As a dietitian, I’m frequently asked what the best “milk alternative” is.
I myself do not drink milk, and I have not had milk in over 12 years. I prefer to mix-it-up with soy milk and almond milk.
Due to the preponderance of lactose intolerance, milk-allergy, and/or the general desire to stay away from dairy products for ethical, religious, or social reasons, I feel it is necessary to review a number of different products.
Soy milk: If you are going to drink Soy milk, my recommendation would be that you drink organic soy milk. Soy is one of the most heavily genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) around. The VAST majority of soy products are GMO. Now, GMO may be perfectly safe; but frankly, I think GMOs are still too new to really know for sure what they will do inside our bodies.
So, with regards to Soy milk. If you drink it, I would stick to 1-2 cups per day of the “pure soy milk” and no more. I use this limit because so many food products are fortified with soy isolates, soy derivatives, and soy-lecithin. So, unless you are like me and eating mostly whole-foods, unpackaged, and unadulterated, I would stick with 1-2 cups per day.
With regards to soy milk, I would also look for brands that are fortified with Calcium and vitamin D. Most are, but not all.
Best to go with the unsweetened varieties so that you limit your sugar intake.
For the record, soy is a great source of plant-based protein and other nutrients, so drink up!
Almond milk: Almond milk is another good alternative to dairy milk if you want to avoid both the possible allergies to cow’s milk and soy milk. (However, if you have tree-nut allergies, I would stay away from this as well).
Almond milk is very low in protein, so, if you are drinking it with the hopes of getting protein; sorry, I would recommend a different beverage.
Almond milk tends to be creamier than other “nut milks” like cashew milk. Especially if you make your own. By soaking, pureeing, and draining whole blanched almonds (though they do not have to be blanched), you can make your own delicious drink.
Almond milk is good for cereal if you want a low-calorie product. Again, go for the no-sugar added variety, otherwise, you’re mostly drinking sugar.
Look for brands that fortify their “milk” with calcium and vitamin D. Most do.
Rice milk: In general, I’m not much of a fan of rice milk because I don’t think it really adds much to the diet. It tends to be watery and sweet without any substantial protein content.
Granted, we do not need NEARLY as much protein in our diets as people think, but, I do not think it is a good idea to drink a beverage that literally turns into “sugar” in your bloodstream as you are drinking it.
Cashew milk: So far, I am not a fan of cashew milk. It only has 25 calories per cup, and it tastes very watery.
Hemp/Quinoa milk: These milks tend to be pretty creamy as well. They are a fairly good source of protein as well. I find that they can at times be gritty or have a residue however.
As mentioned earlier, it is best to buy ones that have Calcium and vitamin D added. However, these are not prerequisites as long as you are taking in enough of those nutrients from other sources, including vegetarian sources.
Vitamin D2, while it is the inactive form of vitamin D, it is the appropriate form for vegetarians/vegans to consume as it is derived from mushroom/plant-based sources.
Breastmilk: For infants and young children only. Best source of nutrition during the first 2 years of life (as recommended by the World Health Organization, et al).
For this age group, Vitamin D3 is the recommended source of vitamin D, particularly if breastfeeding as breastmilk has negligible amounts of vitamin D in it.
For additional questions on this matter, send me a message. I also cover this information in my e-book, available on amazon, from the link below.