If there was one piece of advice that I wish I could have learned decades ago, that would be to stop consuming dairy & eating cheese. The countless visits to the allergist, the hundreds of Benadryls/Claritins/Allegras/Zyrtecs taken, and the many allergy injections received may have been avoided had I stopped consuming dairy. I wonder why no one ever told me that? Or rather, told my mom. That was never mentioned to us an option to consider – nope…it was just “blame your genes” and take more drugs. That was the solution. That was my treatment for forty years. Looking back I am appalled; but looking forward, I am energized by knowing that I may be able to offer advice that can help people better manage (or ideally eliminate) their “seasonal” and “environmental” allergies.
Whether you want to lose weight, have fewer aches and pains, alleviate allergies or simply just feel healthier, I want you to know that there is one food that is definitely holding you back from meeting your health goals. It is a food that many people claim they could never give up. Cheese. It may be a food YOU love, but I promise you that it is not loving you back.
I know that I used to think it was such a benign food. I didn’t understand the environmental implications, the shocking truth of what the animals endure, and the terrible harm it causes to our bodies. I thought it was a good snack to “tie me over” until the next meal, or give me some “fats” that I thought I needed, or satisfy a craving. In fact, if I had ever been asked what my favorite food was, Cheese would have been at the top of my list. I loved it. I craved it. I ate it at almost every meal and in between meals as my go-to snack. If that sounds familiar to you, you are not alone.
I hear it all the time, “I’m addicted to cheese”, and that addiction may be real. Not only does cheese have the saltiness and texture that feeds cravings, but as cheese is digested, it releases special chemicals, called casomorphins. The scary thing about that is that in the brain, these chemicals attach to the same opiate receptors that heroin or morphine attach to. The struggle (or addiction) is REAL.
Cheese has more calories than a coke and more salt than potato chips – it’s no wonder that it is not a friend to your waistline. It’s not just that cheese has calories, but that those calories come from fat, and fat calories are a problem. Additionally, fat can slow metabolism. Another fact is that cheese is loaded with sodium and that salt increases your water weight. The list goes on, as this scratches only the surface of the harmful effects of cheese.
Cheese contains calories, fat and sodium which make a good recipe for weight gain, but what it does NOT have is fiber. Since fiber makes you feel full (and does many other wonderful things to your body), and cheese has zero fiber, that is why you can eat so much of it!
Do your body good and re-think your relationship with cheese. There are many healthier alternatives that are easy to make that can give you similar (or maybe even better!) flavors & textures.
Try eliminating cheese for even just 7 days and notice the changes in your body. Of course, a healthy diet is more than just not eating cheese; but this is a great start towards a healthier lifestyle. I’d love to hear your comments about what you notice with this little experiment! Cut the cheese and start to repair your health.
RECIPES FOR PLANT-BASED CHEESES!
- 1 ½ cups raw cashews or raw almonds (or a mixture); can even use pine nuts
- 1 TBSP nutritional yeast
- ½ tsp sea salt
- 1 ½ TBSP lemon juice
- Preheat oven to 300° Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
- Process the nuts in a food processor or high-speed blender until fine and crumbly. NOTE: don’t over-process or you will have a nut-butter!
- Transfer the ground nuts to the baking sheet and add the nutritional yeast, salt, and lemon juice. Mix all the ingredients together well on the sheet, and make an even layer.
- Bake, tossing several times during baking, until golden, about 30 minutes.
- Check often towards the last few minutes as the nut can quickly turn from golden to burned!
- Let cool on the baking sheet.
- Transfer to a glass (or other sealed) container and refrigerate for weeks up to a couple of months!
Per 3-TBSP serving: 139 calories, 5 g protein, 8 g carbohydrate, 2 g sugar, 11 g total fat, 65% calories from fat, 1 g fiber, 149 mg sodium
- ½ cup unsweetened flaked coconut
- ½ cup sunflower seeds
- ¼ cup pumpkin seeds
- 1 ½ TBSP nutritional yeast
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 ½ TBSP lemon juice
Follow the same directions as above, but use a pre-heated oven temp of 275°F instead. Process the seeds in the food processor or blender. Spread onto baking sheet and add the remaining ingredients. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes.
Per 3-TBSP serving: 224 calories, 8 g protein, 9 g carbohydrate, 1 g sugar, 19 g total fat, 72% calories from fat, 4 g fiber, 156 mg sodium
Hot Cheezy Dip
Cheezy Sauce Ingredients:
- 1 cup raw cashews (soaked for at least 2 hrs. or soaked in boiling water for 15 – 30 min!)
- 1 cup peeled and chopped carrots
- 2 TBSP nutritional yeast
- 2 TBSP lemon juice
- 2/3 cup filtered water
- 1 large clove garlic, peeled
- 1 ¼ tsp sea salt
- ¾ tsp chili powder
- ½ tsp onion powder
- ¼ – ½ tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
- 1 cup marinara sauce
- 1 cup finely chopped sweet onion
- 2 – 3 handfuls of kale or baby spinach, roughly chopped
- 2 TBSP chopped chives or green onions (for garnish, if desired)
- Preheat oven to 400°
- Lightly grease a 2-quart casserole dish.
- Place the carrots in a small saucepan and add water to cover. Bring the water to boil and cook the carrots for 5 minutes, or until fork-tender. Or you can steam them (which is my preference). When cooked, drain them, and set aside.
- In a high-speed blender, combine the soaked and drained cashews, cooked carrots, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, garlic, salt, chili powder, onion powder, cayenne (if using), and 2/3 cup water and blend until silky smooth. Add more water (1 TBSP at a time) if more water is needed.
NOTE: You can use just the cheezy sauce without adding the “Dip” ingredients.
- Add the marinara sauce, onion, and spinach or kale into the blender with the cheezy sauce and pulse a few times until everything is combined.
- Pour everything into the greased casserole dish and smooth the top.
- Bake for 25 – 30 minutes, uncovered. Garnish with chives or sliced green onion, if desired.
- Serve immediately (this is best kept hot) with tortilla chips, crackers, veggies, on a baked potato, with pasta, or whatever!
- Reheat any leftovers in the oven at 400 F for 10 – 20 min. or until heated through. Store the dip in an airtight container in the fridge for 3 – 5 days.
Cheezy Broccoli Rice Casserole
- 4 cups cooked brown rice, basmati rice or even white rice (or elbow macaroni!)
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 cup cashews
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- 1 ½ cups oat milk
- ½ tsp sea salt
- ½ cup roasted red bell peppers (1, 4-ounce jar), drained
- ¾ cup nutritional yeast
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 2 crowns broccoli, chopped into bite-size florets
- 1 cup of kale, spinach, Swiss chard, or collard greens, chopped into inch-long, fine strips
- Preheat oven to 425°
- Cook the rice according to package directions (note that you could substitute 8 ounces of elbow macaroni)
- In a skillet over high-heat, cook the onion for 3 – 5 minutes, until translucent. If you don’t use oil, you will need to stir these onions almost constantly and add water or veggie broth (1 TBSP at a time) if they start to stick.
- In a food processor or a high-speed blender (I use a Vitamix for this recipe to get the smoothest “cheese” in the shortest time) combine the cooked onion, cashews, lemon juice, oat milk, and salt and blend until smooth. Gradually add the roasted peppers, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, and onion powder and blend until the liquid is smooth and red-orange color.
- In the casserole dish, combine the cooked rice with the sauce and thoroughly toss them together. (You can use a separate bowl to do this mixing, but who wants to dirty another bowl!!??) Mix in the broccoli and greens. Feel free to add other veggies! Consider some jalapeno pepper if you want some heat (add it raw with the broccoli/greens).
- Bake for 20 minutes or until a golden-brown color on the top.
- Optional – add smoked paprika, paprika, cayenne pepper, or crushed red pepper flakes to give it a little heat or zest!