Healthy Habits: The Smart Girl’s Guide to Milk Alternatives

Healthy Habits: The Smart Girl’s Guide to Milk Alternatives

I try to limit my dairy intake as a general rule. Too much dairy often takes a toll on my skin and leaves me feeling sluggish. And as a longtime vegetarian I also make a concerted effort to eat less animal products for environmental and animal rights reasons. But I’m not going to lie—I can’t resist the occasional cheese plate. However, since I’ve never been a big fan of straight cow’s milk, I always opt for non-dairy alternatives in that department. But with so many milk options out there—from nut milks to coconut to hemp and everything in between—it can be hard to know which one to choose! So I did what I always do when I have diet questions, and I reached out to our resident nutritionist Kelly LeVeque of Be Well by Kelly for her take on the matter. Kelly gave me the rundown on several popular cow’s milk alternatives, which I am sharing with everyone below…

1. Soy Milk. Soy milk is to be one of the most popular non-dairy alternatives there is. The Starbuck Soy Latte has become almost as ubiquitous as it’s dairy counterpart. But despite its widespread availability and easy source of non-animal protein, Kelly recommends against having soy in your diet in general—especially in this processed form. As she touched upon in this post, soy contains phytoestrogens that can disrupt hormones, with prevalent side effects including acne, hypothyroid, infertility and even cancer.

2. Almond Milk. Almond milk is a contender for “best overall milk alternative” in Kelly’s book. It’s lacking in calcium, but loaded with Vitamin D and E. It’s also low in calories for anyone for whom that is a concern. Just make sure you choose a variety with no added sugar, and watch out for carrageenan (a harmful additive) on the ingredients list.

3. Coconut Milk. According to Kelly, real coconut milk is another amazing pick! It is a great source of manganese and MCT fats. The lauric acid present in coconut milk is even antibacterial. Opt for a minimally processed variety without additives like carrageenan or added sugar.

4. Hemp Milk. Hemp milk ties with almond for “best overall milk alternative” according to Kelly. It has all essential amino acids; omega 3 and 6; four grams of protein; Vitamins A ,D, and E; folic acid; phosphorus; magnesium; 46 percent of your RDA of calcium; Vitamin B12; and potassium. If you are looking for an alternative milk that nourishes, hemp is a pretty good bet.

5. Rice Milk. Rice milk has more carbohydrates than cow’s milk, without the fat or protein. It’s basically just starchy sugar water with very few real nutrients. Rice milk is what people who suffer from severe food allergies to dairy and nuts often turn to, but it’s not the best option out there if you can drink the others without issue.

6. Goat’s Milk. This one obviously isn’t non-dairy, but we had to include it, as it’s also become a popular alternative to cow’s milk. Goat’s milk is lower in casein and lactose than cow’s milk, and only contains A2 casein, not A1 (A1 is the protein that is linked to inflammation and allergies). This means that many people who cannot have cow’s milk will do fine with goat’s milk. Goat’s milk is also higher in MCT fats than cow’s milk, and it is easier to absorb nutrients from goat’s milk than cow’s milk.

Which milk alternative do you prefer?

I’m an almond milk gal myself, but coconut milk is great too.

xo Ilana
Team LC

Photos: Yoni Goldberg for