What’s the Deal with Dairy?

Recently I’ve been posting photos of food made with dairy products on my Instagram page. That’s because lately I’ve been eating my fair share of this amazing food. And since I’ve received quite a few questions about why I’m eating dairy again, I thought it would make sense to discuss it here on the blog!

Now, when I say a food is “amazing,” I mean that it is amazing for me. As I’ve mentioned before, I believe we are all biochemical individuals with different and varying bodily and dietary needs. In fact, I was happily dairy-free for a very long time. Most of the recipes on this site are dairy-free and all of the recipes in my third book, Paleo Cooking from Elana’s Pantry, are dairy-free as well. So why am I eating dairy again? Well, there are three basic reasons:

  • Calories –I wanted more high fat calories and less high carb calories
  • Emotional –I did not want to give up another food group without getting one back
  • Coconut –I was eating too much coconut and was showing a slight allergy to it on some bloodwork

The first reason I chose to bring dairy back into my diet was for the calories! I started a very low carb diet (VLCD) in 2014 and found that I functioned much better mentally and had a brighter outlook on things overall. In eating lower carb I gave up another food group –most fruit and desserts. Sure, I still make dessert for my family, but I rarely eat it myself, and when I do it’s something that is very lightly sweetened and high in fat, like this Chocolate Chia Pudding recipe, sweetened with stevia, or a square of 90% dark chocolate.

The second reason I added dairy back into my diet was emotional. I did not want to feel deprived. Swapping sugar (even natural sugar) for dairy has worked out very well for me. I feel much better maintaining a diet that is low-carb and high-fat. I’ve followed a strict grain-free diet since 2001. I haven’t had a bite of quinoa, rice, or potato since then. No joke. I follow this diet for health reasons so maintaining it is very important for me. It allows me to be on the lowest possible doses of various drugs and have a very high quality of life while living with the following diagnoses:

  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Hashimotos Autoimmune Thyroiditis
  • Celiac Disease
  • BRCA

There are other health issues, but I will leave that for another place and time! I don’t follow the grain-free diet halfway. I don’t eat a piece of gluten-free bread now and then. I bake all of my own grain-free bread from scratch. When we grab dinner at our friend Thomas’ amazing burger joint, Larkburger, I get mine with a lettuce “bun” and skip the fries. I’ve given up loads of foods, but I have a very high ROI by following an incredibly strict grain-free diet. When I went on a VLCD in 2014 my dietary gains increased once again.

Emotionally though, I was not feeling super happy about giving up more food groups. Enter dairy. Now that I’m mostly sugar-free I don’t experience any issues with consuming dairy. I do stick to organic dairy. I love splashing heavy cream in my Dandelion Coffee, I find full fat yogurt absolutely delicious, and I am enjoying eating cheese again –by the way, have you seen my Pizza Muffin recipe?!

The third reason for bringing dairy back? Coconut. I was eating far too much coconut, more than my body could handle and it was simply time to give my body a rest from it. I’ve brought it back slowly. I do not eat it every day and seem to be doing ok with it.

So there you have it folks. My dietary habits. I urge you all to eat whatever makes you feel best. I initially figured out which foods work and which don’t by doing an elimination diet and I highly recommend it if you’re stumped in assessing which foods you have trouble assimilating. The elimination diet is as good as any blood test you could ever get, and it’s free!

I imagine that some will want to know if I think dairy is Paleo. For this question, I will provide the answer that my older son (now 17) has given for the last few years. When this subject arises in our house, he says, “Mom, do you think cavemen ran around after wild yaks trying to milk them? No!” Frankly, I’m not super concerned with what a food is called, or which category it falls into. I’m more interested in how it makes me feel when I eat it. That’s enough of a barometer for me.


67 responses to “What’s the Deal with Dairy?”

  1. Hi Elana – I am grain free also but I eat quinoa regularly. My understanding is that it is a seed and not a grain. If it is a grain, then I need to eliminate it, but like you, my diet is very restricted already. Thanks for any response and I wish you continued good health. Your recipes and books have saved me countless times!

    • Hi Laura, quinoa is one of the grain-like seeds that I avoid, but everyone is different and foods can be classified in many ways. It’s a complicated journey for all of us. Best of luck!

  2. I am happy for you adding dairy back into your diet. Do you do Raw?
    How do you feel about Raw milk products?

  3. ” Frankly, I’m not super concerned with what a food is called, or which category it falls into. I’m more interested in how it makes me feel when I eat it. That’s enough of a barometer for me.” I love this! It’s interesting that foods can affect us different ways at different times in our lives, and 3+ years into this journey, I still haven’t completely figured it out. I appreciate your willingness to share what works for you.

  4. Love my full fat dairy! It’s quite heavenly:)

    Just wanted to also tell you I made your almond flour chocolate chip cookies the other day and they are absolutely incredible. My 2 year old went crazy for them. I love feeding him treats I know are good for him. Thank you for your wonderful blog!

  5. I’m so jealous! I started to develop an allergy to almonds from using so much almond flour… then slowly an allergy to all nuts starting at age 30! So I moved to a lot of coconut… but dairy and I still don’t work well together. Have an extra sip of milk for me!!

  6. I love this article. I currently follow a wheat free 98% plant based diet with some organic dairy thrown in now and then. A couple of years ago I decided to become vegan, however being a wheat free vegan is tough and food group restrictions, as you discuss, can make eating an emotional rollercoaster. As such eating some organic dairy sporadically keeps me happy. I too and working on removing sugars and the thought of removing another whole food group can be stressful. Bottom line, I eat what makes me feel healthy, I have bad arthritis in several joints which is manageable with diet, no medication, and this is the main reason I started my alternative diet journey. Not a day goes by that I am not thankful for this journey. Happiness and health to you all!

  7. I believe we have to do what is right for us. Lucky you that you can have dairy. I am allergic to casein, so it’s not an option for me. A month ago I got off paleo altogether when I discovered that the biggest source of my ailments is histamine overload, which you might be hearing more about. The only ‘grain’ I eat is wild rice, however I stopped eating meat altogether. My stomach is no longer bloated; I am following the book, ‘Is Food Making You Sick?” At 57, finding this is both a blessing and a curse, though I am grateful to finally know my demise so I can deal with it. I hope you take a look as this could very well be of help to you, too.

  8. Hi Elana,
    I’m on a no sugar (refined) lifestyle, I’m not diabetic, I just lost 70 lbs. by eating healthy. I have your almond flour cookbook, but I don’t like using agave because it is high in sugar, could you give suggestions or more recipes with stevia because that is my sweetening choice. I use natures candy, all natural brand. It’s pure with no fillers or additives so it is in a pure form..thank you! Also, I use extra light olive oil and a little coconut oil in my healthy treats, do you agree that I could use that in your recipes rather than grape seed oil?

    • Hi Devona, here’s a link to all of my recipes that use stevia:


      I would stick to those, or you might enjoy my third book, Paleo Cooking from Elana’s Pantry as the recipes in it are very low glycemic. I think it will be easier to use tried and true recipes that fit the dietary restrictions you are facing, rather than re-inventing the older recipes. I hope this helps and let me know if you have any other questions! xoxo

  9. Excellent read. I am so happy to see you listening to you body yet staying string with you food convictions.

  10. Don’t forget that in the Hebrew Scriptures when the Israelites were freed from Egyptian bondage, they were promised an inheritance of a land flowing with milk and honey. Yes, early cultures did eat bread and milk, but you know it was a far cry different then compared to now. There’s was always organic, and raw, and the wheat was an ancient grain with no pesticides. I don’t think grains are the major culprit for many people, it is the toxins put on them and the sheer amount of it we eat. I am glad you got to add dairy back, I too love savory rich butter, cream, whole fat yogurt and cheese. Organic is best though.

    • I agree whole-heartedly!! I used to think I had a gluten allergy, but discovered I’m sensitive to wheat! Wheat today is but a shadow of what it used to be and I’m convinced our bodies don’t even recognize it when consumed. Hence, so many gluten allergies popping up. I find I can eat organic spelt and rye in small doses a couple times a week, and organic goat’s milk products. If we stick more closely to what G-d made for us to eat, I think we would all be better off :)

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