Primary Care in Rochester and Kasson

Should you consider a milk alternative? 

6/28/2021 by Carly Herr

Milk Alternatives

Milk alternatives have become popular, and options and varieties are plentiful. Milk alternatives include any milk product that is made without the use of dairy, or animal, milk. Options include almond, cashew, soy, oat, coconut, rice, hemp and pea protein milk. 

Why choose a milk alternative?

People choose milk alternatives for many reasons, including: 

  • Allergy
  • Intolerance
  • Vegan diet
  • Personal preference

When making the switch to a milk alternative, it's important to understand that nutrients offered in these options can vary from standard dairy milk. Be sure to look for varieties that offer nutrient content that meets your needs. 

Be sure to consider:

  • Protein 
    A serving of cow's milk provides 8 grams of protein. Pea protein milk is a nondairy alternative that provides an equal amount of protein in a single serving, with soy milk coming in second at 7 grams of protein per serving. Other varieties offer much lower amounts of proteins per serving. 
  • Calcium 
    Cow's milk is a great source of calcium. Luckily, switching to a nondairy milk alternative will not sacrifice calcium, as many manufacturers fortify nondairy milk with calcium.
  • Vitamin D 
    Both cow's milk and nondairy milk alternatives are fortified with vitamin D, so either option will help meet your needs. 
  • Sugars 
    When choosing a nondairy milk alternative, check for added sugars. Many nondairy milks come in sweetened varieties that are loaded with added sugars. Opting for a no-added-sugar or unsweetened version is best for overall health. 

Trying a nondairy milk alternative might feel intimidating at first, but understanding how to incorporate it into your diet can make the switch feel less overwhelming. 

Here are some tips for making the switch:

  • Add it to your cereal or oatmeal in the morning. 
  • Use it to make a smoothie with your favorite frozen fruit. 
  • Substitute at a 1–to–1 ratio for regular milk in baking. 
  • Use it to make things like homemade macaroni and cheese or a creamy alfredo sauce. 
  • Use it to make homemade mashed potatoes. 
  • Serve it as a beverage with any meal or snack, or add it to coffee in place of creamer. 

Whether you're trying a nondairy milk alternative due to taste preference, dietary preference, allergies or intolerances, or to try something new, plenty of options are on the market to explore. Check the nutrition label to find a variety that best fits your nutrient needs and flavor preference. Then get creative with how you incorporate it in the kitchen. 

Carly Herr is a dietetic intern at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. She is from Pittsburgh, and attended school at The Pennsylvania State University and University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. Her areas of interest include wellness and weight management.