What to Know About Non-Dairy Milks


What’s your take on alternative milks?
Always review the nutrition facts panel, including ingredients, when choosing a milk alternative —whether soy, oat, or almond — as many varieties have added sugars. Healthier options are made with quality ingredients and taste good to you so you will actually drink them. Less healthy alternatives have added sugars and artificial ingredients.

Almonds are a great source of protein, but almond milk is not. A cup of almond milk typically contains about 1 gram of protein, whereas a cup of regular milk has roughly 8 grams and a handful of almonds has about 6 grams. This is fine if someone’s getting enough protein from other sources.

Different non-dairy milks have different amounts of protein, so compare nutrition facts if you’re using these milks as a source of protein.

Many people prefer oat milk with coffee because of its rich texture. If someone needs to avoid dairy and nuts, oat milk may be an attractive option. Like almond milk, 1 cup of unsweetened oat milk has little protein, about 1 gram.

Unsweetened soy milk provides more protein than oat milk and is the most like dairy milk nutritionally, and it’s good for baking since it has a similar amount of protein as dairy milk. Speak with your provider if you have concerns about soy.

While coconut milk beverage is generally low in calories unlike pure coconut milk, which is high in calories, some packaged coconut milk beverages contain additives that may cause digestive discomfort including bloating. If you like the taste of coconut milk beverage, consider making your own by blending unsweetened coconut milk or leche de coco with water to dilute it. This way, you can enjoy the taste with fewer additives and at a lower cost.

What should someone look out for when choosing a milk alternative?
When choosing a milk alternative, check for three things on the nutrition facts label: high in protein, low in added sugars, and made with quality ingredients. Soy milk has a similar amount of protein as cow’s milk, 8 grams per cup serving. Almond milk on the other hand has 1 gram of protein per cup, even though almonds themselves are protein rich.

Review the ingredients of what you’re fueling your body with and try to opt for quality over quantity. Carrageenan is a food additive that manufacturers use to thicken processed foods and beverages such as alternative milks, yogurt, and ice cream. This ingredient is commonly found in processed milk alternatives. While carrageenan is generally recognized as safe, it has been linked with inflammation and digestive distress such as bloating. If food additives like carrageenan bother you, avoid them when possible.

What non-dairy products do you not recommend?
When shopping, review the ingredients on food labels as added sugars may be hidden in many foods, including dairy and non-dairy products. Many flavored almond, soy, and rice milks are loaded with added sugar. In fact, a cup of chocolate soy milk has almost the same amount of sugar as a cup of soda.

Opt for an unflavored option for less sugar. Unsweetened soy milk is a healthy choice that provides a balance of energy and protein.

Ultimately, what’s your stance on the dairy versus non-dairy debate?
It is possible to have a healthful diet whether you eat dairy or not. What’s important is knowing what’s in the food you’re eating and enjoying a variety of foods in moderation.

If you’re concerned about consuming enough calcium and protein, a registered dietitian may help you develop a personalized meal plan that meets your needs. Whether you drink dairy, a milk alternative, or neither, the goal is to regularly fuel your body with the nutrients it needs to thrive.


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