Moo-ve over milk – what’s the alternative?
Pea milk… Hemp milk… Quinoa milk…?
Gone are the days when you’d get strange looks at your local coffee shop for ordering a flat white with almond milk, now there is a long and ever-increasing list of non-dairy milk alternatives. Due to many reasons such as dietary restrictions, ethical preferences, allergies, intolerances, environmental and health concerns, there has been an incredible rise in popularity of plant based milk alternatives in recent years.
So how do you go about choosing the right one for you? Before reaching for a litre of cold pistachio milk, here are some considerations that might help for the more commonly available products.
Soya milk – made from soyabeans and water, it’s the alternative that is most nutritionally similar to low fat cows milk. Compared to other milk alternatives, it’s high in protein, lower in fat and the unsweetened variety is low in sugar. It doesn’t contain calcium, so choose a variety that’s fortified. Its thicker texture makes it a good option for use in baking and adding to tea or coffee.
Almond milk – made from ground almonds and water, it has a thin consistency and (unsurprisingly) has a nutty taste. The unsweetened variety is low in fat and sugar, and also low in protein and calcium. It works really well in scones and tastes good in coffee.
Oat milk – a popular choice due to its creamy taste. Made from oats and water, its higher in protein compared to some milk alternatives, and low in fat. It contains some soluble fibre, which keeps you feeling fuller for longer and can help to regulate your blood sugar levels.
Coconut milk – great for smoothies or adding to cereal and porridge. Made from coconut cream and water, it’s very low in protein and contains more saturated fat than other milk alternatives. There is debate whether the type of saturated fat in coconuts (medium chain saturated fatty acids) have more health benefits than other saturated fats, but currently it’s often advised to consume coconut milk only in moderation.
Rice milk – made from milled rice and water, its naturally sweeter than other milk alternatives. Its higher in sugar than other milk alternatives and low in protein. It has a thin consistency and neutral colour, so may not look quite so palatable when used in hot drinks.
What to look out for…
Non-dairy milk alternatives can be a sneaky source of added sugar, especially the flavoured varieties like the amazing sounding Chocolate Praline Hazelnut drink! For everyday use, stick to the unsweetened varieties.
Don’t miss out on essential vitamins and minerals, and choose a variety with added calcium, Vitamin D and Vitamin B12 to contribute to your overall health.
To improve their consistency and shelf-life, some varieties have additives such as thickeners and stabilisers. Choose varieties that have as few ingredients as possible.
Milk alternatives are generally more costly than regular cows milk, especially if you want to choose organic varieties.
Brands vary enormously in their nutritional content, so check the food label for ingredients and nutritional information.
Lastly, shake well before use! Otherwise you’ll end up with a thin and watery first mouthful!
Variety is always the key to maximise your nutrition, so mix it up and try a different variety every now and then…double shot latte with hazelnut milk anyone?