Hazelnut. Banana. Pea. Walnut. There are tons of non-dairy milks on the market, and they can taste radically different: creamy or chalky, delightful or dishwater-y. Here’s what to consider, nutrition-wise, as well as EatingWell editors’ picks for the tastiest varieties.
Watch the added sugar
Non-dairy milks vary widely in sugar content. Some deliver 28 grams per cup! And most of it is added sugar, which studies have linked to an increased risk for heart disease, obesity and Type 2 diabetes. (Cow’s milk also contains sugar, but it’s naturally occurring lactose, which doesn’t come with the same health concerns.) So opt for an unsweetened sip. Make sure there are no added sugars in the ingredient list.
Compare protein content
Alt milks tend to be much lower in protein than cow’s milk (which has 8 grams per cup). If protein is important to you, go for soymilk and pea milk, which have the most.
If you’re looking to shave calories, nut milks are a good way to go. Some come in at just 25 calories per serving, a quarter of the amount in cow’s milk.
Opt for fortified
While cow’s milk has calcium and usually is fortified with vitamin D, plant-based milks are inconsistent. Some deliver neither of these nutrients and others are on par, serving up about 30 percent of your daily value of each. Choose ones fortified with these nutrients, which most Americans don’t get enough of.
Check for additives
Emulsifiers that create the creamy mouthfeel you associate with cow’s milk are super-common in this category. Some of the types used are gellan gum, locust bean gum, carrageenan, and soy and sunflower lecithin. Carrageenan is the only one with a somewhat questionable record. Fortunately, it’s not a concern for most people, but if you have a history of gastrointestinal issues, look for products made without it.
Top picks for non-dairy milks:
–Oatly Oatmilk The Original: This was hands-down our favorite oat milk. It delivers delicious, natural sweetness (with no added sugar) and oat-y toastiness.
–Silk Organic Soymilk Unsweetened: Velvety and smooth with a welcome hint of vanilla, this is a great all-purpose milk replacement. (Pleasure to meet you, cereal!)
–Almond Breeze Almond Cashew Unsweetened Original: Creamy and the most luscious of the bunch, this pick is perfect in coffee. And it only has 25 calories per cup.
–Milkadamia Unsweetened Macadamia Milk: Yep, there’s even macadamia milk out there and the tropical nut makes this beverage buttery and subtly sweet.
–Vita Coco Coconut Milk Original: Popping the top on this jug is like cracking open a fresh coconut. “No fakey suntan-lotion flavor here,” said Shaun Dreisbach, nutrition & features editor.
(EatingWell is a magazine and website devoted to healthy eating as a way of life. Online at www.eatingwell.com.)