demystifying non-dairy milk

Demystifying Non-Dairy Milk
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Long gone are the days when the hardest decision at the supermarket was traditional whole milk or fresh semi-skimmed milk in the dairy aisle. Milk is considered a staple in many people’s diets and the dairy industry promotes health and wellbeing. It also plays a role in sustaining rural communities and local food networks.

While dairy milk is a popular choice for many people, some can’t or choose not to drink it due to a growing interest in plant-based diets and the vegan movement, dietary restrictions and allergies or intolerances (and the bloating that often follows). Now, you’ve got plenty of plant-based milk to choose from if you want something delicious to put in your morning coffee, porridge, or bowl of cereal.

But why choose dairy-free milk? Whatever your reason, you can easily swap out traditional dairy milk for something that’s just as tasty and nutritious. Should you opt for oat milk, almond milk or soy milk? Is one plant-based milk better than the other? Maybe you want to experiment with different flavours, be looking for specific nutrients or simply because you might be tempted to give dairy-free milk a try for environmental reasons.

What do you need to know

It’s also all about reading the nutritional label because not all dairy-free milk is made the same and remember there are plenty of healthy options!

Just remember:

  • to read nutrition labels (avoid too many ingredients, thickeners and sugars).
  • to look out for the calcium content.
  • to choose the best dairy-free milk depending on how you plan to enjoy it (drink it, bake with it or cook with it).
  • to look for a nutritious milk alternative with as much protein as possible (protein is an important nutrient for satiety and helps maintain a variety of metabolic functions) and milk fortified with vitamin B12, calcium, and vitamin D (if you choose to follow a vegan or plant-based diet).

Look for:

  • Non-GMO ingredients
  • Organic varieties
  • Oil-free
  • Unsweetened
  • Carrageenan-free

Either way, here’s everything you need to know about incorporating dairy-free milk into your hot and cold drinks, baked goods, and everything else in between.

Soy Milk

It’s thick, creamy and the original of non-dairy milk. As one of the more nutritionally-sound milks out there (it contains a lot of protein and calcium), its been promoted by some as the healthiest non-dairy milk out there, thanks to its potentially cancer-fighting phytonutrients. It’s super versatile and can be used as a base for smoothies and coffees and over cereals.

Best for:

  • If you’re looking for a 100% replacement for cow’s milk, soy milk is it.

Almond Milk

Another popular non-dairy option. It’s creamy and slightly sweet and with the main ingredient being water it’s also low in calories. What it lacks in protein it makes up for in calcium (enriched) and vitamins E and D, however, some organic brands have nearly as much protein as soy milk, so it’s good practice to shop around. Thanks to its versatility and flavour, it can be used in a variety of dishes.

Especially good in:

  • Coffee
  • Smoothies
  • Cereal (including soaking oats overnight)
  • A glass on it’s own

Oat Milk

Oat milk has become increasingly popular and well-liked for its toasted flavour, which is perfect for hot beverages. It generally has more fibre than most non-dairy milk options and with a mouthfeel similar to cow’s milk, it’s spectacular for creating foamy coffees and creamy textures.

Best for:

  • Hot beverages (hot chocolate, chai, coffee)
  • Baking (pancakes, waffles, loaves)
  • Smoothies

Rice Milk

A great choice for anyone with allergies, apart from being dairy-free it’s also free from gluten, soy and all types of nuts. Its texture is quite watery making it an ideal substitute for skimmed milk, which is great to drink on its own. Having been made from rice it’s high in carbohydrates and is naturally sweet in flavour.

Best for:

  • Cereal
  • Smoothies
  • Anyone with allergies

Coconut Milk

Coconut milk is light and creamy. It is perfect for baking and should not be confused with canned coconut milk. It has a subtle coconut flavour and high in saturated fat (not the best choice for anyone suffering from heart disease). It’s also refreshing and versatile and a great alternative to canned coconut milk.

Great in:

  • Smoothies
  • Coffee (if you like coconut flavour)
  • Asian-inspired dishes
  • Frozen desserts (ice cream, vegan cheesecake)

Hemp Milk

Another popular allergy-friendly milk option. It’s highly nutritious and contains iron and magnesium, fibre, calcium, protein and omega-3s. Hemp milk has a nutty flavour and adds that little extra to baked goods such as bread.

Best for:

  • Savoury recipes
  • Baking (bread, loaves, cake, biscuits, cookies)

Cow’s milk is a dietary staple for many people and there isn’t just one milk that is ideal for everyone. If this list has made you consider looking into dairy-free milk then go for it. These are great alternatives to cow’s milk, so find the one or ones that are best for you and your family and when making your choice consider taste, nutrition and health benefits.

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