Back in the day, soy milk tended to be the only milk alternative coffee shops offered, however these days you may be more familiar with ordering a double shot oat milk flat white or picking from a range of plant-based milk alternatives such as coconut, almond or even hemp!
With milk alternatives the two most important things to consider are the protein and calcium content (after taste of course!). The only plant-based milk that comes close to cow’s milk protein wise is soy, and when it comes to calcium, it’s entirely dependent on the fortification level of each different product. Our top tip is to look for plant-based milks that have been fortified with calcium and additional vitamins – look for ‘calcium phosphate’ in the ingredient list to know the milk has been fortified.*
On top of this, you don’t want there to be any added sugar and ideally a very minimal ingredient list. Common additions to plant-based milks are emulsifiers and stabilisers such as sunflower lecithin, carrageenan or vegetable gums (e.g xanthan).
Oat and soy milks are higher in carbohydrates whereas almond, coconut and hemp milks are lower in calories, so can be great options when you’re using a larger volume of milk, such as in a smoothie. Oat milk is especially great if you’re looking to get a little more daily fibre intake!
Each milk alternative has pro’s and con’s so it’s about balancing what you’re looking to get more of in your diet, and if you don’t have any dietary requirements then just go for the taste!
Milk alternatives are a good option if you’re avoiding lactose, or prefer the flavour but don’t forget cow’s milk is also really nutritious. It contains calcium, protein, vitamins and minerals, all key in a healthy balanced diet.
*The exception is hemp milk as there is naturally occurring calcium in hemp.
If you’re keen to learn a little more about what milk might be right for you, here’s a table that displays the average nutritional value for differing milks:
Meet the Expert
Kate is one of our Fresh Start Experts, who grew up in sunny Tauranga; home to the infamous Mount Maunganui and great surf. She has a bachelor’s degree in Food Science and Nutrition from the University of Auckland, so she’s more than qualified to be dishing out tips and tricks for health. Kate’s favourite food is avocados (especially when combined with peanut butter and hot sauce) as well as big golden peaches grown on her granny’s tree (hence her foodie name!). Kate loves working at My Food Bag surrounded by others who are just as excited about all things food as she is!