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Choosing an alternative milk option that's right for you

“Your rice milk and coconut milk don’t have that protein content to it. If you’re going to have coconut milk, make sure you’re not having too much saturated fat."

TAMPA, Fla. — From almond to oat, cashew or coconut, there are all kinds of alternative milk options at your local grocery store. 

Registered Dietitian at Tampa General Hospital Danielle Sanislow says when you’re making a choice aside from cow’s milk, start with asking yourself “why we’re ditching the milk.” 

She says if it’s not because of an allergy, don’t forget that cow’s milk is rich in calcium, protein and vitamin D. “It’s a very nutrient-dense food source,” Sanislow explains.

The closest alternative, in terms of nutritional value, is soy milk. Sanislow says, “your rice milk and coconut milk don’t have that protein content to it. If you’re going to have coconut milk, make sure you’re not having too much-saturated fat. It’s not a full-fat coconut milk all the time because you might as well be drinking whole milk.” 

While almond and cashew milk options include more healthy fats, Sanislow says, keep in mind that they have lower protein content, but are still great sources for nutrients.

The key, is to watch for added sugars, the fewer the better along with added ingredients for texture and stability, “when we start looking at them, and there’s an excess of emulsifiers and gums and things of that sort added to them, I would say keep those as low as possible,” explains Sanislow. 

She says those gums, used to thicken the milk’s consistency, can impair the absorption of nutrients.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends cow’s milk until the age of 2, before considering plant-based options. Sanislow recommends 2% milk for families.

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