Got Whole, Skim, Soy, Almond, Rice Milk?

After 20 years, the “Got Milk” campaign is coming to an end. As we say goodbye to all of those milk-mustache-faced celebrities, we couldn’t help but notice how crowded the milk section has gotten. Here’s a simplified down-low on your dairy and non-dairy options:

Traditional Milk: Good old classic milk comes from a cow and is pasteurized to kill bacteria. Whole milk hosts nine essential nutrients and a glass has 150 calories and 8 grams of fat. Skim milk has the same nutrients but with no fat and almost half the calories. Cow’s milk can be hard for many to digest and absorb, leading to the popularity of the following options.

Soy Milk: Made by soaking soybeans and grinding them with water, soy milk is a great alternative for those who are allergic to cow’s milk or are lactose-intolerant. A glass has 132 calories (80 calories if you go with unsweetened) and half the fat of whole milk. It also has less saturated fat. Though equal to whole milk when it comes to protein, it’s worth noting that soy milk does not have a lot of calcium. If you switch to soy and avoid dairy in your everyday diet, be sure you take a calcium supplement.

Almond Milk: Also lactose-free, almond milk is made using ground almonds. Unsweetened almond milk clocks in at just 40 calories and 4 grams of fat per glass. The sweetened version will cost you more calories and sugar, so look for one that is flavored but unsweetened. (We love vanilla in our coffee and cereal!) Almond milk does not contain animal products, so it’s a great option for vegans and vegetarians. It has a good amount of fiber but lacks protein, so be sure to get that in elsewhere. A tip: Shake before using as the sediment tends to land on the bottom.

Rice Milk: Made by diffusing pressed rice through a mill stream, rice milk has 2 grams of fat, no saturated fat, 120 calories and is a great option for a low-fat drink. As with almond, rice milk has no protein. And watch out if you’re on a low-carb diet or have diabetes, rice is a starchy grain, heavy on the carbs and high in sugar. That said, it’s a great choice for those who have dairy or nut allergies.

Coconut Milk: Coconut milk comes from the grated meat of a coconut. Unsweetened coconut milk has 45 calories and 3.5 grams of fat while the sweeter kind has 70 calories and 4.5 grams of fat.  It should be noted that this goes for the kind found near the other milk varieties in the refrigerator section—the canned versions are used for cooking and baking and are much higher in fat and calories.

Photo credit: Kjokkenutstyr Net

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  1. Many brands of soy, almond, and rice milk contain carrageenan, which is a sulfated polysaccaride. Studies have conflicting evidence on whether carrageenan has dangerous effects on the digestive system. Some independent studies have found that carrageenan is dangerous while those studies funded by companies that produce soy milk have found that carrageenan is safe. Many countries have banned carrageenan. It might be safer for people to look for soy, almond, or rice milk that does not contain carrageenan. It might also be healthier to avoid soy, almond, or rice milk that does not contain added sugar. The World Health Organization guidelines limit added sugar, or sugar that naturally occurs in honey, syrups, or fruit juice to no more than 5% of total calories.

  2. Another thing to consider regarding the dairy in this country is the fact that the commercial dairy industry raises cows using antibiotics, hormones, and steroids. These are things that end up in our milk, butter, cheese etc. Most organic dairy comes from cows that are not injected or fed with antibiotics, hormones, and steroids.

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