There's a lot of misinformation out there, but dietitian Julie Upton, MS, RD, of Appetite For Health is here to shed light on dairy-free milk myths and how they compare to one another.
Moove over, cow's milk. As more shoppers choose a dairy-free diet, alternatives for cow's milk are overflowing with nut-, pea-, and grain-based choices. If you want to know how the most popular non-dairy beverages stack up nutritionally, here's a guide:
One Cup Serving (Original Flavour): 100 calories, 4g fat, 0.5g saturated fat, 6g protein, 2-8g sugar, 30 percent DV calcium, and 30 percent DV vitamin D. Soy milk also offers vitamin A, iron, riboflavin, folate, vitamin B12, potassium, and magnesium. Soy provides beneficial phytoestrogens that provide heart health benefits too.
Soymilk can be used when cooking as a one-for-one substitution for dairy milk. It works for many dishes and baking, but soymilk may separate when exposed to high heat or acidic foods like citrus, vinegar, or tomatoes. Look for unsweetened varieties for savoury dishes.
One Cup Serving (Original Flavor): 80-100 calories, 5g fat, 5g saturated fat, 1g protein, 6-10 grams sugar, 45 percent DV calcium, 25 percent DV vitamin D, and 50 percent vitamin B12. A glass packs in 1/4 of your daily saturated fat, which health organizations advise to limit to help protect against heart disease and certain types of cancer.
Coconut milk works well in recipes that require a creamy, rich consistency like sauces, gravies, or puddings as a direct replacement for cow's milk. It provides a rich, creamy taste similar to half and half, so most enjoy it in coffee.
One Cup Serving (Original Flavour): 60 calories, 2.5g fat, 0g saturated fat, 1 gram protein, 0-7 grams sugar, 45 percent DV calcium, and 25 percent DV vitamin D. Almond milk also offers riboflavin, vitamin B12, and zinc. Because almonds are rich in vitamin E, almond milk is the only milk to be an excellent source of the nutrient.
Almond milk is a diet ally because it's low in calories. Use it as a one-for-one substitution when cooking or baking. In some recipes, you'll detect a nuttier taste and texture. Choose unsweetened varieties for savoury dishes.
One Cup Serving (Original Flavour): 60 calories, 3.5g fat, .5g saturated fat, 0 gram protein, 7g sugar, 50 percent DV calcium and vitamin E, and 25 percent DV vitamin D.
This higher-fat nut is now available as a dairy-free milk and it is richer and creamier than most other nut milks because most of its calories come from fat. If you want protein, don't count on macadamia nut milk, because it has none. It is higher in calcium and vitamin E compared to other dairy-free choices.
One Cup Serving (Original): 110-120 calories, 2g fat, 0g saturated fat, 1g of protein, 12-14 g sugar, 30 percent DV calcium, 25 percent vitamin D, and 25 percent DV vitamin B12. Because rice milk is both dairy-free and nut-free, it's a great option for anyone with those specific allergies.
At 120 calories per cup, rice milk is one of the highest-calorie plant-based milks but is also low in protein and higher in sugars. It's generally recommended for its allergy-friendly benefits, not for it's nutritional profile. It works well for sweets as well as in soups or thin sauces, but lacks the fat necessary to make anything creamy.
One Cup Serving (Original): 70-100 calories, 5-6g fat, 0.5g saturated fat, 2-4g of protein, 6 g sugar, 30-50 percent DV calcium, 25 percent vitamin D, 25 percent DV riboflavin, and 25 percent vitamin B12. Hemp milk also provides phosphorus and magnesium.
Hemp milk provides a small amount of omega-3 fatty acids, but it lacks the protein of cow's milk and has added sugars. You'll need to experiment with it when cooking and baking because its sweetness may impact the flavour of savoury items.
One Cup Serving (Original): 100 calories, 5g fat, .5g saturated fat, 8g protein, 6g sugar, 45 percent calcium, and 30 percent vitamin D; good source of iron and vitamin A.
Pea milk is one of the newest dairy-free alternatives and it has a taste and texture very similar to cow's milk. It packs in more calcium and vitamin D from fortification. Made from yellow split peas, pea milk has the same protein as cow's milk and it is also available in an unsweetened version with no added sugar.
Cow's Milk (For Comparison)
One Cup Serving (Skim): 80 calories, 0g fat, 0g saturated fat, 8g of protein, 30 percent DV calcium and 25 percent of the DV for vitamin D. Dairy milk also offers potassium, phosphorus, and vitamins A and B.
Cow's milk is loaded with nutrients and it's also a natural good source of quality whey protein. It also has no added sugars, unlike many plant-based milks. It's the standard for most recipes, from soups and sauces to smoothies and baked goods.