Do You Know Nutrition: There are many options for replacing milk with nondairy substitute

By Phylis Canion
May 27, 2014 at 12:27 a.m.

My family has recently quit drinking regular cow's milk, and my children's allergies and stomach issues have improved tremendously. I am searching for a good substitute that is healthy, but I'm confused when I start looking and comparing. Can you please give me some nutritional values on milk substitutes?

There are many people who are confused about milk and nondairy substitutes, so hopefully this will help. The casein in cow's milk is designed to be digested by a calf, not humans, which is why we develop so many digestive problems and allergies when drinking cow's milk.

Soy milk contains phytoestrogens and quite often uses hexane (a toxin) in its processing, which is why it can be eliminated rather quickly as a nondairy substitute. That leaves almond, rice, oat, hemp and coconut as safe nondairy milk substitutes. For many, it is a taste choice as each has its own unique flavor. If you are looking for the lowest calorie content, almond would be the choice.

Per cup, almond milk contains only 60 calories compared to rice milk, 120 calories; oat and hemp milk, 130 calories; or coconut milk, 552 calories. Almond also contains the lowest sugar content per serving, 7 grams. While coconut does have the highest calorie content, it also contains the highest iron content, 22 percent, and the lowest sodium content of all nondairy substitutes at 36 percent.

Almond and oat milk contain the lowest fat percentage of any of the nondairy products about 2 percent. All of these percentages are approximate, depending on the brand, and if they are unsweetened, it will drop the total calorie count.

Nondairy substitute drinks are from natural, raw nuts and seeds and are sold in tetra pak (paper) containers rather than plastic. While most of the nondairy products are lactose-free, cholesterol-free and gluten-free, I recommend that you do not use nondairy substitutes in infant formula.

Is there a nutritional value difference between steel cut oats and regular rolled oats?

Serving for serving, they are equal in calories, carbohydrates, fiber, sugar and protein. The only difference is the fat content, which is .05 grams more for rolled oats than steel cut. Both have a low glycemic index - the rate of increase in blood sugar levels after a food is eaten. Rolled oats are rolled flat while steel cut are whole oats cut into small chunks. Steel cuts oats are chewier, have a nutty flavor and take the edge on processing since they are not steamed like rolled oats are. Steel cut oats take twice as long to cook than rolled oats.

Thought for the week: Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.

Phylis B. Canion is a doctor of naturopathic medicine and is a certified nutritional consultant; email her at This column is for nutritional information only and is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure.



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