When I was vegan, I knew I would have to give up milk products, which I have found to be considered the hardest part of the transition when talking to my vegan friends. Cheese and milk are in so many delicious foods, the thought of giving up those things is almost frightening. What some may not know is that I have been lactose intolerant since I was young, so I have always tried to regulate my dairy intake. I have tried many different milk alternatives -- there was no WAY I would give up cereal -- and below are some of the alternative I have had the fun of trying in recipes, with my cereal, or just drinking by the glass.
Soy Milk- (Gluten-Free)
Soy milk is created from soybeans and is slightly thinner than cow's milk, and is sold in either the refrigerated dairy section or in shelf-stable packaging. It comes in many different brands (Silk is extremely popular) and flavors, such as original, unsweetened, and chocolate. Silk also offers their Silk Light, which is lower in calories than the regular Silk. There has been some research that finds a correlation between soy bean products and cancer in women, so making sure you go with a non-GMO and organic brand is important if you are going to drink soy instead of cow's milk. Furthermore, it has been possibly linked to stunted growth in males, so boys, limit how much you drink.
Soy milk is probably the most common milk alternative that is offered at restaurants and businesses. Starbucks carries its own vanilla soy milk (it's organic, too!), so you can always choose to make your latte or Frappuccino dairy-free.
Almond Milk (Gluten-Free)
Almond milk is my new found love. I am a sucker for dark chocolate anything, and Silk's PureAlmond Dark Chocolate flavor caters to all my cravings while supplying vitamins I need since I don't drink milk. Almond milk is made from, you guessed it... almonds! It is made by a process where almonds are softened in filtered water and blended into a liquid that is extremely close to cow milk. You can also find this in the dairy cold case or in shelf-stable packaging. For those worried about GMOs, or for the male reader, this is a great alternative and is close to what you may be used to.
Oat milk is an interesting milk alternative, one that took some getting used to. It was recommended in a few of the vegan cookbooks I picked up when I began my meat-free journey, and it is hard to describe. Made from oats, this liquid is a beige color, thicker than cow's milk and has a sweet flavor to it. When I use it, I typically pour it out from its shelf-stable container into a larger one so I can water it down a little to the desired consistency. For those looking for a gluten-free milk alternative, oat milks are typically not gluten-free, though there are some.
Check out these alternatives and see which one is best for you. The best test (in my opinion) is using it with a plain cereal to see how you like the taste, but it is all about personal preference.