The most difficult decision we used to have related to our milk was 1 percent, 2 percent or skim? But now, the non-dairy aisle has exploded. The more consumers have learned about the health benefits of almonds, cashews and coconuts, the more they have added these “milks” into their diets. According to Nielsen, almond milk consumption alone rose by 250 percent over the past five years. Nuts, right?
But looking at these different dairy alternatives can make your head spin. What ingredients should you pay attention to? Check out these tips below to make your dash to the grocery store for milk a piece of cake:
Pay attention to nutritional content
Pick up a carton of almond milk and check its daily percentages of fat, sugar and protein. Compared to cow’s milk – which has eight grams of protein – almond milk’s protein content stands at a measly one gram. That’s because the processed stuff is mostly water. To compensate for the lighter flavor, some companies add sugar to sweeten it up. As a result, what starts out as a relatively healthy substitute can quickly turn into a sugar bomb. Instead of buying almond milk, you can whip up your own. Simply add two cups of whole almonds to 4 cups of water. Blend for thirty seconds – then get ready to press out the milk! Fresh almond milk can last up to one week in your refrigerator. Use this dairy alternative the way you would use skim milk.
Note the milk’s base for texture
Are you a whole-milk lover? Then you will likely turn up your nose at milks that use rice or oats. Instead look for dairy alternatives that have ingredients that are naturally rich. Coconut milk has long been a favorite (and not just for piña coladas!). According to AARP, one cup of coconut milk has 4.5 grams of fat compared to 2.5 grams found in almond milk. Homemade coconut milk may offer a richer flavor profile if you blend it with less water. Pour it into your oatmeal for a luscious way to start your morning.
Read the ingredients list
It’s inevitable that many dairy alternatives list preservatives in their ingredients’ lists: Items like soy lecithin extend shelf life so you can enjoy the milk longer without it souring. Take a page out of Michael Pollan’s book: Try to eliminate the ingredients that your grandmother wouldn’t know – or the ones you can’t pronounce. So instead of trying the vanilla-flavored almond milk (which may be bogged down with artificial sweeteners), opt for the plain version that you can spice up at home.
With so many different non-dairy choices, the food possibilities seem endless. You can experiment with a variety of dishes that utilize each of these ingredients to find your new favorite. You can even use these milks in baked goods – no one will know the difference!