By Heidi McIndoo, M.S., R.D., Environmental Nutrition Newsletter
A generation or so ago, people who were lactose intolerant, had milk allergies, or special dietary preferences had few options for a milk replacement. If you couldn’t find soymilk at the local supermarket, you had to rely on non-dairy creamer to moisten your breakfast cereal or add to coffee.
In the past few years, however, the number of dairy milk alternatives has exploded. You can find milk-like beverages made from all sorts of plants, including nuts, seeds and grains.
We scoured the market to find suitable products with these questions in mind:
1. Are these plant beverages an equal substitute for cow’s milk?
2. Do they provide the same beneficial nutrients found in cow’s milk, such as calcium and vitamin D (which is fortified in milk)?
3. Are they in the same ballpark with regards to protein, fat and saturated fat?
In general, many plant-based milks can be a good alternative to cow’s milk. Some are higher in fat, saturated fat, sugar, or sodium, however, while others can’t compare to the amount of protein, vitamins and minerals found in cow’s milk.
Keep these tips in mind while choosing plant-based milks:
a) Protein power. Choose plant-based milks containing at least 5 g of protein per cup to help you meet your daily protein needs. If your favorite type is low in protein, choose protein-rich foods throughout the day such as lean meats, eggs, nuts and tofu to fill in the gaps.
b) Them bones. Calcium and vitamin D are important for bone health. Fortunately, many plant-based milks are fortified with both. If, however, your drink of choice doesn’t compare to cow’s milk in this category, choose other calcium- and vitamin D-rich foods throughout the day, such as kale, spinach, fatty fish like tuna and salmon, egg yolks, and calcium- and vitamin D-fortified foods.
c) Saturated fat. You may notice coconut milk is higher in saturated fat than other plant milks. Like other foods high in this form of unhealthy fat, if you like it, simply enjoy it in moderation.
(Reprinted with permission from Environmental Nutrition, a monthly publication of Belvoir Media Group, LLC. 800-829-5384. www.EnvironmentalNutrition.com.)