Blisstree’s Great Milk Debate week is coming to a close, but there’s one thing we know you’re dying to know: What’s cool in the world of dairy and dairy alternatives? To break it down, we borrowed (ok fine, stole) one of our favorite things from New York Magazine: the Approval Matrix. Theirs, admittedly, are more hilarious. But we like ours, too; at the very least, it brings a little humor into all this debate over dairy.
To figure out what’s on trend in the world of dairy and dairy alternatives for 2012, we spoke with Lisa Elaine Held from Well+Good NYC, where they keep a finger on the pulse of what’s popular in the world of health and wellness. They’re regularly peeking into the refrigerators of top yoga instructors, fitness experts and nutrition gurus, and they also have a great handle on what’s going on in the healthiest New York City restaurants.
So what’s in among the health-conscious trend-setters? For the most part, Lisa says it’s not dairy:
The biggest shift I’ve seen recently is that health-conscious people are starting to see dairy as an indulgence rather than a healthy part of a regular diet.
I don’t remember the last time I interviewed someone who had milk in their fridge. A couple of years ago the issue was that milk came from factory farmed cows and the antibiotics and hormones are what’s harmful, but now it’s that milk itself is not good for you.
So now people will say ‘I eat some cheese, but I only eat it once in awhile,’ or ‘I only eat dairy at restaurants.’ But it’s definitely being seen as more of an indulgence.”
So are there any obvious winners in terms of dairy alternatives?
If I had to pick three it would be almond, hemp and coconut, which is interesting because i’m leaving soy out, but those are just more of-the-moment right now.
People really like almond milk. Soy has its own list of issues, and even though some say soy is okay if it’s unsweeted and non-GMO, people are confused about it. Whereas everyone can agree that almonds are good for you. And a lot of people are soaking almonds and making their own almond milk, which I think is really cool.
Second to almond, she says, is hemp. In particular, she notes that she’s starting to see hemp ice cream that has a particularly creamy texture and good taste (whereas hemp milk isn’t quite to her liking). And, of course, coconuts hold their fair share of the non-dairy milk market:
Coconut milk is really big. A lot of people stay away from it because of fat, but there’s also the argument that it contains good fats. And it’s another one that’s really creamy, so people love it.
But Well+Good sees several types of dairy replacers, used in different ways. Lisa explains that “every milk alternative is good for something different, so people and restaurants don’t just choose one.”
Still, the health-conscious are still making exceptions to the general rule of less dairy, in particular with cultured dairy:
I still see a lot of Greek yogurt, and kefir too [in the Refrigerator Lookbooks]. Some people are seeking probiotic supplements instead, but Greek yogurt is like the hanger-on in the dairy category. A lot of people I know try to cut back on dairy but still eat Greek yogurt; I wouldn’t say that’s going away anytime soon.
She also noted that raw milk is particularly popular with those who are into the locavore movement, along with goat’s milk and sheep’s milk.
But in dairy and dairy-alternatives alike, the biggest no-no is sugar:
The big thing is that a lot of the milk alternatives just have a ton of sugar in them, so most nutrition-conscious people are focused on finding unsweetened products. You don’t want to trade the health benefits for something that’s full of sugar, so a big thing is staying away from sugary alternatives.
Still confused about what’s cool and what’s healthy? Find more posts about the arguments for and against dairy on our Great Milk Debate page. And if you want to observe some refrigerator trends for yourself, check out Well+Good’s collection of Refrigerator Lookbooks.