What to Eat on a Dairy-Free Diet: Meal Plan Ideas, Recipes, and Nutrition Tips

Finding dairy-free meals that fuel you isn’t complicated—it’s as simple as reaching into your fridge and combining a few nutritious staples. From nourishing dairy-free breakfasts to plant-based dinners you’ll look forward to, these easy meals are perfect for those just getting started or those who want to cook more at home.

What to Eat in a Day:

Dairy-Free Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and Snack Ideas that Fuel

Dairy-Free Breakfast

Energize yourself with foods that provide color, fiber, and protein.

Sample Meal 1

Overnight (or stovetop) oats made with high-protein plant milk (try pea or soy milk), topped with berries and a swirl of nut butter.

Sample Meal 2

7-grain sprouted toast with smashed avocado, chili flakes, and a sprinkle of salt and lemon juice

Sample Meal 3

Power smoothie made with two big handfuls of greens, small handful of quick oats, handful of frozen fruit, plant milk, and a dollop or two of nut butter
dairy calves
dairy calves

Dairy-Free Lunch

Power through your afternoon with antioxidant-rich foods and a balance of carbs, protein, and fat.

Sample Meal 1

Epic salad made with chopped kale, creamy dairy-free dressing (like Annie’s Goddess), a handful of roasted or plain chickpeas, shredded carrots, and diced onions

Sample Meal 2

Hearty plant-based homemade or store-bought lentil vegetable soup with toasted whole wheat pita

Sample Meal 3

Burrito bowl layered with rice or potatoes, beans, avocado, salsa, shredded cabbage or romaine, squeeze of lime, and Tofutti brand sour cream or cashew crema (optional but so good)

Dairy-Free Dinner

Aim for variety. Combine a generous portion of colorful veggies with plant-based protein, healthful plant-based fat, a whole food source of carbohydrates, and all-natural herbs and spices.

Sample Meal 1

Loaded large sweet potato (roasted or steamed) topped with beans, avocado, salsa, and quinoa, served with a side of steamed broccoli
tiny paneer

Sample Meal 2

Quick curry made by simmering veggies (broccoli, bell peppers, onion, carrots, etc) and chickpeas, tofu, or tempeh in a store bought curry sauce (try Maya Kaimal brand) and tossing in spinach at the end. Serve over rice or with roti

Sample Meal 3

Asian-inspired bowl packed with kabocha squash or Japanese sweet potato, steamed bok choy, edamame, storebought vegan kimchi, fresh carrots and cucumber, Asian-style jackfruit, avocado, furikake (or sub sesame seeds), and Sriracha
dairy calves
dairy calves

Dairy-Free Snacks

Raw veggies (carrots, jicama, celery, cucumber, mushrooms, peppers, etc) and hummus or tahini
Fruit and nut butter (apple or pear and almond butter, banana and peanut butter, etc)
Plant milk and granola
Edamame with sea salt
Dairy-free yogurt topped with berries

Every individual has slightly different needs based on their age and activity level, but as a guide, registered dietitian Cynthia Sass (see full bio below) recommends these parameters:

Percentage of Daily Calories:
Fat: 25-35%
Carbs: 45-55%
Protein: 20-30%

To estimate your daily caloric intake per your activity level, use this calculator.

Remember, it’s all about eating a healthy, varied diet. You don’t need to get hung up on the numbers—a varied, dairy-free diet will provide all you need.

*A daily B12 supplement is recommended for everyone—regardless of diet.

Nutrition Pie Chart

Cynthia Says: Dairy-Free Nutrition Tips from a Registered Dietitian

Cynthia Sass is a plant-based performance nutritionist with master’s degrees in
both nutrition science and public health. One of the first registered dietitians to
become a Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics, she has consulted for
five professional sports teams in the NBA, NHL, and MLB. In her private practice
Sass counsels a wide range of clients. She has worked one-on-one with
Oscar, Grammy, and Emmy winners, and professional athletes in numerous

A three-time New York Times best-selling author, Sass is also a frequent writer,
plant-based recipe developer, and media guest. Sass is summa cum laude
graduate of Syracuse University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in
dietetics and a master’s degree in nutrition science. She completed a second
master’s degree in public health at the University of South Florida. In her Los
Angeles private practice Sass specializes in sports and performance nutrition,
plant-based eating, and nutrition for optimal health and longevity.

dairy calves
  • Hydrate with water-rich foods, including veggies like leafy greens, zucchini, cucumber, bell peppers, tomatoes, celery, and fresh fruit. Add sliced veggies and/or fruit along with herbs or ginger to filtered water to infuse your H2O with nutrients and flavor.
  • Satisfy your sweet tooth with dairy-free dark chocolate. It’s rich in heart-protective antioxidants as well as magnesium—a mineral that helps support mental health and sleep. Research has shown that dark chocolate can reduce cravings for other sweet and salty foods, and dark chocolate contains natural compounds that trigger a sense of euphoria similar to being in love!
  • Nibble on nuts and seeds. These nutrient powerhouses provide plant protein, healthful fat, fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. They’re also associated with longevity and a reduced risk of several chronic diseases, including obesity, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s.
  • Eat generous portions of colorful produce. In addition to supporting immune function and healthy sleep and reducing inflammation, consuming seven cups of produce a day has been shown to enhance productivity and creativity and elevate overall happiness.

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