Choosing The Best Plant-Based Milk

 

Most of you will have noticed that our coffee orders have become a little more involved. You nip out in search of a much-needed caffeine fix and ask if anyone else fancies one too. Suddenly you find yourself, pen and paper in hand, jotting down a mind-bogglingly long list of coffees: one soy latte, two oat cappuccinos, an almond flat white and even a coconut iced latte! We’ve all been there. 

 

Why Are We Switching To Plant-Based Milks?

While cow’s milk still lines the fridge in many Australian households, various factors such as lactose intolerance, dietary requirements, ethical and environmental considerations – plus the fact that they’re just plain old delicious – have seen a major surge in the popularity of plant-based milks.

Lactose intolerance brings a natural preference for plant-based milk as it allows for those with sensitive tummies to still enjoy their morning bowl of cereal, without the worry. 

Many of us are also making the switch for ethical reasons, opting for non-dairy milk alternatives as a way of tackling growing concerns over the treatment of livestock during the production of dairy milk. 

Environmental considerations are another big one. We’re eating our way to a greener future, with rising numbers of people choosing to follow a partially plant-based diet, such as pescetarianism, or fully plant-based diets such as vegetarianism and veganism.

You might be overwhelmed by the incredibly long list of plant-based milks. What should you look out for? Are some better than others? How do they measure up to cow’s milk? With so many questions, we’ve called on our incredible Accredited Practising Dietitian, Jen, to clear things up. 

 

Almond Milk

Despite the vast array of up and coming non-dairy milk alternatives, almond milk is still topping the charts. It’s somewhat of a classic – the OG plant-based milk. And there’s a few reasons why we’re still nuts about this one. 

Unless you have nut allergies, of course, almond milk is an all-rounder and great for most diets. According to our Accredited Practising Dietitian, Jen (who is a big fan of almond milk), it touts many health benefits, being very low in saturated fats and when fortified, high in vitamins and minerals such as calcium and vitamin E. 

It’s best to opt for an unsweetened almond milk that has been fortified with calcium. Oh, and don’t forget to have a peek at the ingredients! The more you do this, the more informed you’ll be, making it easy to decipher high vs low quality plant-based milks

Oat Milk

Oat milk, despite being relatively new to the plant-based milk scene, seems to be nudging almond milk out of the spotlight. Made by straining rolled oats blended with water, this non-dairy milk alternative has been drawing lots of attention, following closely behind almond and soy when it comes to Australia’s most popular plant-based milk

So what is it about humble oats that make it a favourite within the plant-based milk community? Well, not only is it a great option for vegetarian, vegan and lactose-free diets, but it is also a much creamier milk alternative, mirroring the full-cream texture of cow’s milk. 

So if you love the taste of cow’s milk (but it doesn’t love you back), oat milk is an absolute
must-try. 

An important note for our gluten-free foodies: oat milk contains gluten, so it’s best to steer clear of this one. 

Jen is also a lover of this dairy-free milk alternative. From a nutritional angle, she points out that many brands enrich their oat milk with calcium and a rainbow of other vitamins such as vitamin A, B1, B2 and B12. 

Jen’s top tip: always take a sneak peek at the label as not all oat milks are fortified!

Rice Milk

Rice milk brings something special to the plant-based milk world: it is totally, 100% allergen friendly. Yes, you heard right. Rice milk is the least allergenic of all plant-based milks. So naturally, we had to pop this one on our list – after all, our greatest passion is bringing you food that is simple, delicious and stress free!

Suitable for all diets – from gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free and dairy-free – rice milk ticks all the boxes. It’s easy to fall in love (at first sip) with this allergy-friendly milk option, but Jen reminds us of the importance of choosing an unsweetened rice milk, that’s fortified. 

Why? So that you’re not missing out on any of those essential vitamins, of course. 

When fortified, rice milk can be rich in vitamin B12 and D, and is very low in fat. It is naturally sweeter than most non-dairy milk alternatives, so try to avoid those that are sweetened.  

While it’s rare to see rice milk in the long line of milks at your local coffee shop, it’s a great option for your morning bowl of cereal and its sweetness makes it perfect for desserts. Why not give it a whirl?

Soy Milk

Ok so what’s the deal with soy milk? It often gets a bad rap, but what does our Dietitian, Jen, have to say about it?

Coming in as the second most popular non-dairy milk alternative, soy milk is in fact a fabulous option for most diets, particularly vegetarian or vegan diets. Why? Because it is packed with protein alongside calcium and other fortified nutrients. 

Despite the debate, soy milk remains a popular dairy-free milk option across the globe, and soy milk benefits seem to outweigh its highly controversial downfalls. But what exactly are these downfalls? 

Jen breaks it down for us: the main concern relates to certain medical conditions which may require a limited intake of soy products all together, in which case soy milk isn’t the best option. 

Those with soy allergies should also avoid this one – why not browse our lovely long list of alternatives, instead? 

Coconut Milk

It’s sweet, it’s creamy, and it makes you feel like you’re floating away on a summer island. 

Yes, we’re talking coconut milk. 

Although commonly used for cooking purposes (it’s every curry’s best friend), coconut milk comes in many different forms, including a lighter version that can be used for your daily coconut antics. 

Again, this isn’t one that baristas tend to dabble with, but it’s a great option for baking with its rich, creamy texture. Speaking of sweets, have you ever played around whipped coconut cream? If not, why not? It’s a genius dairy-free and vegan alternative to heavy cream. 

Though it’s easy to get carried away with this tropical treat of a milk, Jen reminds us that coconut contains saturated fat, so less is more when it comes to this alternative. If dairy milk is not an option, Jen recommends using other plant-based milks on a day-to-day basis. 

Macadamia Milk 

Despite being very similar to almond milk, this nutty non-dairy milk alternative has been seated on the sidelines for some time. 

But things might be changing. With the emergence of so many bright and innovative plant- based milk brands, macadamia milk is beginning to match up to some of our better known favourites. Take Macamilk: their milk is made from 100% Australian macadamias and is entirely GMO, dairy, and cholesterol free. 

They’ve collaborated with Australia’s top baristas (aka coffee kings) to come up with a macadamia milk that can be steamed, stretched, and poured just like cow’s milk, to produce whatever coffee your heart desires. 

On-par with almond milk, it carries the same nutritional concepts and brings a unique taste that’ll have you slurping every last drop!

Milk Myths 

With all of this talk about plant-based milks, it’s important to note that cow’s milk is still a great option. For those with lactose intolerance who prefer dairy milk over plant-based alternatives, lactose free milk works perfectly. Jen shares:

“I still think that for those who can have dairy milk – they should! It’s the most natural, with protein, calcium and other essential nutrients. For those who can’t or choose not to have dairy, plant-based milks can still have great health benefits but that’s very true they can be packed with ingredients not at all necessary.”

The takeaway? No milk is inherently bad. It’s all about finding one that works best for you and your dietary needs, which is where we come in. 

Fancy Putting It To The Test?

Enough chat. Let’s put these plant-based milks to the test. We’ve got a recipe or two up our sleeves and we’re here to tell you that yes, oat milk can go further than your coffee cup! 

Fancy a creamy bowl of oat milk fettuccine? This recipe is quick, easy and perfect for your next pasta date. 

Or, if you’re craving something sweet, pop your apron on and get baking! We’ve found a simple and delicious recipe for an Oat Milk London Fog Cake (did someone say cake?), perfect with your next cuppa. 

We want to share the love with some of the other plant-based milks on our list, too, so here’s a creamy Butternut Squash and Apple Soup that’ll have you going nuts for almond milk. 

So, whether you’re an oat milk fiend or an almond addict, we’ve got just the thing for you. 

You might like to dabble with a few different plant milks – perhaps oat in your morning coffee, and almond in your afternoon smoothie? Whatever you choose to do, Foodini is a great place
to start.