Whether you’re cutting out milk-based products because of a health diet or due to lactose allergies, there are many dairy substitutes readily available to you on the shelf or over the counter. Here are the most common types you’ll find at your local market, and some differences to take into consideration when choosing the one that’s right for you.
When people think of dairy substitutes, they usually think of soy — in the form of milk, cream cheese or even noodles. As a general rule, soy milk has a higher protein content than most other alternatives, as well as a mild, pleasant taste. Today’s Dietitian considers this liquid extract of soybeans to be the only plant-based option containing “complete protein,” making it one of the favorite dairy alternatives you’d find at the store. Soy milks naturally contain omega-3 fatty acids, and are a great source of manganese and magnesium. Most commercial soy milks are also fortified with vitamin D and similar nutrients.
For those allergic to soy milk or complete protein, rice milk is one of your best options. Because it’s made from boiled rice, brown rice starch and brown rice syrup, it tends to be naturally sweeter than other milk substitutes. This may also be a key reason Go Dairy Free recommends rice milk as kids’ favorite alternative. It can be used in recipes, like other non-dairy options, but can be a little thinner and more watery in consistency. Still, rice milk is lighter in fat content — perfect when looking to trim it from your diet.
For rich substitutes to whole milk, coconut milk will likely be the most satisfying. Keep in mind this is the coconut milk beverage, rather than the canned product you’ll find in the international food section. Although even light versions of canned coconut milk have twice the fat of cows’ milk, be careful with the beverage version, as it contains approximately five grams of fat per cup. If you choose this dairy alternative, you’ll also get a bigger dose of iron and fiber in each serving compared to traditional milk and dairy substitutes. Coconut milk makes a great ingredient when baking as well, with its natural sweetness and moderate fat content.
Almond milk also has a naturally sweet taste that is great for baking. Among all the different dairy substitutes you may find, however, this item has the least amount of protein, vitamins and trace minerals. Today’s Dietitian recommends it as the best alternative to formula for children. Almond milk is made of ground almonds, water and usually a little bit of sweetener, but like most dairy alternatives, unsweetened versions are just as widely available.
Oat and hemp milks are lesser-known dairy alternatives, but you can still find them locally or for purchase online. Hemp milk is gluten-free, whereas oat milk can make a great alternative to skim milk. One of the newest milk substitutes to go to market is potato milk, which is high in carbohydrates, low in protein and also gluten-free.
If you want to dump the dairy, you have many options at your disposal and new milk substitutes hitting the shelves all the time. You’re bound to find one that fits your diet and lifestyle.
Consult your doctor before beginning any diet or exercise program.