Got "Milk"?

If looking for a milk substitute to replace those nutrients, it’s important to break down the facts, look at the pros and cons and decide what options are best because with all the choices we now have, it can get a little confusing.

Being vegan in the world we live in today isn’t the easiest. For those that don’t know, veganism is different than vegetarianism in the way that vegans don’t consume any animal products, not even animal byproducts such as milk, cheese, butter, and eggs. It seems pretty limiting, especially for somebody who loves to cook and experiment with new recipes, but I must admit the world is becoming much more accommodating especially in regards to milk.

I will acknowledge there are some benefits to milk such as calcium, protein, and vitamin D, but that doesn’t mean we can’t get those nutrients elsewhere. So, if looking for a milk substitute to replace those nutrients, it’s important to break down the facts, look at the pros and cons and decide what options are best because with all the choices we now have, it can get a little confusing. So vegans and lactose intolerants alike, listen up!

Before we get into it though, I have to point out: please do not purchase flavored, sweetened anything! Some of these milk substitutes have as much as 20g (5 teaspoons!) of sugar in one serving! It is by all means okay to have it once in a while or use it in a recipe for a special occasion but to use day-to-day…stay away! There are options to get it flavored without all the added sugar, but make sure, for instance, it says Vanilla Unsweetened, etc. If you still don’t know, check the ingredients and look out for “sugar” for one, or sugar in disguise under names like “evaporated cane juice” and “cane sugar”.

Now getting back to the good stuff….

In regards to almond milk, coconut milk, and rice milk, they’re all pretty similar aside from a few distinctions (that go beyond differing tastes). Coconut milk contains a bit more healthy fat than the others, which would be great for any growing kiddos or pregnant mamas, as fat helps with brain development and hormone regulation. Rice milk is a little higher in calories and much higher in carbohydrates, which would benefit all you athletes and gym rats out there.

Overall, they are much lower in calories and fat than whole cow’s milk and still contain a substantial amount of calcium and vitamin D, however have little to no protein. If, and only if, you do not rely on these milk substitute to obtain protein and are careful to get it elsewhere, I recommended any of these choices.

Cashew milk is the newest on the market and is nutritionally very similar to the others (low fat, low protein, substantial vitamin D and calcium). Though, if calories are important to you, cashew milk is the lowest of them all, coming in at 25 calories per serving (1 cup). And, for only 2.5g of fat per serving the creaminess is definitely impressive! Coconut milk takes the cake for the creamiest taste overall but contains 5g of fat per serving, so for cashew milk to have that low of fat and still be that creamy…#winning.

Then of course there’s the mother of all milk substitutes, not to mention the most renowned, soy milk! Soy milk is like the others but with one major, noteworthy difference: protein! As far as I am aware, soy milk is the only milk substitute that contains a comparable amount of protein to cow’s milk, at 7-8 grams a serving. So in soy milk you have the calcium, the vitamin D, and the protein all right there, without needing to obtain it from a cow.

We are the only species that drinks milk past early childhood, let alone from another species! Seems a little unnatural when you think of it that way, doesn’t it? Maybe it’s time to dabble in the other side of milk…you never know…the grass just might be greener 😉

What is your favorite dairy free milk?

Lindsay Valentine
Lindsay Valentine is a graduate from Stetson University and received a degree in Integrative Health Science. She is currently a full time intern at Tara Gidus Nutrition and plans to go back to school in the fall to become a Registered Dietitian. In Lindsay's free time she enjoys finding new ways to spice up her vegan lifestyle and has a love for animals, warm weather, and laughter.

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