Understanding that the “great dairy debate” is a complicated and somewhat controversial topic, I wanted to simply share the experience I’ve had with moving my family away from cow’s milk to homemade nut milk – and the yummy cashew milk recipe that even my 2 ½ year old loves.
I started scaling back on my own dairy consumption when I was having some minor health issues a few years ago and figured dairy or gluten could be to blame. Both are known to be hard on our digestive systems and are common food allergies nowadays. The easiest change for me was milk. Almond milk tasted just as good and didn’t creep me out that I was drinking another animal’s milk. As I learned (and until I learned even more), I made small changes, eventually Chris stopped drinking dairy milk and I started slowly introducing Ellie to almond milk here and there once she was old enough.
When Ellie was a little over a year, I started to suspect a dairy intolerance because of her eczema and congestion flare ups. I had her blood tested for food allergies and everything came back okay. Still, I’ve always been hyper aware of dairy, especially its connection to digestion and skin, all the while also realizing it’s one of the hardest things to cut out of a toddler’s diet: cheese sticks!? Yogurt!? C’mon! But with everything, we do our best…
I also happen to feel very strongly about animal rights and the (awful) treatment of the animals that we eat. I’m not vegan, nor am I vegetarian, but I make a point to buy grassfed beef, free-range organic eggs, sustainable fish, etc. when I do eat meat. When I saw this video, not the first of its kind, I forced myself to watch it the whole way through (though very difficult) and at the end, I decided once and for all that we were done with dairy milk, and would be seriously limiting our dairy consumption altogether. In summary, cows produce milk when they are pregnant or have infants, just like humans. The process of impregnating them, taking away their calves and the discomfort of them forced to produce way more than they naturally would is just too much to imagine, watch or support.
Although this “final straw” was triggered by a feeling of moral obligation, I obviously was ready to make the change away from cows milk for a number of other reasons, which made it easier.
Homemade Nut Milk
I had made my own almond milk many times before and although it’s a much better idea than buying the store bought kind, I found it time consuming and not as tasty (I know, I know, such a shame).
Once I committed to being done with dairy milk, I knew I had to try something else. Enter cashew milk.
For the few days that passed between making this commitment and getting everything I needed to make cashew milk, I gave Ellie almond milk, which she has never been super crazy about. The first night she said, “I no want this milk” and gave it back. Hmm…this might be harder than I thought. But the first time I gave her homemade cashew milk (recipe below), she instead reacted with a solid “yummmmm.” Now we make it together in the vitamix and she always has to take a few spoonfuls as soon as it’s blended. She sometimes calls it “ice cream milk” – not a bad review for a toddler.
Here is the recipe I use:
- 1 cup organic raw cashews (soaked in filtered water for at least 4 hours)
- 2-3 pitted medjool dates (remove the seed if they are not pitted. I throw these in to soak with the cashews but that is optional)
- 5 cups filtered water
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- (If you don’t have dates on hand or want it a little sweeter, you can add a TBSP of honey or a few drops of liquid stevia, to taste)
After soaking for at least 4 hours, rinse and drain the cashews well (with clean water). Add all ingredients into a vitamix or other high speed blender and blend until totally smooth, a couple minutes. Use less water if you want a thicker, creamier milk consistency. We all tend to like our milk thinner, closer to a nonfat or 1% fat dairy milk consistency.
Making the milk at home guarantees that we are getting the vitamins and minerals from the actual cashews without the additives present in most store-bought milks. There is more protein in the homemade version, but also a little more fat and calories (which doesn’t bother me personally since we don’t drink THAT much of it). We also make sure Ellie gets enough calcium, protein and Vitmain D (present in regular milk) in her diet via other foods and a daily multivitamin.
Luckily, we’ve never made milk a huge deal for Ellie, even when she was a lot younger. She currently drinks about 3-4 oz in both the morning and evening after dinner and sometimes doesn’t finish her sippy cup. Since switching away from dairy, she tends to drink a little less, which isn’t a bad thing.
Our family is not entirely dairy free; however, when we do eat dairy (usually cheese and full-fat yogurt), we absolutely 100% of the time buy organic.
Yummy recipes next on my list to try:
I also love the cashew milk from Project Juice (they ship for free if not in your area), I just add some water when drinking it or serving to Ellie.
Everyone has their own reasons behind certain decisions they make. Please share if you have – and why – moved away from dairy milk or dairy altogether in your family.