A Guide to Milk Alternatives

Almond milk in a glass on a pink background with almonds scattered about.

There are so many milk alternatives now, it’s almost difficult to keep up with each one. Many people have recently chosen to eliminate cow’s milk from their diet, whether it’s for personal, ethical, health, or other concerns. The dairy industry is extremely dominant still in most popular grocery chains, so navigating the ins and outs of dairy-free milks can seem a bit overwhelming or intimidating. Not every milk is the right fit for you, or your favorite recipe.

Milk is just about everywhere in our daily diet. Coffee, cereal, baking, smoothies, and so many other staples require some form of milk, so it’s good to know your options.

No matter your dairy-free milk preferences, it helps to know what’s what and which might be best for you. Keep reading to learn more about the most common milk alternatives.

Soymilk in glass and soy beans in a wooden bowl in the background - use soy milk as a milk alternative.
Photo by 1989studio on Shutterstock

Soy Milk

Made from soybeans, this milk is heavily processed to make it less bitter. When compared to cow’s milk, soy milk has very similar nutrition. Soy milk has a similar amount of protein as cow’s milk, but it does have several unique qualities. Soy milk has about half the calories, fats, and carbohydrates as cow’s milk. Some tend to stray from soy milk due to how it may affect our hormones as well as the environment.

Almonds in a bowl on a brown cloth - use almond milk as a substitute for dairy.
Photo by Setthawuth on Shutterstock

Almond Milk

Almond milk, made from almonds, is one of the most popular milk alternatives on the market. It is readily available in many forms, as well as in most coffee shops. Almond milk is very light and thin, giving it a sweet, nutty flavor. Due to its light texture and sweetness, almond milk is one of the most popular choices for coffee drinks. When baking or cooking, unsweetened, plain almond milk is an easy alternative for cow’s milk, so long as you’re mindful of conversions. Compared to cow’s milk, almond milk contains less than half the fat, a quarter of the calories, and is lower in both protein and carbohydrates. Environmentally speaking, almond milk does not fair well compared to the other alternatives, as it requires an extensive amount of water.

Coconut milk in a glass container and a halved coconut on the side - try coconut milk as a dairy alternative.
Photo by Alina Kholopova on Shutterstock

Coconut Milk

Another sweet choice, coconut milk is made from white coconut flesh. It’s creamy consistency makes it a great choice for coffee lovers, adding a hint of coconut flavor to your latte. Coconut milk works well for baking, but turn the temperature down slightly and keep an eye on the milk to prevent curdling. Coconut milk is high in fat, but contains vitamins such as C, E, B, iron, selenium and magnesium. Sustainably, coconut milk has a better impact than cow’s milk, soy milk, and almond milk as it does not require as much water and doesn’t produce as many greenhouse gases.

Oats and oat milk on a pink background - oat milk can be used as a dairy alternative.
Photo by on Shutterstock

Oat Milk

The latest milk to trend, oat milk is derived from oats, making it one of the easiest to try at home. Oat milk is very thick and creamy with a sweet flavor. This is causing it to win the hearts of many coffee lovers, as many brands are even releasing a barista’s variety of oat milk. Oat milk does not offer the same nutritional value as those above; however, some options include a higher amount of vitamins. Oat milk is one of the best options for the environment, as it requires very little water.

No matter how you take your coffee, tea, cereal, cake or whatever treat needs milk, these options are a great, conscious place to start.

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