’t do it.

The timing on this probably didn’t help either. I had just gotten through a 6-week marathon of travel, Thanksgiving and holiday baking. Re-inventing my family’s meal time was definitely NOT on my agenda.

But then I realized that vegan means no dairy – so why didn’t I just eliminate dairy to start? Chelsea would be home for the whole month, and was more than willing to find recipes and research ingredients. I could help her get started while completing my goal for January.

So how’s it going, you might be wondering?

Not too badly….

The first 7-10 days were not great. I had read on Mara’s blog about what to expect when eliminating dairy – that it would be similar to caffeine withdrawal. And she was right. Fortunately the headaches and jitters have gone way completely.

I’m hungrier than usual, but if I grab an “empty” snack (like some candy or a cracker), I’m likely to have a crash by mid-afternoon, even worse than before. So I’ve added both a mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack, each containing a decent amount of protein.

Here’s a rundown of a typical day’s meals:

Iced coffee with almond milk and a splash of maple syrup (the syrup “cuts” the almond milk and gives it a flavor that is preferable to me)
Hardboiled egg
English muffin with jam and honey (alas, none of my homemade butter for a while – but it helps when you have friends like Elizabeth, who send you Earl Grey vanilla apple butter. That lasted about a week.)

Mid-morning snack:
A larabar (hopefully homemade), breakfast bar (same) or Cliff Bar

I’m the WORST with lunch – fortunately, avocado toast is filling AND dairy free. If I’m on the run I’ll grab a bag of cashews and dried fruit.

Mid-afternoon snack:
A handful of nuts, a Cliff Bar or hummus with crackers/carrots

I’ve been adapting our dinners by making dairy-free meals, or putting aside a portion for myself with no cheese. As I’ve been making vegan side dishes and salads to serve Chelsea as her “main”, there is always something for me to eat (this salad is a big favorite around here).

For dessert I’ll have some dark chocolate covered cherries or a few cookies (Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s both have great dairy-free options).

Over the next few weeks I’ll share some of the recipes (yes, even baked goods!) that we’re enjoying here, as well as any changes I’ve noticed (both good and bad).

I’d love to know if you’ve ever done something similar with your diet, and if it worked for you. If it did work, have you maintained it, or modified along the way?

Also – how do you manage mealtimes for your family when one member has specific dietary needs? Let’s get a conversation going here!

Note: I am not a doctor, nutritionist or dietician. Please consult a professional before making any changes to your diet.


  1. Melissa on January 14, 2013 at 8:18 am

    I’m so curious to see how this goes for you! I’m shocked that there are dairy-withdrawal symptoms. Guess that says a lot.

    I gave up french fries last summer, which taught me two things: 1) how bloated I felt without even realizing it after eating fries and 2) fries come with everything! I had to really get creative or go without a side in many restaurants. I’m planning to tackle soda this year.

    Good luck with your experiment!

    • sherisilver on January 14, 2013 at 12:18 pm

      Thanks so much! I know – I was shocked too, especially since I didn’t realize I consumed that much dairy!

  2. Megan on January 14, 2013 at 8:22 am

    I should do this…I feel like the only thing I’d really really miss is greek yogurt. Even more than cheese. Keep up the good work!

    • sherisilver on January 14, 2013 at 12:19 pm

      Chelsea’s definitely missing her Greek yogurt! For me? It’s butter – definitely butter. 😉

  3. Christa the BabbyMama on January 14, 2013 at 9:51 am

    Larabars rocks!

    If it makes you feel any better, I’m right there with you on the journey since baby H. can’t tolerate it via my milk. I’ve been dairy free since before Christmas and it’s not *that* hard. I miss pizza and creamy smoothies and lattes and buttercream icing, though. I do make a mean vegan cupcake in chocolate so it’s not all bad!

  4. Anne Phillips on January 14, 2013 at 12:26 pm

    Yo, Sheri:
    I did a Cleanse last year around this time and it was based on eliminating “allergens” from the diet for 3 weeks then slowly adding things back in. The typical approach. I have two files full of some of the best recipes from that experiment. I use them regularly in the rotation. Would you like them? Salads, mains, vegan stuff, some meat. Send me your email and I’ll share…

    • sherisilver on January 14, 2013 at 3:30 pm

      That would be great; thanks so so much! Did this work for you? What long-term changes did you wind up making? E-mail is sheri at sherisilver dot come. Much appreciated! 🙂

  5. Jackie on January 14, 2013 at 10:05 pm

    Sheri – Congratulations on your decision to take control of your health. Experimentation is a fun way to try on new lifestyles and see what works for you. For vegan baking, I’m sure you’ve found the Babycakes cookbooks (vegan, gluten free). Love their stuff. I also highly recommend Terry Walter’s Clean Food cookbooks (all vegan and gluten free). Drew went dairy free last year so if you need strategies shoot me a note and we’ll get on the phone.

    • sherisilver on January 15, 2013 at 8:19 am

      Thanks Jackie! Stay tuned for a Babycakes post – LOVE that place! Is there a local spot for sweets that Drew likes??

      • Jackie on January 15, 2013 at 9:22 pm

        Honestly, he avoid most baked goods so he can avoid the dairy. The sweets I cook at home are typically dairy free. But he has found good scones at Red Barn Bakery. We also want to try By The Way Bakery in Hastings.

        Also – I wanted to point you to Pure Food & Wine in the city. They have the BEST coconut “ice cream” in the world. I have her cookbooks if you’d like to try one sometime.

        • sherisilver on January 15, 2013 at 9:44 pm

          Thanks Jackie! Have been to Pure Food – years ago – and want to go back with Chelsea. Is By The Way vegan?

  6. Megan on January 16, 2013 at 7:38 am

    Hey Sheri – I really enjoy milk alternatives. I while back I tried eliminating dairy and I didn’t entirely stick with it, I did notice that I felt better when I drank less milk and I also discovered I really liked soy milk, almond milk (especially the chocolate stuff without sugar, mmmm, heat it up with some cinnamon, sold)….. ANYWAYS, I came across this recipe that I still haven’t tried, but thought I’d share with you in case you’re interested – Homemade Almond Milk:

    • sherisilver on January 16, 2013 at 7:43 am

      Thanks for this Megan – it never occurred to me that I could make my own but it looked easy! 🙂

      • Megan on January 16, 2013 at 7:47 am

        So easy! I don’t have a blender in my current (temporary) home, but this is something I plan on trying when I get home. We always have a giant bag of Costco almonds and I think you could get creative… earl-grey infused, chai, chocolate of course! and more…yummm.

        • sherisilver on January 16, 2013 at 8:02 am

          Ha!We have the same bag! Okay – I’ll go first!!

      • Jackie on January 16, 2013 at 9:34 am

        Sheri, Megan – you can use the same process with almost any nut. Cashew are YUMMY and available in bulk at Whole Foods. You can also start with a good quality nut butter (try Tierra Farms). The nice thing about starting with nut butter is that you can use a regular blender – you don’t need a high speed one. For whole nuts it really helps to have a strong blender or there is a lot of pulp (which you can use to crust chicken or tofu). Squeeze the pulp out well. And you don’t have to spout the nuts, although that’s a great boost.

        I often use nuts (almonds, peanuts (organic only), or cashews) as the base of my breakfast smoothie. If I’m just finishing a workout I use Coconut Water instead of plain water to up the electrolytes.

        Have fun experimenting!

  7. Caroline on January 16, 2013 at 2:11 pm

    Wishing you all the best with this! I think setting a goal for a month to start was a good idea. I have tried giving up dairy in the past to see if it would help alleviate my adult on-set acne — yuck! Ultimately, I couldn’t make it stick because I love yogurt and cheese too much, but I DO think I felt healthier and lighter when I was eating less of it. Best of luck!

    • sherisilver on January 16, 2013 at 5:48 pm

      Thanks so much – stay tuned! 🙂

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