OK. This is a tough subject, I know. Ohhh trust me, I know. Not so long ago I was madly in love with cheese. Sometimes, when no-one was looking, I would slice a chunk off the block and eat it all by itself. With my eyes closed. Feeling like I’d died and gone to heaven.
And don’t even get me started on blue cheese. I even had a cheese cake – as in, a cake made up of big-ass wheels of cheese – in place of a normal cake at my wedding! But I managed to break up with cheese and survive to tell the story.
I chose to end it in 2015. It was a big decision, one that changed my life for the better. But I’m not going to lie, the struggle was VERY real.
So why oh why is cheese so hard to give up?
It’s call addiction.
And it doesn’t just apply to drugs and alcohol. Dairy is one of the most addictive types of food and there’s a very good explanation as to why.
Dr Neal Bernard explains it really well in this video (click here to watch), but cheese is naturally high in saturated fat and packed with added salt – it’s the cheap and nasty stuff, too. It’s also naturally full of something you might not have heard of – casomorphins. Casomorphins are present in the milk protein (a.k.a casein). When this protein starts to digest, the casomorphins are released and attach to your brain’s opiate receptors, in very much the same way that opiate drugs would.
That would explain all those “I just have to have some cheese right now!” moments that used to grab me by the back of the neck and force me to the fridge to shamelessly indulge myself. Ya know what I’m talkin’ about?
I always knew I shouldn’t be eating so much cheese, but for me there was a wake-up call. It happened when I finally opened my eyes up to what happens in the dairy industry. As a long-time vegetarian for mostly ethical reasons, I had completely turned a blind-eye to the cruelty behind dairy. Just as we all tend to do if it might spoil something we enjoy (sad truth).
There are many good reasons to quit eating cheese. You might not yet have found the reason that really makes you want to give it up once and for all, so if you need a bit of convincing, read this: (click here).
Whether it be for dietary or ethical reasons, moving on from cheese doesn’t have to be that hard if you have a game plan. I’ve got some tips for you that will help you say bye bye (bye) to your addiction to the coagulated lactation fluid of a cow…
Just in case that description isn’t enough to put you off for life!
1. DETERMINE YOUR ‘WHY’
To do anything and be successful at it, you need to determine your ‘why’ – your deepest reason for doing it. Are you a vegetarian for ethical reasons and would like to come fully in alignment with that by ditching cheese and dairy? Maybe you’re lactose intolerant but have been ignoring signals from your body for years, and it’s time to start listening. Or maybe you just want to cut all that extra sodium and saturated fat from your diet so you can lose some weight?
Find your reason – or reasons – write it down and reflect on it, then make a commitment to yourself to do it. It might sound cheesy (pun completely intended), but write a letter to cheese explaining why you no longer want it in your life and that you’re done. Read it out loud, then trash it in case your roomie or partner finds it and laughs at you! Seriously though, this exercise will go a long way in putting you in the right frame of mind to quit cheese.
2. START BY COMMITTING TO ONE MONTH
I’m a believer in doing it cold-turkey, but if you are horrified at the idea of giving up cheese for good (like I was!), start by telling yourself you’ll just do it for one month. Why? Because one month seems a lot more achievable. I can guarantee that by the end of the month you will have kicked your cravings and a life without cheese won’t seem so daunting.
A month is also long enough for you to start physically seeing and feeling the good effects of cutting out cheese, which will make you want to continue. For me, that included dropping a few stubborn kilos, clearer skin and a much clearer conscience. Oh and since quitting dairy, I’ve not seen a single sign of the recurring excema I used to get on my hands!
3. EAT MORE ASIAN-STYLE FOOD
Cheese on your stir-fry? No thanks. Case rested.
4. FIND A CHEESE ALTERNATIVE
For your favourite home cooked meals that usually involve cheese, check out some cheese alternatives from your local supermarket. Due to the rapid growth of veganism (a.k.a the Vegan Revolution!), there are new and delicious plant-based cheeses hitting the supermarket shelves all the time. If you’ve never looked for them, challenge yourself next time to find one and try it. You might find they are a bit more expensive than dairy cheeses, but as their popularity increases, the prices will do the opposite.
Depending on where you live you may find that certain stores have a much bigger range than others. As with all packaged foods, don’t forget to read the labels. If the ingredients list is made up of numbers and words you can’t even read, you don’t want to be eating it. There are some relatively healthy options available so search for those.
5. EXPERIMENT WITH HOME MADE PLANT-BASED CHEESE
This is usually a much healthier option. If you like to play in the kitchen, you’ll have fun trying the different ways you can replicate that ‘cheesy’ flavour. nutritional yeast, dijon mustard and a good quality miso paste are 2 ingredients that you’ll need to have on hand. Here’s a few of my favourite plant-based cheese recipes:
- Vegan Tahini Cheese – great for cheese plates
- Best Ever Simple Cashew Cheese – good for dalloping on just about everything!
- Vegan Ricotta Cheese – use this in your spinach and ricotta dishes, in baking or on toast with jam – yum.
- Meltable, Grateable Vegan Mozarella Cheese – for pizzas and open grills
- Vegan Cashew Parmesan – for sprinkling on e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g!
6. TELL YOUR FAMILY & FRIENDS
If you try to do this thing on the sly, it probably won’t work. Telling the people in your life not only creates accountability, but also means that they can consider you when choosing restaurants for your meet-ups. There are so many eateries that offer plant-based alternatives. Suss them out in your area so that you can suggest places that will cater to your cheese-free self.
Follow these tips and you might just be udderly surprised to find that breaking up with cheese may not brie as tough as you imagined. OK, that’s enough cheesy puns.
Comment below and let me know your best tips for quitting cheese!