Sour on Milk? 5 Healthy Dairy Substitutes

(taken from The Beachbody Coach Newsletter) By Jeanine Natale

Sour on Milk

So you’ve made the decision to go dairy free for health, diet, and/or allergy reasons. Maybe you’re trying to avoid lactose. Maybe you just don’t like the way the dairy industry tends to treat cows. But here’s the rub: You love milk! So what are you going to do? Fear not, it’s easy to avoid lactose and still get your fill of milk-like liquids. Soy, rice, coconut, almond, and even hemp “milks” have all found their way into the diets, hearts, and grocers’ shelves of health-conscious people everywhere. Some, like coconut and rice milk, have been around for hundreds of years as dietary staples in many cultures around the world.


We’re going to take a look at the five most widely available—and very diverse—milk substitutes, but before we start, let’s quickly look at what you’re leaving behind when you give up dairy. A 1-cup serving of regular skim milk has 90 calories, 125 milligrams of sodium, 8 grams of protein, 30 percent of your recommended daily allowance (RDA) of calcium, 25 percent of your RDA of vitamin D, phosphorus, and riboflavin, and 16 percent of your RDA for vitamin B12. That same cup of skim milk also contains 12 grams of carbohydrates, 11 of which are sugar.

Now let’s compare the rest. Keep in mind that these are all vegetarian/vegan-friendly, gluten-free alternatives.

1. Soy Milk. Soy milk is probably the best-known milk alternative in the Western world. It’s easy to find it in a variety of flavors and options at just about any market. So how does soy milk stack up nutritionally compared to skim milk? A typical 1-cup serving has about 100 calories—slightly more than skim milk—with 7 grams of protein, 29 milligrams of sodium, 25 percent of your RDA of thiamin, 9 percent of your RDA of riboflavin, 8 percent of your RDA of iron, 15 percent of your RDA of copper, 20 percent of your RDA of manganese, and just about 35 percent of your RDA of calcium.

SoyDespite soy milk’s popularity, there is some controversy surrounding it. The trend toward foods that are or contain GMOs (genetically modified organisms) is currently a cause for great concern, and more than 90 percent of all soybeans sold in the U.S. are GMOs, making it pretty difficult to find truly natural, organic soybeans or soybean milk products.

Also, unfermented soy products like soy milk naturally contain what are known as phytoestrogens—chemicals that when introduced to the human body tend to act like estrogen. There are many studies on this subject, but unfortunately most of them tend to contradict each other: Do phytoestrogens cause or prevent cancer? Are there negative side effects to ingesting too much of the stuff if you’re male? Should infants be given soy products at all? The best way to deal with the soy debate and its consequences, aside from doing a bunch of research yourself, is simply to remember the age-old adage, “All things in moderation.” If you aren’t going to be consuming gallons of soy milk per day, you should be just fine.

Bottom Line: You might want to explore other choices before settling for this somewhat controversial and overprocessed milk alternative. 2. RiceRice milk. If you’ve ever had the popular Mexican drink horchata, you’ve had rice milk. The popular commercial brands are enriched with calcium and other nutrients found in dairy milk, but they also (like commercial soy milk) have a variety of additives, sweeteners, and flavorings, many of which can’t be considered either organic or natural.

So how does rice milk add up nutritionally? A 1-cup serving has approximately 80 to 90 calories, but they come mostly from sugar, which you probably already get plenty of, and which you’re probably trying to avoid if you’re trying to consume a healthy diet. If you’re a rice milk or horchata fan, great—you can mix it with all kinds of things to make it a fun, refreshing treat. But realistically speaking, rice milk doesn’t have much else going for it.

Bottom Line: Although it’s relatively popular, I wouldn’t settle on rice milk as a truly complete and healthy alternative to regular milk, unless I was mixing it with Shakeology®. Store-bought brands will be more nutritious, but will contain a lot of sugar. 3. CoconutCoconut milk. Thai food, anyone? How about a piña colada? If you’re a fan of either, chances are, you’ve had plenty of coconut milk in your lifetime. Now, don’t mistake coconut milk for the watery liquid fo