With So Many Milk Choices, Which to Choose?

Monday, March 25, 2013

With so many dairy milk alternatives, it can be hard to know the best choice. Use this chart to help you navigate your next selection.

Glass and pitcher of milk

In your grandparents’ day, the question “What kind of milk do you want?” was probably not necessary. There was only one type. Today, you may wonder, “What will they think of milking next?” With so many dairy milk alternatives, it can be hard to know the best choice. Use this chart to help you navigate your next “milk” selection.

Type Flavor and Texture Common Uses Processing Nutrition Notes
Soy Mild nutty flavor, creamy but most similar consistency to cow’s milk. Drinking straight, creamer in hot beverages, cereal, baking. Most likely made from genetically modified soy beans. High level of processing. Highest protein content. Contains vitamin B and has a low glycemic index.
Rice Naturally sweet, neutral taste, thinnest consistency. Cereal, cooking, smoothies. Made from boiled partially milled brown rice. Usually sweetened. Low fat, higher in carbohydrates, lower in nutrients unless fortified. A low allergen option.
Hemp Rich, strong nutty flavor, creamy. Smoothies, soups, and creamer in hot beverages. Growing hemp has a low environmental impact, and hemp milk requires little processing. Contains some omega-3s, iron, magnesium, and is a low allergen option.
Almond Nutty, medium creamy consistency. Desserts, smoothies, cereal, baking. Toasted almonds are ground, and soaked. Contains vitamins A and E, magnesium. Low in carbohydrates and protein.
Coconut Naturally sweet, creamy and tastes like coconut. Cooking, creamy dessert, cereal, smoothies. Comes from the grated meat of the coconut. Carries environmental impacts of coconut harvesting and transportation. Coconut has easily digested fats, antiviral and antifungal properties, and is a low allergen options.

Three More Things to Know

  • Most dairy milk alternatives are low in calcium compared to dairy milk. Many are fortified to include calcium and vitamin D.
  • Some dairy milk alternatives come in sweetened flavors. They may contain a significant amount of sugar and added calories. Read the ingredient list and the nutrition facts label to compare brands.
  • See the product ingredient label or contact the manufacturer to find out more about nutrients and manufacturing process.

By Maureen Leonard, Bastyr dietetic intern, and Debra Boutin, MS, RD, chair and dietetic internship director, Department of Nutrition and Exercise Science at Bastyr University.

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