Keeping a dairy-free diet balanced

Senior dietitian Victoria Taylor explains how to keep your diet balanced and heart-healthy if you're avoiding dairy products.

A range of dairy-free milks

Cheese and other dairy products are among our biggest sources of saturated fat. In theory, avoiding this group could have benefits for your heart health. But it’s not straightforward. Dairy products are an important source of calcium, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and iodine, so you need alternatives that will provide these nutrients.

Make sure you include white as well as oily fish in your diet to get enough iodine

To get enough calcium, add foods such as tinned sardines or tinned salmon (which have bones in – don’t worry, they are soft and edible), green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, okra or cabbage, and tofu and nuts.

Riboflavin (vitamin B2) is found in eggs, fortified breakfast cereals and green veg. Make sure you include white as well as oily fish in your diet to get enough iodine. Some non-dairy milks are fortified with calcium and riboflavin, making them a convenient alternative to dairy products. Dairy alternatives can come with added sugars, so choose unsweetened versions of milks and check the labels of yoghurts and desserts.

Coconut-based products have also become popular dairy-free options, but may be high in saturated fat – products which sound healthy may not be in reality. A food is considered ‘high’ in saturated fat if it has more than 5g per 100g or more than 6g per portion – this would appear ‘red’ if there is a traffic light nutrition label.

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