If you are looking for an alternative to regular cow’s milk, you are in luck! There are seemingly endless choices of plant-based milk substitutes available today. With so many options, looking for the best plant-based milk can be overwhelming.
Establishing why you want to avoid cow’s milk can be helpful in your quest of selecting the perfect plant-based alternative.
If you dislike the taste…
Best Choice: Rice or Almond Milk
Maybe your well-meaning parents made you drink a lot of milk growing up or you have a bad association with milk from chugging it after that one time you entered a chili eating contest. Whatever the reason, if the taste of cow’s milk is not for you, rice and almond milk may be good options.
Rice and almond milk are slightly less thick and less creamy than some of the other milk alternatives. They may be more palatable if you dislike the taste and mouthfeel of cow’s milk.
Note that rice and almond milk have a drastically different nutrient profile than cow’s milk. They are lacking in protein with most brands containing only 0-2 grams per serving while cow’s milk contains 8 grams of protein per serving. If you are living a 100% plant-based lifestyle, this may not be the best choice as you will be missing out on protein that you can easily get from other milk alternatives.
If you want to help the environment…
Best Choice: Oat Milk
If you are giving up traditional milk in an effort to reduce your carbon footprint, consider the environmental impact of plant-based alternatives.
Almond milk requires a startling amount of water to produce – 15.3 gallons of water are needed to produce just 16 almonds. Rice milk production uses less water than almond and cow’s milk though more than flax, oat, soy, and hazelnut.
Soy milk is grown in massive quantities around the world and soybean production has well-known links to deforestation practices. Comparative to the dairy industry, soy is still a better environmental option.
Oat milk has gained popularity for good reason. Oats are considered a “low-input” crop and can be helpful to reduce soil erosion and control plant diseases. Oat milk offers slightly more protein on average than many other milk alternatives at 3 grams per serving.
If you are concerned about animal welfare…
Best Choice: Any of them!
Thinking about animal welfare in the dairy industry is enough to make anyone want to skip the cow’s milk and make the switch to a plant-based alternative. You don’t have to live 100% plant-based to make a difference. Making the plant-based choice for some of your meals or following a “flexitarian” diet has known health benefits and can help to reduce your impact on animals.
If optional nutrition is your goal…
Best Choice: Soy milk
Soy milk is the clear winner for plant-based milk nutrition. This option is low in calories, contains no cholesterol, and contains protein comparable to the amount found in cow’s milk. Be mindful of the sugar content in soy and all plant-based milk alternatives. Opt for unsweetened when possible.
Breast cancer risk or hormonal changes in men with soy consumption is are outdated myths. These are based on weakly linked similarities between the phytoestrogen found and soy and the hormone estrogen found in humans. Conversely, there is a wide body of reputable research supporting the health benefits of consuming low cholesterol and low-fat sources of protein like soy.
There are plenty of reasons to make the switch to plant-based milk. We hope these tips will help you navigate the bountiful choices!
Dietitian approved choice: Whole Food’s 365 Organic Unsweetened Original Soymilk This plant-based milk offers 7 grams of protein, 70 calories per serving, and 25% of daily calcium. Creamy and delicious, this option won’t leave you missing cow’s milk.