• Written by Lora Chizmar and Emerald Casto

Your All-Inclusive Guide to Dairy Alternatives on Campus

There are many reasons why one would avoid dairy products. People may choose to restrict their dairy intake for a variety of reasons including being diagnosed with a milk allergy or lactose intolerance, choosing a vegan lifestyle, or simply it’s a taste preference. If you’re one of those individuals and are struggling to find more meal variation while on campus, look no further, your guide is here!

All About Dairy

What exactly is dairy? Dairy is an umbrella term for the food products made from animal milk. These foods are often good sources of calcium, potassium, vitamin D, and protein. Foods such as milk, cheese, yogurt, and even ice cream are considered dairy. Foods that are made from milk, but do not retain much of their calcium content, such as butter and cream cheese, are technically not classified as dairy.(1)

Lactose vs. Milk Allergy

Lactose is the main carbohydrate found in dairy products. Some people cannot easily digest lactose and are considered lactose intolerant. With that being said, not all foods in the dairy group need to be avoided. Many cheeses often do not contain lactose and are safe for consumption. However, a milk allergy would merit avoidance of all dairy products. If you have a milk allergy, Yemila Lowry, the UNF Dining Services dietitian, encourages students to reach out to her. She can help you find a safe way to eat on campus.

Dairy Alternatives

Whether or not you are lactose intolerant or are simply just enjoying the taste of plant-based milk alternatives, there is good news! The nutrition label shows that many of these non-dairy substitutes have about half the calories and half the fat as regular, full fat cows milk. For every one cup of cow’s milk there are 149 calories and 8 grams of fat; meanwhile, almond milk has roughly 39 calories and 2.5 grams of fat for every cup. It is safe to say switching to plant-based options may also be beneficial to your health! (2) Currently, soy milk, rice milk, coconut milk, and almond milk are leading in the non-dairy trends but there are many options including hemp milk, oat milk, hazelnut milk, and cashew milk among others.

Non-Dairy Options on Campus

Fortunately, there are plenty of non-dairy options on campus. For example, at Einstein Bagels, you can order non-dairy cream cheese or choose almond milk to go in a beverage. At Jamba Juice, you can substitute Greek yogurt with a dairy alternative within their specialty smoothies. In addition, their fruit and veggie smoothies are naturally dairy-free. For your non-dairy pick-me-up, Starbucks offers a wide range of non-dairy options for cappuccinos, iced or regular coffees, Frappuccino’s, lattes, and much more! Just ask for soy, almond or coconut-milk alternatives at the counter when you place your order! (3) If you are on the run you can find non-dairy alternatives at your nearby Outtakes, which offers grab-and-go soy milk for your convenience!

At the Osprey Cafe, there are a plethora of options for those avoiding dairy. At the 'pantry', soy and almond milks are available in the refrigerators for use with cereals or just to drink. Keep an eye out for the vegan call-out cards on top of the display cases for featured vegan recipes that day, as they will always be dairy-free. And, if you have a milk allergy, the build-your-own salad bar may be your best bet, as all the ingredients are kept separate. Just be sure to check the dressings for possible dairy content! You can always ask to see the ingredients of the salad dressings, several of which may surprisingly include dairy, like the Italian vinaigrette. When in doubt, you can always make your own olive oil and vinegar dressing!

Vegan cheese is available upon request for use in sandwiches or even on pizza!

Finally, you can look online or at the kiosk in the cafe to see the ingredient list for any meal served in the cafe, where you can see if any dairy products have been included.

So if you’re currently non-dairy, fear not! There are plenty of options to keep your diet varied and tasty here on campus.

Stay healthy, Ospreys!


  1. https://www.choosemyplate.gov/dairy-nutrients-health

  2. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323411.php

  3. https://urbantastebud.com/vegan-starbucks-drinks-want-best-friend/

#FoodAllergies #veganincollege #dairyfree

UNF Dining Services' Dietitian

Email Yemila: y.lowry@unf.edu

Bldg 8/1210-J

1 UNF Drive, Jacksonville, FL 32224