The Milk Face Off: Dairy vs. Non-Dairy

Dairy vs. Non Dairy Milks
By: Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN

With so many different types of milk out there to buy, it can often be confusing to make a choice of which one to purchase. To help you navigate both dairy and non-dairy milks, we have compared the nutrients in a few popular milks and provided tips to help you make smart and healthy choices at the checkout line.

The milk off starts here!

 

Skim Milk

Pros:

  • All-natural, (in most cases) no or few additives
  • Good source of calcium meeting about 30% of daily recommended intake
  • Source of potassium that’s heart-healthy and a key electrolyte for the body

Cons:

  • May contain hormones or antibiotics (when not organic)
  • Contains more calories than non-dairy soy, almond and coconut milks
  • May cause stomach discomfort for some

Tips for purchase:

  • Purchase organic (this goes for all dairy products)
  • Stick to skim milk for most dairy milk consumption whenever possible

Nutrition breakdown per 8 oz:

  • 90 calories
  • 0 g fat
  • 130 mg sodium
  • 12 g sugar
  • 8 g protein
  • 300 mg calcium
  • 400 mg potassium

Almond Milk

Pros:

  • Lower in calories than cow’s milkNon-Dairy Calcium Sources
  • Contains the same (if not more) calcium than regular milk when fortified (note: almond milk made at home will not have the same amount of calcium). Learn more about Dairy Alternatives that Give You Calcium.
  • Fewer grams of carbohydrates than regular milk
  • May have other added fortified nutrients like Vitamin D and B12 (read the nutrition label)
  • Offers heart-healthy, unsaturated fat from the almonds

Cons:

  • May have added chemicals like carrageenan that can be a mild irritant to gastrointestinal tract
  • Can contain extra added sugars if not purchasing unsweetened
  • Contains fewer grams of protein than cow’s milk
  • May contain fewer milligrams of heart-healthy potassium than cow’s milk

Tips for purchase:

  • Look for unsweetened varieties
  • Opt for brands that contain no carrageenan (or other ingredients that cannot be pronounced) as an ingredient

Nutrition breakdown per 8 oz:

  • 30-40 calories
  • 2.5-3 g fat (0 g saturated fat)
  • 160-180 mg sodium
  • 190 mg potassium
  • 2 g carbohydrates
  • 1 g dietary fiber
  • <1 g sugar
  • 1 g protein
  • 300-400 mg calcium

Soy Milk

Pros:

  • May contain as much calcium as regular milk (when fortified)
  • Offers almost as much protein as regular milk that can help promote fullness and satiety
  • Offers more heart-healthy potassium than almond milk
  • Contains heart-healthy, unsaturated fat from the soybeans
  • May contain other nutrient additives like B12 and iron depending on the brand

Cons:

  • May contain GMO’s
  • May contain artificial ingredients like carrageenan and sugars depending on the brand and variety
  • Contains more calories than almond milk

Tips for purchase:

  • Choose organic/ Non GMO whenever possible
  • Read labels well and choose varieties without carrageenan
  • Purchase unsweetened variety whenever possible

 Nutrition breakdown per 8 oz:

  • 80 calories
  • 4 grams fat (0 grams saturated fat)
  • 110 mg sodium
  • 280 mg potassium
  • 3 g carbohydrates
  • 1 g fiber
  • 1 g sugar
  • 7 g protein
  • 300 mg calcium

Coconut milk

Pros:

  • Contains fewer calories than both cow’s milk and soy milk
  • May contain other added nutrients like Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D (depending on the brand)
  • Contains more potassium than some other non-dairy milks like almond milk (in some cases)
  • Often creamier than some of the other non-dairy milks including almond milk

Cons:

  • Contains more fat and more saturated fat (although it is from plant-based source) than cow’s milk and than some of the other non-dairy milks
  • May contain artificial and added ingredients including carrageenan and flavors
  • Contains less protein than soy milk and regular cow’s milk

Tips for purchase:

  • Purchase the lower-calorie versions in tetra-paks instead of purchasing canned varieties that are higher in calories
  • Choose unsweetened coconut milk that is also free of carrageenan

Nutrient breakdown per 8 oz (boxed unsweetened, not canned):

  • 45 calories
  • 3.5-4 g fat
  • 1-4 g saturated fat
  • 0-130 mg sodium
  • 40-180 mg potassium
  • 2 g carbohydrates
  • 1 fiber
  • 0 g sugar
  • 1 g protein
  • 0-100 mg calcium

General tips for purchasing both non-dairy and cow’s milks:

  • If you’re someone looking for calcium in their dairy/non-dairy milk, cow’s milk automatically contains calcium, but when it comes to non-dairy milks, make sure it has added calcium (they are not always fortified)
  • Purchase non-GMO/organic whenever possible (especially with cow’s milk and soy milk)
  • For non-dairy milks, choose those that are unsweetened, and without carrageenan and other ingredients on the label that you cannot pronounce

Or, if you want to make your own non-dairy milk, give it a try! Here’s a few recipes…

(Note: These recipes may contain more calories than those mentioned above)

  1. Homemade Coconut MilkHomemade Coconut Milk
  2. Creamy and Sweet Coconut Milk
  3. Cinnamon Hazelnut Milk
  4. Cinnamon Vanilla Almond Milk

 

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN

Isabel is a Registered Dietitian, wellness expert and fitness coach. Isabel has her own nutrition and wellness practice based in New York City, Isabel Smith Nutrition, but she works with clients and corporations both nationwide and worldwide in a variety of areas including skin health, weight loss, gastrointestinal issues and allergies, sports nutrition, general wellness and more. As a Guided Reboot coach, Isabel has helped hundreds juice their way to better health. When she isn’t helping clients achieve optimal nutrition and wellness, she can be found trying and creating new juices and making other healthy recipes, running, cooking, spinning, practicing yoga, and enjoying time with her two Yorkshire terriers. Isabel is also one of the nutritionists who runs our Guided Reboot programs.

More posts from