Growing up, we all heard about the importance of drinking milk. Calcium and vitamin D help build strong bones and teeth, and there aren’t many other single foods that come close to providing the nutrients you get from one of cup of milk.
However, dairy milk is a common food allergy for children, and as you age, it can be more difficult to tolerate dairy. Plus, hormones and antibiotics fed to dairy cows raise concerns for many people. While dairy has a place in your diet, there are other healthy alternatives if whole or skim aren’t your thing.
Almond milk is naturally lactose free, low in calories and a good source of vitamins A and D. However, almond milk isn’t a good source of protein and doesn’t contain calcium, unless it’s fortified, and people with nut allergies should definitely stay away.
Soy milk is also growing in popularity. It contains almost as much protein as cow’s milk and is lower in calories than whole milk. The downside is that too much soy can affect people with certain conditions such as infertility and thyroid disease. Rice milk is a good choice for people with nut allergies, but not as desirable for people needing protein. Coconut milk is another good lactose-free option (although it’s higher in calories and fat).
The bottom line: non-dairy options can be healthy and tasty. Just be sure to read the label to ensure you’re receiving the proper nutrients.
- Monica Klemm, clinical dietitian, Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital