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For many years now, non-dairy milk alternatives have increased in popularity. From an increase in lactose tolerance issues, to allergies, and people choosing to go vegan or dairy-free, these alternative milk options are rising in popularity with many people.

But the real question is: How do these alternatives stack up to cow’s milk?

Cow’s milk is still, and will likely always be, the most popular option, especially for children. Cow’s milk has a good balance of calories from fat, protein, and essential vitamins and minerals like vitamin D and calcium, that provide key nutrients that kids need for proler growth and development.

Most of the milk alternatives are fortified with additional calcium and vitamin D in an attempt to match dairy. But what about other items like calories and protein?

Why choose a milk alternative?

  • You have a milk allergy.
  • Are you lactose intolerant?
  • Do you have dietary restrictions from a medical perspective, or because you are following a vegan or vegetarian diet?
  • Are you concerned about most brands of milk health risks of added antibiotics and hormones?

What to look for in alternative milks.

  • At least 7 grams of protein per average serving
  • Few ingredients added as possible
  • Unsweetened and/or 0 grams of added sugar
  • A limited amount of saturated fat (particularly ones made with coconut or added protein)
  • Less than 140 milligrams of sodium
  • Fortified with calcium and vitamin D
  • Additional nutrients like the omega-3’s

The Main Alternatives

If you have a nut allergy, you’ll obviously want to avoid most of the nut  milk options. 

Almond Milk

Almond milk is rich in vitamin E and is lower in calories than cow’s milk. It’s also popular for cooking with, and as a creamer to your morning coffee. It provides minimal protein and fiber, so you might want to make sure to make up for those nutrients elsewhere.

Cashew Milk

It has a rich, creamy taste, and is loaded up with vitamin E, like almond milk, and is low on calories, cholesterol, and sugar. It is usually fortified with vitamin D and calcium, but like almond milk, it lacks fiber and protein.

Soy Milk

It is cholesterol-free, low in saturated fats and high in protein. It’s also a great lactose-free option, and is used for cooking needs. But if it is sweetened, it can be high in calories, and if you have a soy allergy it’s to be avoided.

Rice Milk

A popular option for people with allergies (nut, soy or lactose), it generally has a sweeter taste which means less sugar additives, and it’s well fortified for other nutrients. The only big downside is that rice milk can be high in carbohydrates and calories, while having very little protein and fiber.

Coconut Milk Beverage

The  beverage options because simple “coconut milk” usually refers to the canned varieties that are fat and calorie laden and is traditionally used in soups and curries. There are many coconut milk options that have been diluted to offer less fat and calories.

Hemp Milk

Hemp milk comes with heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids and fewer calories than whole milk, but it’s not always easy to find at your local grocery store.

Oat Milk

As a rapidly rising option, oat milk is made from, oats, water and additional ingredients like added oil, gums or thickeners. An advantage of oat milk for those with dietary restrictions or food sensitivities is that it’s naturally free of dairy, lactose, soy and nuts. Like with most milk alternatives, it generally comes with added calcium, vitamin D, vitamin A and riboflavin. It also typically has a bit more protein and fiber than other alternatives.

There are other milk alternatives that have been introduced into the marketplace. These are a few of them.

  • Pea Milk
  • Peanut Milk
  • Flax Milk
  • Walnut Milk
  • Macadamia Milk
  • Pecan Milk
  • Pistachio Milk
  • Hazelnut Milk
  • Banana Milk

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