This past summer my allergist suggested, very tentatively, that I stop consuming dairy. Apparently it wasn't normal for most humans to experience an extremely uncomfortable stomach ache after consuming ice cream, mac n cheese, pizza, or really anything delicious. In an anger-filled rage and frustration, I sought out to find the best substitutes for some of my foods, as there was absolutely zero chance I was going to give up one thing: cheese. So I promised myself I would find a good vegan cheese. 

Veronica Kampfe

Lactose intolerance is not an allergy to milk, but rather a deficiency of an enzyme, lactase, that helps break down the sugar in milk. Without enough enzymes, lactose travels further through your digestive system, causing bloating, stomach pain, and other troublesome symptoms. Since so many people are going dairy-free in order to avoid these issues, the increased availability of delicious substitutes has risen substantially.

Although I am not the most faithful intolerant – I had pizza the other week at a birthday party – I really do my best to make good choices. And most of those choices rely upon what I have on hand, in my dorm room refrigerator. Here's what to pick up at Whole Foods if you're going to try going dairy-free: 

Kite Hill Chive Cream Cheese Spread

Kite Hill products are all made from almond milk and they boast an array of yogurts, ricotta, and artisan cheeses – but my favorite is their cream cheese options. Ideal for a college student with nothing more than a tub of Kite Hill in their mini fridge and some crackers in a drawer, this makes for the perfect study snack. I personally love the chive version as it adds a bit more to the creamy flavor, but you can't go wrong with the plain or jalapeño flavors either. For a vegan cheese, it's pretty delicious. Overall, this spread tastes a bit like cream cheese, but not at all in a Philadelphia sort of way – more just a creamy, easy-to-consume, great cheese substitute that is hard to put down. Without the need to make a sandwich to enjoy this cheese, it is by far the easiest to snack on with no cooking necessary. 5/5.

Chao Creamy Original Slices

Katherine Boatwright

The only non-cheddar slices I could find at Whole Foods, the Chao Creamy Original Slices are definitely a great option for someone who wants a sandwich but doesn't like the sharpness of cheddar. These slices are made with tofu, unlike the others, but certainly don't taste like it. The flavor is solid but not overbearing and the texture truly does feel like cheese. A little awkward to eat by themselves, these slices would be great in a panini or melted over your carb of choice. 4/5. 

Daiya Cheddar-Style Slices

The first cheddar-style slices on the list, these deliciously dairy-free slices are gluten free, soy free, and gluten free. There is a sharp cheddar taste at first, but not a great aftertaste. This  seemed to have been a problem in the past as a message on the side of the packaging says "improved flavor and texture." That being said, the flavor is still strong, bold, and definitely manageable. In a grilled cheese or hamburger, it certainly wouldn't be noticeable and would taste just like any dairy-heavy cheese slice. 4/5.

Nutritional Yeast

Katherine Boatwright

It's a stretch to put it nutritional yeast as it's own cheese, but I feel that the benefits outweigh the truthful definition. Nutritional yeast is an important staple for a dairy-free college student or anyone trying to pack in some extra nutrients in their dorm room meals. Nutritional yeast has many health benefits included in just a teaspoon of the flakes which have been known to be a great parmesan substitute. A sprinkle over an already flavor-filled pasta, popcorn, quinoa bowl, or anything that parmesan would normally be an addition to packs an extra punch of nutrients and flavor. 5/5.

Go Veggie Cheddar Style Vegan Singles

Katherine Boatwright

In one word, Go Veggie's slices are texture-y. With ingredients such as potato maltodextrin, rice maltodextrin, and pea protein, it becomes unclear if these are truly "healthier" but also clear that these will have a heavy aftertaste. The potato and pea flavors really came through in my experience, and I could barely choke down half of a slice. I didn't taste the sharp cheddar taste that I was used to in the Daiya slices, and was instantly reminded that I was eating something nothing like cheese. You could probably hide the awkward and flavorless taste in something like a grilled cheese or hamburger, but I would just do yourself a favor and buy the Daiya version. 1/5. 

Kite Hill Truffle, Dill & Chive Soft Fresh Cheese

Back to my favorite vegan cheese brand thus far, Kite Hill has an array of fresh cheeses for sale as well as their spreads. The name may be a mouthful, but I opted for this yummy flavor combo over the original or ricotta options. These plant-based artisanal cheeses are their versions of the type of cheese you would find in a case at a supermarket or fromagerie. I personally preferred the texture and snack-ability of the cream cheese style spread from Kite Hill, but I loved the flavor of this soft cheese with a good amount of dill and truffle taste coming through. Although not extremely dorm-room friendly, this could easily be put on a cheese board with other fresh cheeses for a good dairy-free alternative at a wine and cheese night. 4/5. 

Chiara Maras

With a wide array of dairy-free cheeses to choose from in today's progressive eating world, there's an option for almost every meal, whether you are making a sandwich, snacking on crackers, needing an extra sprinkle of nutrients, or arranging a cheese board. But perhaps the best part is the lack of a stomach ache after consuming these alternatives and discovering a world without cheese.