Cow-free milk is no passing trend. “While cow’s milk contains nutrients such as calcium, vitamin D and protein, people are turning to non-dairy varieties because of allergies, lactose intolerance and concerns about hormones and antibiotics,” says dietician, Elisa Zied, author of Nutrition At Your Fingertips. Supermarkets are heeding the call, with increasing numbers of alternative milk products available at your local Woolworths or Checkers and not just that funny-smelling little health shop on the corner.
But while some faux milk’s are more beneficial than good old moo juice and clock in at fewer kilojoules (skim has around 375kJ per 250ml glass), others lack nutritional value or harbour hidden kilojoules and sugar, added to make them more enjoyable, warns dietician and WH nutrition expert Dr Celeste Naudé. Many of them also tend to be more expensive than regular cows milk.
To make choosing a milk a whole lot simpler, we’ve compiled this guide to help you out:
It’s actually made from the grated meat of the coconut, pressed and liquidised – the stuff inside the coconut that keeps Survivor contestants from dehydration is water.
Taste: Thick, creamy and, well, coconut-y
Pros: Many brands are fortified with half a day’s worth of vitamin B12, a brain-boosting nutrient.
Cons: “The majority of fat is saturated,” says dietician Lauren Slayton. The kilojoule count can also be high, depending on the brand.
Best in: Cooking, desserts, smoothies and oats – it’s a go-to thickener.
Usually made from boiled brown rice, it’s the milk alternative that pops up in allergy tests least often.
Taste: Light, watery and sweet
Pros: The carbs. “Have a glass before or after a workout – it offers carbs to fuel and fluid to hydrate and, like a sports drink, it’s a good source of electrolytes,” says Nancy Clark, dietician and author of Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook.
Cons: The carbs. If you’re trying to drop a few kilos, it’s best to eat whole-grain carbs, which contain filling fibre; rice milk has zero.
Best in: Desserts, baked goods, pancakes and smoothies. Its natural sweetness complements indulgent food. It also dissolves well in tea and coffee and its inoffensive flavour makes it a good option for your morning bran flakes.
TIP: Not great in white sauce – it doesn’t thicken well, so opt for soya instead.
No, you can’t milk a bean plant – it’s made by grinding pre-soaked soya beans in water.
Taste: Faintly sweet and creamy. Some varieties have a slight tofu flavour.
Pros: It has almost as much protein as cow’s milk, plus plant chemicals that may help inhibit the absorption of cholesterol. It’s often fortified, so shake the carton well – added calcium tends to settle at the bottom, says Zied.
Cons: Many soy milks contain large amounts of sugar, which isn’t good for your health or your waistline. Make sure to always choose a brand that is unsweetened. And while we’re at it, always choose a brand that hasn’t been genetically modified.
Best in: Creamy soups and salad dressings, sauces, casseroles and other savoury dishes. Flavoured varieties (chocolate, strawberry, vanilla) are great by the glass.
Ever boiled raw oats, blended the mixture and poured it in your tea? No? Well someone did and the result (somewhat tweaked and improved) is now available by the carton.
Taste: Sweet and a little grainy, like a bowl of Jungle Oats.
Pros: Use it in a breakfast smoothie for added fibre, a dose of folic acid and blood-sugar-regulating complex carbs.
Cons: Once again, those carbs. It’s also no good for anyone with a gluten allergy.
Best in: Cereals, smoothies, baking.
Your go to healthy snack is now available in milk form. Almond milk is made by soaking almonds, blending them with water and then straining the almond pulp.
Taste: Creamy, sweet and nutty
Pros: It’s low in kilojoules, making this a great dairy alternative if you’re trying to manage your weight.
Cons: Low in protein and low in calcium, which means you need to drink more of it to ensure that you’re still getting all the nutrients you need.
Best in: Desserts and smoothies
It seems Heidi was onto something: goat’s milk is preferred over the cow variety in many parts of the world because goats are easier to keep, but it’s good for your smile too.
Taste: Creamy, slightly sweet and herby. Some people find the herby taste and smell overpowering.
Pros: It’s high in calcium, protein, vitamins and minerals. Many people sensitive to cow’s milk don’t have the same reaction to the goat alternative, although scientists haven’t managed to agree on why – the difference in lactose content is only 0.6 percent.
Cons: Unfortunately it’s low in fibre. To ensure the continued well-being of your digestive system make sure you’re getting enough fibre from other sources.
Best in: Cereal, tea and coffee, cooking and baking.