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. danawhite says:

    Hi Diana –
    This postabout soy may help answer some of your questions.

  2. danawhite says:

    Hi Diana –
    This post about soy may help answer some of your questions.

  3. Lisa says:

    There is an article called "The Anti-Soy Madness" that explains that soy is good for you. All the soy-bashing could be caused by the Dairy industry trying to beat out their biggest competitor. I look at it this way – it's a legume so why are other legumes ok? It can be eaten minimally processed and organic much like other vegetables. Even broccoli has phytoestrogens. On the other hand, dairy comes from the insides of a cow and can be highly processed from a factory farm. Maybe we just need to stick with all things in moderation.

  4. betty says:

    Isn't high fructose just another sugar, and the trouble with it is there is so much of it soft drinks and other very sweet things? Sugar is sugar, sucrose: fructose and all the other -oses. If you're diabetic they're bad for you, if you're not diabetic, too much justt makes you fat.
    As a child I drank Grade A raw milk and thrived on it; didn't like the milk served at school because it was pasteurized and "tasted funny."

  5. Heather says:

    There is a new coconut milk from "So Delicious" that tastes just like regular milk. You can get it at Whole Foods

  6. Lenita says:

    IS there a sound recommended hyperthyroid dietary recommendation that you know works?

  7. Sarah says:

    It was not mentioned in the article at all so I thought I'd throw in my personal favorite: Hemp Milk. It works great for me and I prefer the taste to almond, rice, oat, and soy – although I stopped drinking soy years ago after I realized I was having mood swings and I was only in my 20's. The hemp milk contains Omega 3's & 6's and in addition to those, it's a natural source of protein too. Besides that, the brand I buy – Tempt – is enriched to contain 40% (!) of your RDA of calcium which we all need as women and don't usually get near enough of, especially if we are careful of the cow's milk products we eat – or more correctly, don't eat.

  8. Lois says:

    Where do you purchase Hemp Milk?

  9. Sarah says:

    I know you can get it at Whole Foods. You might try Trader Joe's. If you have any other Natural/Health Food store in your area and you don't see it, ask them about it…mine (Sunflower Market) actually brought it in for me when I asked them to. The actual brand is Living Harvest but the packaging says "Tempt" on it really big. I have seen a couple of other brands out there too but have never looked at their nutritional info since I am so happy with the LH brand. They would be guaranteed to have the Omega 3 & 6 content as those are natural components of hemp but I'm not so sure on the calcuim, Vit D, Etc. I use the unsweetened now because I don't want the added sugar and everything I put it in will already have some sweetness; but the sweetened one (obiviously) tasted way better plain for just drinking. If I remember correctly, it added like 18g of sugar and the calories were like 130.

  10. Sheilakwb says:

    giovanna replied to your comment on Alternatives to Cow Milk / Healthy Eats:

    You should know. How much you weight? Would you drink dog milk? I know your answer. Cow milk is for little cow that is why their are fat. muuuuuuuuhh

    Jiovanna – first of all I weigh 130 and am very athletic. No I would not drink dog milk would you? If we were not meant to drink cows milk, then it would have never been made for us to drink. These topics are for discussion – not for people to make fun of others remarks. Grow up!

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