It used to seem like the only alternative to dairy milk was the elusive carton of soy milk at the obscure health food store, never near enough to be considered convenient. But now supermarkets line their shelves with endless non-dairy options, as nut and seed alternatives become more popular. With growing varieties and flavors available in chocolate, vanilla, sweetened or original, there's hardly an excuse left not to switch over. All those choices can be overwhelming, so here's a quick taste and nutrition guide to nondairy milks.
Soy milk is probably the most popular cow's milk alternative, because of its high protein content and low levels of saturated fat. Its creamy texture makes it an easy replacement in cereal, milkshakes and baking. There has been a lot of media hype lately about consuming too much soy and how it may affect your estrogen levels, but not to worry, the studies are inconclusive and there are plenty of other dairy alternatives.
Almond milk is my personal favorite, partially because it tends to be the cheapest, but mostly because the original variety is only about 60 calories a cup and offers a delicious, hearty flavor. Almond milk is going to be high in calcium, magnesium and vitamin E. Making your own nut milk is becoming increasingly popular, plus you could also use cashews, walnuts or hazelnuts along with the amazing almond.
We're not talking about the canned coconut milk you use to make delicious curry dishes here, but instead the new kind found in cartons on shelves everywhere. Coconut milk is going to be higher in fat content, making it more suitable for a whole milk substitute, and contains medium-chain fatty acids. And yes, it will have a coconut flavor to it. Almond Breeze also makes a great Almond/Coconut hybrid milk.
Hemp milk contains all 10 essential amino acids, providing a complete protein in every glass. It's going to have more of an earthy taste, but will also be packed with calcium, iron and omega 3's. Though it may be harder to find, hemp milk is going to give you the most nutritional bang for your buck.
Rice milk, and other grain milks such as quinoa or oats, are loved for their thinner texture. Grain milks have more carbs and less protein than their soy and almond counterparts, but you can usually find a fortified variety that suits your needs.