My boyfriend and I are both lactose intolerant, and we each cope in different ways. He abstains from milk altogether, black coffee, and cereal–whereas I’ve tried just about every soy/rice/oat milk-like substance to find something that compares. Never fear, lactophobes! There are plenty of substitutes for moo juice that will keep you satisfied when you’re drinking your morning cuppa joe, munching on cereal, or baking yummy treats.
Soy milk is a great alternative to cow’s milk because its nutritional profile and consistency are virtually the same as cow’s milk. Many people who aren’t lactose intolerant or allergic to milk even prefer soy milk because it has less sugar and a nuttier, earthier flavor than regular milk. Choose a brand that’s fortified with calcium carbonate, which is more easily absorbed than tricalcium phosphate, and take comfort knowing that soy milk is one of the few nonanimal foods that offers complete protein. Regular, vanilla, and chocolate flavors are equally suitable for drinking alone or with coffee, pouring over cereal, and baking. (As a general guideline, use one cup of soy milk for every one cup of regular milk called for in your recipe.) If you really want a treat, head to your nearest Chinatown and order yourself some fresh soy milk.
Rice Is Nice
Rice milk is lactose-free, gluten-free, nut-free, and soy-free, so it’s a great choice for people with multiple food intolerances or allergies. The problem is that it’s mostly nutrition-free, too, unless you find a brand like Rice Dream Enriched, which is fortified with calcium and B vitamins. Although it’s relatively low in fat (compared to soy milk and reduced-fat cow’s milk), rice milk has very little protein (one gram per eight ounces) and more carbohydrates than other milks. It also has a very thin consistency, which makes it less satisfying than cow or soy milk and difficult to use in baking.
Feel Your Oats
Oat milk, made from oat groats and filtered water, has a light texture and a mild, slightly sweet flavor. It’s also a versatile substitute for low-fat or fat-free cow’s milk in just about every situation, and it’s easy to make yourself at home. Just soak raw oat groats (available at health food stores) overnight and then strain them through a cheesecloth, adding more water to adjust thickness. Oat milk is full of protein and fiber and low in fat, which makes it a healthy choice, especially if you purchase a brand (like Pacific Natural Foods) that’s also fortified with calcium. Just keep in mind that oat milk may not be safe for those with gluten sensitivities.
Healthy (High-Free) Hemp
Makers of hemp milk have to import hemp seeds from Canada because hemp has been illegal to grow in the United States since the late 1950s. But that doesn’t mean the milk itself is illegal, or that it contains THC, the psychoactive substance found in Cannabis sativa (hemp). The drink won’t get you high, but it can help you be healthier, as it’s chock-full of omega-3s and protein and is usually fortified with other vitamins and minerals. Hemp milk does not usually present problems for individuals with dairy, tree nut, and soy sensitivities, and contains no cholesterol. The makers of Living Harvest hemp milk also claim that, unlike soy protein, hemp protein doesn’t contain high levels of enzyme inhibitors that can interfere with nutrient absorption or cause stomach discomfort. Nutty and creamy hemp milk (regular, chocolate, and vanilla flavors) can be used anywhere you use regular or soy milk.
A severe nut allergy keeps me from trying almond milk, but several of my friends rave about its taste and health benefits. They describe it as having a light, fresh taste and extol the myriad nutrients it contains, namely protein, vitamin E, and flavonoids, among others. Also, eight ounces of almond milk does only seventy calories of damage to your diet, as opposed to 130 for reduced-fat cow’s milk. You can easily substitute almond milk for regular milk while baking, and it tastes great poured over cereal (or so I’ve heard).
Cuckoo for Coconut
Coconut milk is the fattiest and least nutritionally dense of all the milk alternatives, which is why it’s my favorite. Plus, it’s just yummy (if you like coconut, and I really do). So what if it doesn’t have as much protein and calcium as cow’s milk and contains a whopping five grams of saturated fat per eight ounces? It still only has eighty calories per serving, along with plenty of vitamin D and B12. You probably don’t want to bake with it, or add it to your coffee, but try it in curries and sauces or in cereal for a fresh-tasting twist on breakfast.
No Use Crying Over It
Milk, that is. If you can’t drink it because you’re allergic or because your stomach will hate you for hours afterward, so what? Choose a nondairy alternative that suits your taste and nutritional needs … and milk it!