11 Feb 2015
Milk, it seems, is no longer just milk, and long gone are the days when buying a bottle was as easy as choosing either full fat or skim. Now the choices are seemingly endless and, yes, very confusing. So should you offer your family good old-fashioned full-fat cow’s milk? What about A2, rice, soy, almond or even sheep’s and goat’s milk? The right milk for you and your family will ultimately depend on taste, budget and any health needs or concerns.
Conventional wisdom suggests that if you and your family have no particular allergies or dietary issues, then a good-quality full- or low-fat milk (in moderation) should be fine for everyone. (Experts recommend that children under the age of two should stick with full-fat milk.) But if you’re dealing with lactose intolerances, allergies or other dietary issues, a huge range of alternatives exists.
When making the switch from cow’s milk to an alternative variety, be aware that you may lose out on vitamin and calcium intake as well as increase your kilojoule and sugar consumption, so do your research and carefully read labels. Of course, it’s best to take advice from your family doctor before making any significant changes to your diet (or your children’s diet). In the meantime, here’s a brief rundown of some of the most popular dairy-milk alternatives currently doing the supermarket rounds.
This variety of cow’s milk has recently seen a huge surge in popularity, mostly due to claims that A2 milk is easier to digest. According to some research and A2 milk producers, the lack of certain types of proteins in A2 milk means it’s more digestible and a better option for those with lactose intolerances. A2 milk tends to be a bit more expensive than regular milk, so do some research into whether it’s the right one for your family before making the switch.
Made from soaked, cooked and dried soy beans, this is another popular alternative milk for kids and adults with lactose intolerances or allergies. Soy milk is a good source of plant protein, but it’s a good idea to opt for one that’s made from whole beans and contains added calcium. Also check to make sure there’s no added sugar or other additives.
Like soy, rice milk can be a good dairy alternative – plus, it’s naturally sweeter than other milk alternatives. Watch out, however, for the added sugar in many commercially available rice (and other grain-based) milk brands. Rice milk isn’t a great source of protein either; it contains less than 1 gram of protein per serve versus the nearly 8 grams per serve of full-fat cow’s milk, so keep that in mind and read the label. Additionally, making rice milk at home is super easy and worth a try if you’re keen to avoid preservatives, extra sugars and other additives. Basically, you just rinse a cup of brown rice, toss it in a blender, add 2 cups of water, blend and strain through a muslin-lined sieve. This will keep in the fridge for a couple of days.
Almond, cashew and walnut milks seem to be rising in popularity at great speed. And no wonder – a good-quality, pure and natural nut milk tastes delicious and can be chock-full of nutrition. But again, carefully read the label and choose a nut milk with no nasty additives, including sugar. If you have time, homemade nut milks are a fantastic, affordable and healthy option. For example, to make almond milk, place 1 cup of soaked almonds in a blender, add 1 cup of water and blitz for 1 minute. Add another cup of water and, if you’d like a little kiss of sweetness, throw in a couple of dates. Blitz again, then pour the mixture through a muslin-lined sieve; you’ll end up with about 2 cups of delicious, natural almond milk, and you can mix the leftover pulp into porridge or turn it into compost.
For even more healthy drink options, check out some of our fresh juices.