When it comes to milk alternatives, we’re spoiled for choices these days. Nut milk, oat milk, soy milk… The range has simply spiked in recent years! This has been an amazing advancement for people with cow’s milk allergies and vegans, but it can become quite difficult to make a good choice with so many options available. Here are a couple of tips and tricks to help you make an informed decision, plus a comparison of the best milk alternatives in Australia right now.
Make sure you’re still getting the nutrients you need
You’ve probably heard by now that cow’s milk is a fantastic source of protein and calcium. It also gives you a good dose of phosphorus, potassium, and vitamins B and D. While the predominant ingredients in milk alternatives are healthy foods in their own right, they simply do not
y have the same nutritional profile as cow’s milk. For this reason, we I recommend choosing a milk alternative brand that has undergone fortification. This means that calcium, and possibly other minerals, have been added during the manufacturing process. You’ll know if you’re buying a fortified product by checking the ingredients list. Added calcium is usually labelled ‘calcium’, ‘calcium carbonate’ or ‘calcium phosphate’.
Avoid these ingredients when buying milk alternatives
When you look at the ingredients list on a carton of cow’s milk, you’ll find that it only contains one ingredient: cow’s milk. Milk alternatives usually contain several ingredients. These extras make them more palatable and texturally appealing for consumers. Try to avoid options that include added sugars (we don’t need any of these in our morning muesli or coffee!). Sugar can also be labelled as ‘cane sugar’, ‘rice syrup’ or ‘corn syrup’ so watch out before you add that carton to your trolley.
Popular milk alternatives in Australia
Let’s see how some of the best and most common milk alternatives measure up against each other and a good nutrient profile. Here is the nutritional information for a serving of reduced-fat cow’s milk:
- 473 KJ
- 8.5 g protein
- 3.3 g total fat
- 2.3 g saturated fat
- 108 mg sodium
- 305 mg calcium (33% of your recommended daily intake, or RDI)
All values referred to below are based on 1 serving.
ALMOND BREEZE UNSWEETENED ALMOND MILK
On the positive side, this product is low in energy, coming in at 168 KJ, as well as fat and saturated fat. However, it is low in protein (1.3 g). While it is fortified with calcium, a serving will give you 200 mg, which is only 20
5% of your RDI.
AUSTRALIA’S OWN UNSWEETENED ALMOND MILK
A big positive here is the minimal ingredients list. It contains no sugar or any other flavour enhancers, which is also great. Unfortunately, it is not fortified with calcium at all and it is quite low in protein (1.5 g). Due to not being fortified with calcium, it isn’t a plant milk we’d recommend.
AUSTRALIA’S OWN UNSWEETENED COCONUT MILK
It’s creamy and delicious, but only contains 0.3 g of protein! It also contains 5 g of fat, most of which is saturated fat (4.8 g), and it has added salt and no added calcium. Again, there is nothing wrong with enjoying this product, but if you want to bump up your protein and calcium intake, this shouldn’t be your go-to.
NUTTY BRUCE ALMOND & COCONUT MILK
Unlike many milk alternatives which are found in the long-life milk section, you’ll find this product in the fresh-milk fridge at the supermarket. This is because it contains minimal ingredients and doesn’t contain any added preservatives. It’s also organic, if that’s your jam. This milk will give you 1.5 g protein and only <1 g of saturated fat. While these numbers are great
, it doesn’t contain added calcium, so it is also not a match for cow’s milk nutritionally. If you opt for this product, make sure you’re getting your protein and calcium elsewhere in your diet.
VITASOY unsweetened OAT MILK
It contains 503 KJ energy, 1.5 g protein and 0.8 g saturated fat. It contains slightly more fat than cow’s milk, but hardly any of that is saturated. Another positive is that it contains 300 mg of calcium, thanks to two types of calcium added during fortification. This is a great option for anyone who isn’t gluten-free, as oats contain gluten.
OATLY original OAT MILK
It has slightly less energy (482 KJ) in comparison to Vitasoy Oat Milk, but it contains 2.5 g protein, which is more than any of the other milk alternatives we’ve discussed so far. It’s also lower in fat and has been fortified with calcium (although slightly less so than others at 120 mg). It’s another good option, but a no-go if you’re gluten-free.
SANITARIUM SO GOOD SOY MILK
What really stands out about this product is its massive 8 g of protein per serving! It also provides you with even more calcium than cow’s milk (400 mg / 50% RDI), and has been fortified with phosphorus and magnesium. On a less positive note, it contains some added sugar.
SANITARIUM SO GOOD LITE SOY MILK
Boasting a whopping 8.5 g protein, this option is also lower in total fat (3.3 g) than the regular soy milk made by Sanitarium discussed above. It contains a decent dose of calcium (300 g / 37% RDI), as well as added phosphorus and magnesium. Like its counterpart, it does also contain added sugar.
So, which of these products should you choose? It depends on the purpose of you choosing a milk alternative over cow’s milk. Are you looking for more (or different) nutritional benefits or flavour, or are you avoiding certain options because of allergens or dietary restrictions? There are pros and cons of each of the above options, and you will choose what’s best for you based on your needs.
If you’re really struggling, you can always consult a dietitian to work out which one is best for your goals and health needs. Our team of powerhouse dietitians here at Verde Nutrition Co would be happy to help!