Plate-Wise •  7/1/2021

A reference guide to serving milk

  A bottle of milk surrounded by different types of products that make up other milks.

Which milk should we feed our loved ones? We are lucky to be bombarded with so many safe options — dairy milk, soy milk, almond milk and more. It’s hard to choose the milk or milk alternative that meets our needs. That’s why we’ve created this quick-reference guide on the many kinds of milk available to you, the parent who pours it each day and night.

If you’re in a hurry, here’s our short answer: In our opinion, dairy milk is the most affordable and nutrient-packed option for anyone who isn’t dealing with health issues, like food allergies, and doesn’t need to consider milk alternatives. If you’d like our long answer, read on:

Dairy milk

We’re all familiar with this one, but the benefits of dairy milk are often taken for granted! First, dairy milk boasts one of the most impressive nutrient profiles of all milk options, jam-packed with nine essential nutrients, including high-quality protein, important vitamins and minerals, and more. Dairy milk also benefits from pasteurization, a process by which all harmful pathogens and organisms in the milk are removed. Dairy milks are great for those with nut or soy allergies. Even if you are dealing with lactose intolerance, there are brands of dairy milk available that are lactose-free! Last — this is an important one — dairy milk is often the cheapest milk option on the market, which means you’re getting more nutrition in every penny spent.

Soy milk

With a mild, creamy flavor, soy milk is a good option for those with a lactose intolerance who want the body and texture of dairy milk. It is also a good nondairy substitute for the nutrients cow’s milk provides, with similar amounts of protein and vitamins. Soy milk is slightly more expensive than dairy milk, and there are misleading studies that claim it can cause health issues, but soy milk is a reasonable choice for those who cannot choose dairy milk.

Almond milk

Made up of mostly water, almond milk is lighter and less creamy than soy milk — think skim milk instead of 2%. Almond milk does not provide the same nutrients of dairy milk: It has one-fourth of the calories, half the fat, and less protein and carbohydrates. In general, almond milk is a good calorie-cutting option for adults looking to more closely monitor their diet, but likely not the best option for those who want to feed their children milk rich in proteins, vitamins and minerals.

Additional milk alternatives

Other milks, such as oat milk, coconut milk and others, are still relatively new to grocery store shelves. Each has its benefits and drawbacks: Coconut milk offers vitamins and low calories at the expense of high fat and a very expensive price tag, and rice milk offers a host of essential vitamins but suffers from abnormally high carbohydrate levels. The best advice for less well-studied alternative milks is to read nutrition labels and check price tags to make your own informed decisions at the supermarket.

And that’s it — your quick-reference guide to serving the right milk at dinner. Next time you set the table, rest easy knowing you have the information you need to pour the milk that’s right for you and your family. 

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