I Live In France And Don't Eat Dairy. Here's How.

It's possible, even in the land of cheese.

In the land of cheese, I’ve chosen a dairy-free lifestyle. This pungent yet delicious food is integral to French culture and history, whether it’s slathered onto a baguette or paired with figs as a dessert. Dairy is also in crème fraîche, frothed cappuccinos, butter, and ice cream. So why put myself through this seemingly self-inflicted pain, depriving myself of all that is good in life? And can one really survive in a city like Paris? I’ll walk you through a dairy-free day and show you that it is possible, starting with the benefits that come along with it.

Image: @arandone on Instagram

Searching for a solution to clearer skin? A change in diet is a natural way to start, and dermatologists often recommend cutting out dairy. There’s no guarantee, but it was one of the reasons I started eliminating milk and cheese almost four years ago, and combined with my daily skincare routine, I saw results. Ever notice discomfort after chowing down on a banana split? A dairy-free lifestyle can also help with digestion, especially for those who suffer with lactose intolerance. Additionally, you may be allergic to dairy and not even know it. Dairy continues to rank high in prevalence on the 'Top 8 food allergen' list in the U.S. but can be difficult to diagnose. Personally, eliminating this food group has improved my condition of chronic migraines. Other reports have shown dairy-free diets have actually helped strengthen bones. Weight loss and cancer prevention are also often cited as advantages of this lifestyle change. Whatever your reason, making this choice is a health exploration for your body that takes time, research, and personal analysis. 

There are so many non-dairy replacement products that exist, I have not compromised breakfast as my favorite meal of the day. In the amount of time it takes to turn on the Nespresso machine and prepare my coffee — I never thought I’d trade my american-style fix in a mug for an espresso, but now I’d never go back — I’ve diced up a banana and mixed it with my favorite soy yoghurt. I can get an almond and hazelnut flavoured one from the supermarket here and it's just like the inside of Kinder Bueno. There's also a rich chocolate flavour which gets saved for a post-dinner treat. If I am having cereal, I'll use a milk alternative, like almond, soy, or even cashew. Most of these options are available at local grocery stores and large supermarket chains. Fueled with calcium, potassium and, of course, caffeine, I’m ready for the day. No milk necessary. 

Image: @arandone on Instagram

One of my most important finds in Paris has been Vegan Folies. This charming vegan cupcake shop, an anomaly in France, is reminiscent of those scattered throughout my former East Village stomping ground. The staff is friendly and willing to explain veganism to the perlexed Parisennes that dare to enter. Their cupcake creations are adorable and range in flavor and design, from “The Aladdin,” a blend of sesame, almond, and orange blossom, to “Strawberry Fields,” which takes on fruitier flavors. The shop also offers cakes, brownies and sandwiches, all made without animal products — safe for a dairy-free diet. 

Image: @arandone on Instagram

Being dairy free has forced me to become adventurous in the kitchen. Finding the time to cook, especially with friends, has become an important lifestyle change for me in terms of diet, time management and fun. My most important purchase: a food processor. Inside this machine, my coolest dairy-free creations have come to life. Notably, homemade humus and no-bake energy bites made from a recipe I found on this blog.

Image: @arandone on Instagram

But I haven’t been excluded from the Parisian scene, either. The Marais remains at the core of my social itinerary, whether it be for eating or for going out, and if I’m having dinner, it’s likely at Hank Burger. This trendy vegetarian burger joint nestled in the heart of one of my favorite districts in Paris promises a hearty meal with loads of vegan options. Eating like a vegan is always safe, because I know there won’t be any milk-based products. Bring your tray upstairs and you’ll find yourself sitting on a funky pillowed nook, likely next to a guy with a ponytail inhaling a carton of their crispy fries. My favorite part? Vegan cheese. 

Image: hankburger.com

Also important to note: I have a favorite health food store in my neighborhood, Touch of Bio, where I know I can find things like dairy-free cheese spreads, different soy-based products, and all my favorite ingredients for kitchen creations. The owner is a San Francisco native who keeps me in the loop about new shipments and products that adhere to my dietary needs. These kinds of local shops make it easier to maintain dietary routines while enjoying the process. Other health food stores throughout Paris that I like: Bio c’ Bon and Naturalia.

If there is anything I have learnt if you're considering eliminating a food group to improve your health or your lifestyle, don't consider it a burden. Enjoy the challenge, explore new parts of your city, and involve your friends. You'll find yourself benefitting in ways beyond your body. 

Cover image: @sincerelyjules on Instagram