Coming from a big Italian family, cheese, pasta, and food in general are a staple. In middle school, it was probably safe to say I had a slight addiction to Babybel cheeses. You know the small round circles of cheese that come in a red waxy covering, I LIVED for those things. I don't know if it was the snack itself, or the fact that you could play with the wax clump for the next 30 minutes, but either way it didn't matter, I was a dairy fanatic. How was I never featured in a "Got Milk?" campaign?

Fast forward to my twentieth year of life, and I realize I received my dad's gift of lactose intolerance. How kind of him... So now I get to enjoy ordering a Caesar salad, but without the dressing or Parmesan. $12.99 for a plate of lettuce and two croutons really gets me excited. Cheese and all other amazing creamy foods may be off limits in order to avoid embarrassing trips to the restroom, but there is still hope for people like us! It's not a "good bye" to linguine Alfredo, raspberry cheesecake and Panera's mac n' cheese. With these recommended dairy alternatives, it's a "see you later"! Welcome to dairy-free living and the chance to enjoy all of your favorite foods again!

Here are my top picks for the best dairy free alternatives:

1. So Delicous: Dark Chocolate Truffle Vegan Ice Cream

If you're looking for an ice cream alternative that's smooth, creamy, sweet, and tastes like Jeni's ice cream, this flavor is ideal! Vegan ice cream gets expensive depending on where you go. So Delicious pints usually cost around $4-6. If you're more of a simple individual, try their vanilla bean, my second choice. I love topping it with frozen berries or placing a big scoop (or two) of icecream between my favorite cookies, because go big or go home, am I right?

2. Forager Cashewgurt

Yogurt is something I try to eat for a healthy snack, so if it has 10 plus grams of sugar, I'm not about it. There are lots of different bases for dairy-free yogurt: soy, almond, cashew, coconut, and more. When comparing them based on healthy ingredients, taste, and consistency, Cashewgurt by Forager is the perfect choice. I buy mine at Earthfare and it's about the same price as competitors, around $6 for a family size, which lasts me roughly 2 weeks.

3. Silk Almond Yogurt 

If you're looking for a dairy-free product that is more accessible, try the single serving cups of Silk. These are perfect if you want to play around with their wide selection of flavors and aren't ready for that 24 oz. commitment. Silk is one of the few brands that uses almonds as the base. Their plain or vanilla flavors are a perfect choice if you'd like to create a parfait. Try adding maple syrup, fresh cut strawberries, granola, cacao nibs, shredded coconut, or chopped nuts! 

3. Almond Breeze Nut Milk

I've been using unsweetened almond milk by Almond Breeze for years, coming up on double digits. It mixes well with hot drinks, pairs perfectly with cereal, and works just like dairy in baked goods. I use mine daily in homemade matcha lattes with a shake of cinnamon. 

4. Daiya Cheese

Vegan cheese is a new product that has only recently become available on the market within the last several years. We're actually pretty lucky to have this new invention at our fingertips. After trying a few vegan cheese brands, my favorite is Daiya.  I've used their "mozzarella" on homemade pizza and enjoyed their pre-packaged mac n' cheese. The shreds melt easily on pizza and the boxed mac n' cheese is a dairy-free college student's dream come true. I've been able to find Daiya at Target, Whole Foods Market, EarthFare, and Kroger. Daiya offers the most product variety: American style slices for burgers, shredded for pizza or quesadillas, and even smoked gouda for the adventurous consumer. Explore Daiya's website to view their numerous options!

5. Theo Chocolate Bar

Whether you're trying to make the best chocolate chip cookies, or you've made the wise decision to devour half the bar,  it's hard to find chocolate that doesn't make your belly rumble. I've actually come to prefer the flavor of vegan chocolate over milk chocolate. Instead of reading the tiny ingredients label on the back of each package, just go straight to Theo. This stuff is addicting. Not only is it high quality, but it's delicious! I spend ten solid minutes in the chocolate aisle just admiring their vibrant packaging and unusual flavors. I don't know of any brand that makes flavors like turmeric spice, cherry almond, classic coconut, or ghost chili! Who needs to set "going to the gym" as their New Year's resolution when Theo makes 28 vegan chocolate products that must be tasted asap?!