Plant Plantbased milk substitutes (such as soy, rice, or almond milk), homemade formulas, cow’s milk, and goat’s milk should not be used to replace breast milk or infant formula during the first year of life.

M. Guo, S. Ahmad

I love milk, I grew up in Texas and love dairy products in general.  My boys are the opposite, all three of them can’t do milk products. Matt hasn’t been tested but both boys have taken one of the lactose intolerance tests.  It’s a simple test, they drank milk a couple hours before we reported to the medical testing lab and they drew blood. I say simple, but blood draws with toddlers are anything but simple.  The boys did not have a rise in glucose, so that meant they were not properly digesting the lactose in milk. So our doctor told us to start experimenting with the dairy free alternatives.  There are so many dairy free alternatives. When I was a kid, I only remember soy milk. Now there are soy milks, rice milks, every nut imaginable milk, oat milk, coconut milk, hemp milk and probably dozens more that we haven’t tried milks. Piper and I tolerate dairy but it’s just simpler to do the plant based milk alternatives for our entire family.  

When we first started experimenting, I googled all of milks looking for honest opinions and pros and cons of each one.  What milk alternative is the healthiest? Which dairy free milk tastes the best? Which dairy free milk is the least expensive?  Can I make my own milk alternative? How do you make nut milk? What is lactaid?  Which plant based milk is best for kids? What is the best plant milk for toddlers? Is plant based milk good for toddlers? Which dairy free milk is good for toddlers? What milk is best for toddlers?

The boys are now 3 and 4 years old, so we’ve had so much time to experiment and find what they like and don’t like.   Honestly big brother Oli barely drinks any milk now, he prefers water or watered down juice. But little brother Milo is a milk monster.  He loves dairy free milk.  

Non Dairy Milk Basics

There are so many dairy free, lactose free milk alternatives.  Each option has its own flavor and nutrition profile, but here’s what you can generally expect from the alternatives.

  • Non Dairy Milks typically have fewer calories but more ingredients than dairy milk.
  • Less fat than full-fat dairy milk (although some nut-based milks tend to be slightly higher in fat).
  • Higher water content (hello hydration)
  • Less protein than dairy milk (except soy milk is right up there with dairy milk).
  • Added sugar and flavors in some products. Registered dietitian Elisa Bremner advises avoiding sweetened versions since you probably don’t need extra sugar in your diet.
  • Calcium-fortified products that help you get a proper serving of this essential nutrient.
  • More diversity in the dairy free milk world, be adventurous and try new alternatives to find your favorite option.
  • Non Dairy Milks are less expensive than the organic dairy counterpart.  Organic milk is $5 dollars a half gallon, non dairy milks are typically $3-4 dollars for a half gallon. 

What to Look for in Dairy Free and Plant Based Milks

• As few ingredients as possible

• “Unsweetened” and “0g added sugar”

• Low amounts of saturated fat (especially in ones made with coconut or added protein)

• Less than 140mg of sodium per cup

• Fortification with calcium and vitamin D

• Nutrients you’re personally concerned about (like the omega-3’s)

•  At least 7-8g protein per serving

The Best Non Dairy Milk Substitutes

Which Plant Based Milk Alternative is the healthiest 2020

1. Soy Milk

  • Soy milk is made with either soybeans or soy protein isolate.
  • It typically has a mild and creamy flavor.
  • One cup of unsweetened soy milk contains 80–90 calories, 4–4.5 grams of fat, 7–9 grams of protein and 4 grams of carbohydrates.
  • It contains a similar amount of protein to dairy milk, but around half the number of calories, fats and carbohydrates.
  • Some people are worried about the isoflavones in soy, which can affect the hormone estrogen.  It’s worth looking into for females.
  • My kids never really cared for the soy milk, but I think it tastes great in coffee.

2.  Almond Milk

  • Almond milk is made with either whole almonds or almond butter and water.
  • It has a light texture and a slightly sweet and nutty flavor.
  • One cup of unsweetened almond milk contains 30–35 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, 1 gram of protein and 1–2 grams of carbohydrates.
  • It contains less than a quarter of the calories and less than half the fat than dairy milk. It is also significantly lower in protein and carbohydrates.
  • Almond milk is a natural source of vitamin E and very hydrating.
  • Milo’s milk preference is almond milk.  

3.  Coconut Milk

  • Coconut milk is made from water and the white flesh of brown coconuts.
  • Coconut milk has a creamy texture and a sweet but subtle coconut flavor.
  • One cup contains 45 calories, 4 grams of fat, no protein and almost no carbohydrates.  Hey Keto Friends.
  • Coconut milk contains one-third the calories of dairy milk, half the fat and significantly less protein and carbohydrates.

4. Rice Milk

  • Rice milk is made from milled white or brown rice and water.
  • Rice milk is mild in taste and naturally sweet in flavor.
  • One cup of rice milk contains 130–140 calories, 2–3 grams of fat, 1 gram of protein and 27–38 grams of carbohydrates.
  • Rice milk is the least allergenic of the nondairy milks.
  • Rice milk contains a similar number of calories to cow’s milk, but almost double the carbohydrates. It also contains considerably less protein and fat.

5. Oat Milk

  • Oat milk is made from a mixture of oats and water.  Recipe.
  • Oat milk is naturally sweet and mild in flavor.
  • One cup contains 140–170 calories, 4.5–5 grams of fat, 2.5–5 grams of protein and 19–29 grams of carbohydrates.
  • Oat milk contains a similar number of calories to cow’s milk, up to double the number of carbohydrates and about half the amount of protein and fat.
  • Oat Milk is amazing for gut health and very inexpensive to make fresh.

6. Cashew Milk

  • Cashew milk is made from a mixture of cashew nuts or cashew butter and water.
  • It is rich and creamy and has a sweet and subtle nutty flavor.
  • One cup of unsweetened cashew milk contains just 25–50 calories, 2–4 grams of fat, 0–1 gram of protein and 1–2 grams of carbohydrates.
  • Cashew milk contains fewer than one third of the calories of cow’s milk, half the fat and significantly less protein and carbohydrates.
  • This is another great keto friendly milk and coffee creamer.

7.  Macadamia Milk 

  • Macadamia milk is made mostly of water and macadamia nuts.
  • It has a richer, smoother and creamier flavor than most non dairy milks.
  • One cup contains 50–55 calories, 4.5–5 grams of fat, 1–5 grams of protein and 1 gram of carbohydrates.
  • Macadamia milk contains one third the calories and about half the fat of cow’s milk. It is also somewhat lower in protein and carbohydrates.
  • Another great plant based keto friendly milk substitute.

8. Hemp Milk

  • Hemp milk is made from the seeds of the hemp plant, Cannabis sativa (yes that cannabis).
  • Hemp milk has a slightly sweet, nutty taste and a thin, watery texture.
  • One cup of unsweetened hemp milk contains 60–80 calories, 4.5–8 grams of fat, 2–3 grams of protein and 0–1 gram of carbohydrates.
  • Hemp seeds contain only trace amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical responsible for cannabis’s mind-altering effects.
  • Hemp milk contains a similar amount of fat to cow’s milk, but around half the calories and protein. It also contains significantly fewer carbohydrates.
  • Hemp milk is a great option for vegetarians and vegans, because of it’s fatty acids (omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid and the omega-6 fatty acid linoleic acid) and 2–3 grams of high quality, complete protein, with all the essential amino acids. 
  • We weren’t big fans of hemp milk.  The middle schooler in me wanted to love it.  It wasn’t bad on cereal, but I prefer the others.

9.  Quinoa Milk

  • Quinoa milk is made from water and quinoa.
  • Quinoa milk is slightly sweet and nutty and has a distinct quinoa flavor.
  • One cup contains 70 calories, 1 gram of fat, 2 grams of protein and 12 grams of carbohydrates.
  • Quinoa milk contains a similar number of carbohydrates to cow’s milk, but fewer than half the calories. It also contains significantly less fat and protein.
  • I haven’t seen this milk in our grocery stores yet but I stumbled on it several times researching this blog post, so I’m on the lookout for it.

Plant based milks are awesome, and with a bit of time I’m sure you can find the right one for you!  Got Milk?

non dairy milk comparisons

For more reading on Dairy Free Milk Alternatives, Taste of Home has an amazing in depth article about Plant Based Milk alternatives. 

My favorite Canadian Mom Blogger did a post on the health benefits of coffee.