There was a time when people with a dairy allergy had one milk alternative—Lactaid. Lactaid is a brand of milk enhanced with lactose enzymes that are supposed to make it more digestible. But as I mentioned in a recent post, dairy allergies and intolerances are not so granular, which means simply adding an enzyme isn’t the answer for everyone.
Thankfully, today’s grocery-store shelves are packed with a host of options that are truly dairy-free (no cows in sight!). There is an abundance of varieties, such as almond, coconut, hazelnut, rice and cashew milks.
While this is cause for a dairy-free celebration, many of the store-bought brands are full of additives, chemicals and sugar. In fact, Silk Original Almond Milk contains 7 grams of sugar per cup and is composed of:
All Natural Almondmilk (Filtered Water, Almonds), All Natural Evaporated Cane Juice, Calcium Carbonate, Sea Salt, Natural Vanilla Flavor, Locust Bean Gum, Sunflower Lecithin, Gellan Gum, D-Alphatocopherol (Natural Vitamin E), Zinc Gluconate, Vitamin A Palmitate, Riboflavin (B2), Vitamin B12, Vitamin D2.
The list contains far too many unnatural ingredients for me. Unfortunately, most of the labels look fairly similar, meaning you have to know what to look for in order to make an informed, healthy decision.
My Tips For Choosing a Dairy-Free Milk
Tip #1 – Know Your Options:
Coconut milk in a can is great for making whipped cream or thickening dishes, like curries. Coconut milk in a box and almond milk are great everyday alternatives. Hazelnut and cashew milks are a little sweeter, so they’re better for baking and smoothies. Consider your main objective and choose accordingly.
Tip #2 – Read the Label (carefully!):
The label should lead with whatever ingredient is featured. In other words, coconut milk should have “coconut” listed as the first ingredient. After that, you can expect to find water and maybe sea salt. Any additives or chemicals should be very minimal and listed at the end (or not at all).
Tip #3 – Avoid Sugar:
Avoid milk with flavorings and sweeteners. These really drive up the sugar content and are completely unnecessary. Original, unsweetened varieties are ideal. If you want to dial up the flavor, add a drop of vanilla extract or whisk in a bit of honey or maple syrup.
Tip #4 – Change it Up:
Trying various types of nut and alternative milks enables you to experience the different health benefits each offers. So it’s good to change it up here and there. Not only is it good for you, but it also helps you stay out of a food rut.
With these factors in mind, my favorite brand is Almond Breeze Unsweetened Original. There are some additives; but no sweeteners, so it doesn’t contain any sugar. Plus, it’s available in most grocery stores. I like to rotate what I am eating so I don’t always choose almond milk. I usually rotate between almond, then macadamia and then hazelnut or hemp milk to make sure I keep variety in my diet.
Now, there’s one more option. If you really want to know the healthiest choice of all… it’s to make it yourself. My Almond Milk recipe is so simple to prepare it’s actually easier than trying to find the best brand at the grocery store. Plus, it consists of only 5 healthful ingredients: almonds, Brazil nuts, dates, water, and salt. That’s it! It’s more nutritious and flavorful than anything you’ll find on the shelves.
Have more questions about selecting the right dairy-free milk? Send me an email or try my homemade Almond Milk and let me know what you think in the comments below!