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A FRESH Point of View: Milk Alternatives

I have vegetarian and vegan friends who say the toughest thing to give up was bacon. But for me, it would be a food that’s much more basic: Milk. I find it hard to imagine a world where I couldn’t pour milk on my morning cereal or indulge in a glass with a chocolate-chip cookie.

On the other hand, there are lots of people who are either lactose-intolerant, vegan, or simply do not care for the taste of cow’s milk but who don’t want to completely give up milk, either.

So the marketplace has answered their wishes. Now, there are more kinds of dairy-free milk alternatives than ever, and better-tasting ones, too. Milk alternatives are usually made from some sort of plant product; often soy, but now, sometimes nuts or rice.

Milk alternatives vary widely in calorie count, protein and sugar content (some can have quite a bit of sugar) and taste. But even if you can and do drink cow’s milk, you may find you like one of the alternative milks we carry at FRESH because of their nutritional benefits – or even the taste.

Soy milk: The most common milk alternative, it’s made from soy beans. Soy milk is typically high in protein, has no cholesterol, and contains no lactose, making it a traditional favorite of those who cannot easily digest milk. If you don’t care for the taste of regular soy milk, (some people call it chalky, or having a grassy/vegetable undertone) try a flavored version, such as Silk vanilla, which I like on cereal.

Almond milk: Almond milk often seems richer, creamier and milder than soy milk, though it will still seem thinner than whole cow’s milk. Made from ground almonds, it also contains no lactose and no cholesterol, though it often has much less protein than dairy products. A cup of Almond Breeze vanilla-flavored almond milk, has just 90 calories and 2.5 grams of unsaturated fat, but just one gram of protein. (A cup of full-fat cow’s milk has 150 calories and 8 grams of protein.)

Hazelnut milk: Newer to the mainstream market, hazelnut milk tastes nutty and rich – like the hazelnuts it’s made from. I like the original flavor hazelnut milk made by Pacific Natural Foods, and sold in aseptic packaging that can stay fresh in your pantry for months if you don’t open it. It’s gently sweet, made with brown rice sweetener, and has 110 calories, 3.5 grams of fat, and 2 grams of protein per cup.

Hemp milk: Yes, it’s made from hemp seeds. No, it’s not what you think. Hemp milk, like the Tempt brand we sell, does come from the seeds of the same plant that produces marijuana. However, hemp seeds are completely edible and do not contain any of the psychoactive components of marijuana, and are perfectly safe to ingest. In fact, it is often considered more easily digestible than other alternative milks, and it contains not just 2 grams of protein per cup but 10 essential amino acids.  The taste, however, may be a bit of an acquired one; you might feel is somewhat grassy, or “green,” and it’s often easier to ease into drinking hemp milk by trying a flavored version, like Tempt vanilla.

Rice milk: Another fairly neutral-tasting beverage, rice milk is a good source of D and some B vitamins. It also tends to be fairly low in calories and fat (about 90 calories and less than three grams of fat per cup for sweetened versions, less than 50 calories for unsweetened versions.) However, it has little protein, usually just one or two grams per cup.

Coconut milk: So Delicious, a brand of non-dairy creamers, ice creams and non-dairy yogurts made from coconuts, also now has a coconut-milk beverage, sold in the dairy case. If you like coconut in general, you may find this one of the easiest milk alternatives to enjoy. This is not the same as the coconut milk you can buy in a can, which is much heavier, tastes more like coconut, and is usually used for cooking things like Thai curries. Instead, this tastes only faintly of coconut, but has a clean, refreshing, neutral flavor, with just a bit of sweetness.  One cup has just 80 calories, but take note; more than half of the calories come from saturated fat.