Alt-Milk Showdown: A Nutritional Comparison Of Non-Dairy Milks

Do you remember when soy milk was the height of uber-crunchy vegan weirdness? These days, soy milk is sold alongside almond milk, coconut milk and sometimes several other dairy alternatives at regular old grocery stores. No longer are non-dairy milks considered a second-rate replacement for the cow-cultivated stuff (the dairy industry is not so happy about this). Vegans and non-vegans alike are discovering the benefits of hemp milk, rice milk, oat milk … the list goes on and on. The question now is: Which of these should you be drinking? Is it all a matter of taste, or do certain dairy-milk alternatives boast better nutrient profiles than others? And what about calories? Fat content? Allergens? I talked to several nutritionists to get the scoop.

Click through our milk gallery below for the facts about X different non dairy milks. All of the non-dairy milks are lactose-free, making them good choices for the lactose intolerant. Other things to look out for are the percent of calcium, Vitamin D and Vitamin B12 each milk offers, along with protein, calorie and carb content, says Laura Cipullo, registered dietician and founder of NYC’s Whole Nutrition Services.

“Moms, these milks are not equivalent to breast milk and or formula and should therefore never be substituted for a child less than one year old,” she adds.

Diabetics or anyone looking to limit sugar intake should be wary of flavored milks, which can be high in sugar and carbs. “While unflavored/unsweetened varieties of all non-dairy milk alternatives are available, I’d venture a guess that the vanilla/sweetened flavors are most popular,” says NYC-based registered dietician Tamara Duker.

“Most of these products have anywhere from 6g-15g per serving. Cow’s milk has 12g of lactose (milk sugar), which is digested differently than cane sugar, which is what is added to milk alternatives generally. A higher sugar, lower-protein combo raises the glycemic effect of the milk product, making it more likely to increase blood sugar and insulin levels than cow’s milk.”

No matter which non-dairy milk you choose, be sure to read a brand’s nutrition label and ingredient list before buying. ”So many of these companies add sugar and chemicals to their milks, which really make them glorified junk food,” says author, personal trainer and nutrition specialist Rea Frey Holguin.

Photo: Yoga With Amey

Share This Post:
    • Kj

      These articles are great!

      I’ve been a touch worried (mostly due to fear-mongering from my super dairy oriented parents) about getting all my nutrients, so this kinda clears things up. I mostly like almond milk but have been trying coconut milk since it was on sale.

      • Elizabeth Nolan Brown

        Yeah, I usually do almond or hemp milk, but after talking to these nutritionists, I think I need to try coconut milk ..

    • Hanna’s mom

      On the day you wrote this (but well before I got on-line) I came across a great sale on both coconut and soy milk, so I stocked up. I’m new to non-dairy but am very excited about all these options. Thanks for a brilliant article.

      (The coconut milk is fab!)