When you were little, it wasn’t a question - When someone referred to milk – it undoubtedly came from a cow.
While whole cow’s milk is still the fluid of choice for many parents of toddlers and their families, some moms and dads prefer to choose something else. Reasons for choosing something other then cows milk vary and may be because of a sensitivity, dietary restriction (such as vegan), environmental, or health reason(s).
I choose not to drink cows milk for many reasons, but that’s another post. Here I wanted to offer information on the many choices we have today.
A Note on Plant Based Milks
I will use the term “milk”, but in essence plant based “milks” are not technically milk since milk comes from mama mammals. They are alternative beverages made from seeds of various plants.
Most have very distinct tastes, colors and textures. All plant based milks are cholesterol free and contain little saturated fat (with the except of coconut milk).
The down side with plant based drinks is that some can be loaded with sugar. Another possible negative aspect can be that there is a less effective vitamin D used in these milks compared to animal based milk. Specifically, animal milk contains vitamin D3 where most plant based milks contain vitamin D2 which the body is less able to utilize. Personally, my family and I take vitamin D3 supplements (this is the only supplement I adamantly support) so it is not an issue for me. (Here is the vitamin D3 supplement I give to my 3 year old...i give her three instead of two daily)
Overall, plant based milks vary in their nutritional content based on how the beverage is fortified. Always good to check out the nutrition information!
Let’s check out our options!
Currently the most popular alternative to dairy, soy milk was one of the first widely available plant based milks. There are tons of different options/flavors and organic is usually available at most supermarkets.
Generally, the thick, creamy consistency of soy is most like traditional cows milk. However, if you opt for the unsweetened option then you may notice a slight bitter taste.
Many people I have come across give a wag-of-the-finger when it comes to soy products do to the controversy of phytoestrogens (or isoflavones). There is research still being done and we are continuing to learn more about this issue.
Do I avoid organic soy products? No, I don’t. But I enjoy other options in combination to organic soy.
|click here for an easy home made almond milk recipe|
Almonds are one the healthiest nuts you can eat and may be one of the more nutritious milk alternatives that is available (just watch out for added sugars of course).
Popularity for almond milk is growing fast. Low in calories and high in nutrients (particularly the antioxidant vitamin E), almond milk is light in flavor and still provides a nice creamy consistency. It can easily be made at home as well. (Here is just one of many recipes you can find online)
Although almonds are generally high in protein, almond milk is not (about 1-2 grams). If you are looking for protein, you are better off just eating almonds.
Also worth noting, almond nuts are a goitrogenic food. This is a natural substance in fruits, grains and veggies that can interfere with healthy thyroid function in some people (mostly in large doses). Cooking food inactivates much of the goitrogens, but if you are especially sensitive or have hyprothyroidism you may want to limit or eliminate this option.
The saturated fat in coconut milk is made up of short-chain and medium chain fatty acids which the body quickly turns into energy. Consequently, even though it can be considered high in saturated fats, coconut milk can actually aid in weight loss due to its stimulating effects on metabolism.
Half of the medium-chain fatty acids in coconut milk are made up of lauric acid which is anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-microbial and anti-fungal – coconut milk may help boost the immune system!
Drinking straight coconut milk can carry some large numbers in the calorie department – so you can opt for coconut milk beverages. Check out SoDelicious brand which even carries an organic choice. (I have read that this is an ideal choice for nursing mothers who have babies that suffer from a daily allergy.)
I am a huge proponent for coconut oil, but have never tried coconut milk or coconut milk beverages – after doing this research, I’ll be buying some this weekend!
Rice milk is the most hypoallergenic of all milk substitutes. This alternative milk is processed from brown rice.
Rice milk can be a great choice for adults, but typically not for toddlers or children due to its low amounts of protein, fat, and calories.
Only one cup of rice milk contains over 30 grams of sugary carbohydrates (@ 4 times the amount found in soy milk) – this might not be the most suitable choice for diabetics.
Coffee drinkers may not enjoy the rather thin consistency of rice milk.
Personally, I have never tried rice milk and I really don’t plan to. I’m not sure, but it just doesn’t appeal to me.
An excellent source of protein, hemp milk is creamier and nuttier than soy or rice milk. It is also rich in healthy omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids (which promote hearth health and memory).
Although hemp milk is completely legal here in the
(and does not contain any THC due to manufacturing from seed not the plant itself), if you purchase this milk it is most likely to be manufactured by our northernly friends in U.S. . Canada
The only non-plant based milk on the list –it is an excellent alternative to cows milk for toddlers because it is similar to the composition of human breast milk more then the other options commonly available.
Goat’s milk has more calcium, more naturally occurring vitamin A and D, and potassium then cows milk. Another awesome point, goats are not treated with growth hormones! Yippie!
The taste of goats milk is somewhat more tangy. I’ve given this to my daughter in the past and she completely refused it, however, it was whole goats milk – not the 2% which they also have available in stores as well.
Does your toddler need milk to achieve the calcium and fat levels needed in their diet – absolutely not. In fact, there are much healthier options that we can choose in which our bodies can utilize calcium better. But again, that is another post completely. (Check out 15 Non Dairy Foods High in Calcium)
For healthy kids, milk is just a drink – it is not an exclusive source of daily nutrition. In fact, too much milk (more then 16 oz per day) may place children at risk of vitamin deficiencies (such as low iron levels).
Obviously, for any child who is not growing in a typical manner or has issues with food allergies (or other dietary restrictions) you would want to speak with a Nutritionalist (who will be able to impart much more information then an average pediatrician).
I will leave you with this short list to learn more! Enjoy –