Alternatives to Cow Milk

by in Healthy Tips, January 20, 2009

Don’t like milk? Not a problem. There are many milk alternatives available these days — perfect for the lactose intolerant or folks looking to change it up. Here are some you might explore.

Soy Milk
This is the most common substitute. Products include soy milk, yogurt, butter, cream cheese, cheese, sour cream, and even ice cream (Tofutti Cuties are my childhood favorite!). Soy milk comes in several flavors, including plain, chocolate, cappuccino and vanilla. You can also get no-sugar-added varieties. Keep in mind that soy milk contains 100 calories and 4 grams of fat per cup. Choose a light soy milk if you’re trying to cut back calories.

Rice and Almond Milk
Similar to soy milk but not always as readily available, rice and almond milk are other options. Many of these milks are fortified with calcium (a natural nutrient in cow milk) — check food labels to make sure you receive around 30% of your daily needs per serving. Rice milk is made from brown rice and has a whitish color and mild flavor. Almond milk, made from ground almonds, has a sweeter flavor. Both almond and rice milk come in plain, chocolate and vanilla flavors.

Coconut Milk
Derived from the flesh of the coconut, coconut milk also has a slightly sweet flavor. You often find it in Thai, West African, Hawaiian and West Indian dishes. Unlike the other alternative milks, coconut milk contains a significant amount of saturated fat so use it in moderation. It also has a strong flavor so add less to dishes. Light coconut milk contains about half the calories and fat of the regular version.

Substitution Tips
Soy, rice and almond milk work best as milk substitutes in recipes. Just follow a one-to-one ratio and stick to a plain or vanilla flavor for the closest match. You can add them to cold and hot cereals, coffee or hot chocolate. Use rice or soy milk to create a fruit smoothie. A simple glass of vanilla soy milk works well with a PB&J sandwich.

While it doesn’t taste exactly like the original, soy cheese actually melts well — try it in lasagnas, grilled “cheese” sandwiches or on a green salad. Unlike regular cow or goat cheese, soy cheese contains no cholesterol. My friend once substituted half the cheese in her lasagna for soy cheese, and her family couldn’t detect the difference.

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Comments (60)

  1. Meredith says:

    I have recently heard of a link between soy milk and breast cancer. Is this true? Does too much soy milk increase the chances of breast cancer in women?

  2. Sheilakwb says:

    I love milk and drink quite a bit of it – maybe as much as two gallons of skim or 1% a week. Is there research that says cow's milk is bad for you?

  3. Barb Mueller says:

    I would think that you would have listed "goats milk". Which we think is a lot better for you than any of the above products. Its low in fat naturally, and is easy on the digestive tract.
    And really taste great too. Its very healthy for you. Why do you think that they feed it to infants who can't digest cow milk. We just filter it after we milk and cool it down fast. Doesn't get any better than that.

  4. Jenkinska says:

    There are many alternative medicine doctors that tell you to avoid all soy products, with good reason. Do your research befor recommending soy. I never eat it. Google the danger of soy and read about it for your self.

  5. Babs says:

    I have tried small amounts of cows milk, soy milk and rice milk and all of them cause me to have an over production of mucus. I tasted goats milk and did not care for the taste. I suppose I will try almond milk and see what happens. I just want to use it with cold cereal and maybe a few other things. I have not found a cheese that I can eat more than a piece or two without mucus problems.

  6. ggs says:

    What about the concern of soy and infertility? Some research shows there may be connection but not proven. Yet why is there such a great problem of infertility?

  7. ghommie says:

    What about straight from the cow – unpasturized? Supposedly you can drop botulism in it and the natural enzymes will kill it. My husband loves it and the skim tastes like whole milk.

  8. Shelly says:

    I went to a nutrition class recently and the doctor told us to drink raw milk – unpasturized and unhomogenized. He also said we need some fat in our diet. Watch out for low fat products! They usually have a lot of high fructose corn syrup (much worse than regular sugar) and chemicals in them.

  9. SEAL76 says:

    Soy products of any kind are not recommended for people who take medication to regulate thyroid problems.

  10. Diana says:

    I keep hearing that you must be careful with your soy intake because it contains estragen and may have a part in breast cancer. I love the chocolate soy milk but I'm also worried. What's the truth.

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