Milk-Free Milk: A Guide to Dairy Alternatives

Moo-ve over two percent! The grocery store shelves are stocked with plenty of tasty, dairy-free milk options that cater to all kinds of health and dietary needs.

And since more than 60 percent of people in the world have a hard time digesting lactose (the primary sugar found in milk), according to a USA Today report, ditching the cow’s milk could be exactly what your body needs.

If you’re not sure which milk alternative is for you, don’t miss this breakdown of the most popular milks on the market.

Almond milk

Almond milk is made from ground almonds and water and is free of soy, cholesterol and lactose. It’s calcium enriched and is the lowest in calories. Because of the low protein content, it’s not a great option for growing kids, but the high levels of calcium, vitamins and minerals make it a great low-cal choice for adults.

Nutrition: 60 calories, 2.5g of fat, 7g of sugar, 1g of protein, calcium 45% of DV, vitamin D 25%, vitamin E 50% (Blue Diamond Almond Breeze Almond Milk, original)
Flavor: We like the smooth, creamy consistency, and the nutty almond taste is sweet (borderline rich) and refreshing.
Great for: Cereal, smoothies, shakes, coffee

Coconut milk

What this milk lacks in protein it makes up for in vitamin B12, which is particularly beneficial to vegans and vegetarians. It’s gluten-free, organic, and is a non-GMO product. Coconuts have also been found to reduce cholesterol and balance weight. However, because of the low amounts of protein and calcium, this isn’t a great option for kids.

Nutrition: 70 calories, 4.5g of fat, 4g of saturated fat, 7g of sugar, 0g of protein, calcium 10% of DV, vitamin D 30%, vitamin B12 50% (So Delicious Coconut Milk original)
Flavor: The So Delicious brand tested was watery and almost tasteless. We recommend trying the Vanilla Coconut Silk for an option that’s sweeter, thicker and more flavorful.
Great for: Cereal, smoothies, shakes, sweet recipes, coffee

Soy milk

Full of nutritionally-complete soy protein, soy milk is nutrient dense, and it’s free of dairy, lactose, gluten, egg and MSG. The high amounts of protein and vitamin B12 make this plant-based drink a solid option for both kids and adults (and again, great for those who are meat-free). Soy has been found to help reduce symptoms of menopause, and in some cases, consuming moderate amounts of soy can lower breast cancer risk.

Nutrition: 100 calories, 3.5g of fat, 0g of cholesterol, 8g of sugar, 6g of protein, calcium 45% of DV, vitamin D 30%, vitamin B12 50% (Silk Vanilla Soy Milk)
Flavor: The thicker consistency and sweet flavor of soy milk makes it much better to drink by the glass, but we like the vanilla and chocolate versions best.
Great for: Drinking by the glass, cereal, smoothies, shakes, creamy and savory recipes

Hemp milk

Hemp milk is free of dairy and allergens, is vegan, and is loaded with Essential Fatty Acids Omega-3 and Omega-6. It also has all 10 essential amino acids, which help develop lean body mass and promote muscle repair. Hemp is a dense source of nutrition and a good source of calcium, which is why we give it the OK for older kids.

Nutrition: 100 calories, 7g of fat, 0.5g of saturated fat, 6g of sugar, 2g of protein, calcium 30% of DV, vitamin D 25%, vitamin B12 25% (Living Harvest Tempt Hempmilk original)
Flavor: This smooth milk has a thinner, watery consistency and an earthy, nutty taste. It almost tasted “woody,” but we didn’t hate it.
Great for: Sweet and savory dishes (especially puddings and soups), smoothies, shakes, coffee

Rice milk

This one has a nice taste, but is the highest in calories, carbohydrates and sugar and lacks in protein. It does, however, have the same amount of calcium as a glass of milk, is low in fat and is entirely natural. (It’s also organic and non-GMO.) Made from a mixture of water and partially milled brown rice, it’s the friendliest option for those with allergies to dairy, nuts and soy.

Nutrition: 120 calories, 2.5g of fat, 23g of carbohydrates, 10g of sugar, 1g of protein, calcium 30% of DV, vitamin D 25%, vitamin B12 25% (Rice Dream Rice Drink)
Flavor: Another more watery option, but still thicker than the coconut milk, this one was super sweet, and had a yummy hint of rice (shocker).
Great for: Cereal, coffee, shakes

Flax milk

Another soy-free, gluten-free, lactose-free option, flax milk is made from water, cold pressed flax oil and other natural ingredients. It has no allergens, is Kosher and vegan and is actually a tasty option. The one we tried had no protein, but Good Karma Flax Milk also comes in a protein+ vanilla option with 5g of protein and a dose of Omega-3s, plus it has as much calcium as a glass of milk. The protein+ version is a great option for kids with special dietary needs. (They’ll probably like this taste the most, too).

Nutrition: 50 calories, 2.5g of fat, 7g of carbohydrates, 7g of sugar, 0g of protein, calcium 30% of DV, vitamin D 25%, vitamin B12 25% (Good Karma Flax Milk original)
Flavor: This one’s thicker (similar to soy milk), creamy and has a nutty, not-as-sweet taste.
Great for: Drinking by the glass, cereal, soups and savory recipes