As more people make the move to a vegetarian or vegan diet, there’s been a steady increase in the popularity of plant-based foods when people are shopping or purchasing takeaway food. This has led to an increase in options for those looking to avoid animal products, making it easier to lead a plant-based lifestyle that it was even a few years ago.
One plant-based item which is steadily making its way into more and more homes in the UK is plant milk, a non-dairy alternative to cow’s milk. In fact, around 25% of Britons now choose plant milk at the supermarket over the more conventional choice of cow’s milk.
Why is plant based milk better?
There are a range of reasons for why plant milk has been making its way into more and more fridges, and it’s not just because interest in becoming vegan has soared in recent years. Here are just some of the reasons people are ditching cow’s milk and making the move to other options on the market!
One huge reason why people are avoiding cow’s milk is due to the negative impact the dairy industry can have on the environment. Meat and dairy production is said to release more greenhouse gases into the Earth’s atmosphere than any other type of food production.
Having to sustain large herds of dairy cattle also means having to grow additional crops to feed them, meaning large areas of land are being used for farming. In fact, over half the world’s habitable land is currently used for agriculture, leaving the planet lacking in biodiversity.
While in the past there was little alternative to those who wanted to give up meat and dairy for environmental reasons, there’s now a huge range of meat substitutes and non-dairy milk variants, meaning it’s much easier to make the swap! Plant alternatives are also much cheaper these days, meaning cow’s milk isn’t always the most cost-effective option at the supermarket!
The Dairy Industry
Another common reason for ditching the dairy is because people believe the dairy industry is cruel and unnecessary, especially now you can get a plant-based version of every dairy product including milk, most types of cheese, yoghurt, cream, and even custard!
Dairy cows typically give birth to calves, which are then taken away from them to be used in the meat industry, while the dairy industry uses the dairy cow’s milk supply to provide customers with milk.
While conditions have improved in recent years as consumers became more aware of the cruelty of intensive farming methods, many still feel dairy farming is unnecessary, and instead, look for the best alternative to milk on the market.
Many people suffer from food intolerances, meaning they cannot eat a certain type of food or it will make them unwell. Around 65% of the world’s population has a reduced capacity to digest lactose after infancy, meaning consuming things such as milk, cheese, and butter will make them ill.
While you can get lactose-free products, the huge range of plant-based milk available means that lactose-intolerant customers can now try a range of different products and find the best alternative to milk to suit their personal preferences.
Finally, a huge reason for making the swap to plant-based milk is to try and find a healthier best alternative to milk.
There’s no denying that cow’s milk is full of vitamins and minerals such as calcium, protein, B12 and iodine. Young children are also encouraged to drink milk in order to ensure healthy bone development. However, as we grow older, milk may not be all that healthy for us.
Milk can be seen as quite high in fat, with whole milk typically containing 3.5% fat, though there are lower-fat versions available, with semi-skimmed milk containing 1.5% fat, and skimmed milk containing 0.3% fat. The NHS suggests that older children and adults should avoid having too much fat in their diets to avoid becoming overweight.
Additionally, many worry about the things which may make their way into our milk through the cow it was milked from, including excess hormones. So, if you want to know exactly what is in your milk chances are a plant-based milk alternative will be more up your street.
Let’s take a more detailed look at the range of non-dairy milks on the market, so you can find the best alternative to milk to suit your personal preferences.
1. Soya Milk
Soya milk is one of the plant-based milk options which has been around for the longest and is made from soaking and grinding soy beans.
If you’re looking to swap out cow’s milk for an alternative, but still keep your protein levels up, then soya milk is the best option with 2.4g of protein per 100ml. Soya milk is also very low in fat, with around 1.6g of fat per 100ml.
The NHS recommends swapping to soya products if you’re looking for a plant-based best alternative to milk and suggests you pick unsweetened calcium-fortified dairy alternatives.
Soya milk does not have a strong taste, and therefore makes a great replacement for cow’s milk, as you are unlikely to notice the difference!
2. Almond Milk
Another popular best alternative to milk is almond milk, which is made by blending almonds with water. You can usually buy sweetened and unsweetened versions of almond milk, with the unsweetened version being the healthier option.
While whole almonds are a great source of nutrients, almond milk is missing a lot of these nutrients due to the milk-making process. Almond skins are skimmed from the milk, removing a lot of fibre you would usually get from almonds. Watering the almonds down to make the milk also means that you don’t get as concentrated a dose of nutrients as you would from eating some almonds.
If you’re interested in how much nutritional content you’re getting from your almond milk, make sure you check how many almonds were used to make the milk, as well as how much added water it contains. Spending a little time comparing different brands of almond milk in the supermarket will allow you to pick the healthiest option for you.
Almond milk does have a slightly nutty taste, which isn’t too overpowering, but you may notice if you’re drinking a glass of it or using it for your breakfast cereal. Almond milk also has a creamy texture, making it quite similar to cow’s milk.
3. Coconut Milk
Coconuts have risen in popularity in recent years, with coconut oil finding its way into our kitchen cupboards and our beauty routines. But could coconut milk also be the best alternative to milk?
While you can buy coconut milk in cans, which is frequently used for cooking everything from desserts to curries, it’s not the same as the plant-based milk alternative, which is made from mixing coconut cream with water.
Coconut milk has around half as many calories as the equivalent amount of skimmed milk, so it may seem like a much healthier option. However, coconut milk contains no protein, so you’ll need to ensure that you get your daily protein requirements elsewhere.
If you don’t like the taste of coconut, however, it’s probably best to avoid coconut milk! While it has a nice, creamy texture, it does taste quite strongly of coconut, and will maybe taste a little strange in your cup of tea. However, it makes a great addition when baking or making desserts, and can even make your favourite breakfast cereal a little more exciting!
4. Oat Milk
Next up we have oat milk, which is hugely popular due to the brand Oatley, and their range of delicious oat milk. Oat milk is extra frothy which makes it a great addition to any budding barista’s kitchen, ensuring you can produce professional-level coffees every time!
Oat milk is cheaper to make than a lot of nut milk on the market, meaning you may be able to pick it up at your local supermarket for a bargain price!
Oat milk is made by soaking oats, blending them, then straining them. Oat milk has a very creamy texture naturally, unlike other milks which have to add additional ingredients to achieve this texture.
Oat milk typically contains 2.5g of fat per one-cup serving, as well as 35% of our daily recommended intake of calcium and 25% of our daily recommended intake of vitamin D. While it contains less protein than cow’s milk, it tends to contain more protein than other plant-based milk alternatives. Oat milk also has 2 grams of fibre per serving, while cow’s milk has no fibre in it!
Oat milk has an incredibly mild taste, and it’s very hard to taste it when used in hot beverages or cooking. But because of it’s slightly thicker texture, it really stands out in coffees, smoothies, desserts, baking, and creamy soups!
5. Rice Milk
Rice milk is made using milled rice and water, and is said to be the milk alternative that is least likely to cause an allergic reaction as it doesn’t contain milk, soya, or any kind of nuts!
Like a lot of the plant-based milk, rice milk is quite low in protein. It is also very high in carbohydrates, making it the least desirable choice for people with diabetes, or people who need a high protein diet such as athletes or elderly people. Per cup, rich milk typically contains 2 grams of fat and 120 calories.
Rice milk is mild in taste and is quite naturally sweet, so may work better in sweeter recipes and cooking. However, rice milk is also quite watery in consistency, meaning it may not work if you’re looking to make a frothy coffee! Milk of this consistency is also more likely to split when introduced to heat, so bear that in mind when you’re trying to find the best alternative to milk for your recipe.
6. Cashew Milk
If nut milk sounds up your street, you might consider looking at cashew milk rather than almond milk. Much like its almond counterpart, cashew milk is creamy and thick and is made from whole cashew nuts and water.
Cashew milk makes a great alternative to cow’s milk in most recipes, meaning you can be sure your favourite meals will turn out the same even after you make the move to plant-based milk.
Shop-bought cashew milk contains around two grams of fat per cup, 45% of the daily recommended amount of calcium, and 25% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin D. However, it contains a very low amount of protein and no fibre.
If you’re looking to increase the amount of fibre and protein in your cashew milk you can make your own quite easily. Because you don’t need to strain it when you make it at home, it will contain more fibre and protein, however, it won’t benefit from the added calcium and vitamin D that store-bought options typically have.
7. Hemp Milk
Hemp milk is made from whole hemp seeds blended together with water. If you’re looking for a super healthy best alternative to milk, hemp milk may be the perfect choice for you. Hemp milk typically contains more protein and healthy fats than the other popular plant-based milk on the market. Hemp milk also contains fewer calories, around 83 calories per serving, but around the same amount of fat as cow’s milk. However, hemp milk does contain less protein than cow’s milk.
Additionally, hemp milk is said to potentially promote healthier skin and protect against heart disease.
If you like a more earthy and nutty flavour, then hemp milk is the best alternative to milk for you! It also has a nice creamy consistency rather than a watery one.
8. Pea Milk
Pea protein is now a common ingredient in a lot of meat alternatives you’ll find at the supermarket, so why not try pea milk as a contender for your best alternative to milk?
Pea milk is made from yellow peas, but don’t worry, it doesn’t taste anything like peas! That means even if you’re not keen on peas, you can still benefit from the latest addition to the plant-based milk market. In fact, many say that pea milk has the closest taste to cow’s milk of any plant milk on the market.
Pea milk is made by milling yellow peas into flour and then blending with water and other ingredients, usually sunflower oil, to create amazing plant-based milk.
Pea milk is high in fibre and protein, but low in saturated fat, making it a super-healthy best alternative to milk. Pea milk has around 8g of protein per serving, and after being fortified with calcium, it contains around 50% more calcium than cow’s milk! Pea milk is also packed with other vitamins and nutrients including potassium, vitamin D, vitamin A, and iron!
Other Milks to Consider
If none of these milk sounds up your street, here are some other plant-based milk you can consider. However, they may be a little trickier to find, and you may have to head to your local health food shop, as your supermarket may not stock every plant milk you want to try.
Other plant-based milks include:
9. Peanut milk
10. Quinoa milk
11. Flax milk
12. Spelt milk
13. Pistachio milk
14. Walnut milk
15. Macadamia milk
16. Banana milk
17. Hazelnut milk
18. Sesame milk
Plant Milks Overall
It’s important to note that most plant milk have things such as calcium, vitamin D, and B12 added to them which are naturally present in milk. This means you can find the best alternative to milk for your household and still be sure you and your family are getting all the health benefits of cow’s milk.
How to Store Your Plant Milk
If you’ve finally found the best alternative to milk for your household, you may be wondering how to store it safely. The different types of milk you buy will have their own storage instructions on them, but if you buy your plant milk from the chilled section of your supermarket, then it’s important you store it in the fridge at home too. Chilled plant milk usually has a short shelf life, and once opened, you should consume it in a couple of days.
You can also purchase UHT plant milk as well if this is more convenient for you. These types of milk will usually have a shelf life of around a year, and you can store them in your cupboards at home. This is a great idea if you need to buy lots of milk but don’t have room to store it all in your fridge at once. Once opened, you’ll need to store your plant milk in the fridge, and again, use it within a couple of days to ensure the best taste experience.
Finally, it is possible to make your own plant milk at home. This can be a good idea as you can buy your ingredients in bulk and only turn them into milk as and when you need it. However, once you’ve made your milk, you’ll need to store it in the fridge to keep it chilled and safe to drink!
Selling Plant Milk to Customers
If you’re a food seller or food outlet owner, then you may want to expand your milk offering and offer a range of plant milk alternatives to your customers. Knowing how to store plant-based milk and what products you can store it with may seem a little confusing, but completing a Food Hygiene Certificate training course will help ensure that you store your plant milk correctly and safely at all times!
How to Find the Best Alternative to Milk for You
Now that you know a little more about some of the most popular best alternatives to milk options on the market today, the best way to find the one you like the best is to try as many as possible. Here are a few tests you should consider with each plant milk you try to see which one will be your permanent replacement for plant milk!
How does it taste on its own?
Try drinking a glass of each plant milk on its own to see if you like the taste when it’s not mixed with anything else. If you’re a big milk drinker, this will be a very important taste test.
How does it react in tea and coffee?
Even if a type of plant milk tastes good, not all of them react the same way in tea and coffee. Once they hit hot water, some of them will split or go lumpy, which while they may taste fine, doesn’t look the most appetising. You can also get some plant milk which are designed to work better in coffee and go extra frothy, so it may take some time to find the best alternative to milk for your morning coffee.
How does it taste when used in cooking?
It’s important to try cooking some of your favourite recipes with plant milk to see if they produce the same results and taste the same. Almond milk maybe your favourite at the breakfast table, but you may not want your scrambled eggs tasting of almonds! Try and test a few different kinds with a range of recipes and pick the plant milk that doesn’t alter your tried and true recipes. It may be the case that you have to use one kind of plant milk for your tea and coffee, but another type to cook with, so it’s important to do a little experimenting and find the best alternative to milk for all your needs!
We hope this blog post has provided you with all the information you need to find the best alternative to milk for you. Use the facts and information we’ve laid out here to not only pick the plant milk that will suit your nutritional needs, but also the one which will taste the best and fit into your daily cooking routine without any disruption!
We hope you look forward to trying a range of plant milks and creating a healthier lifestyle for you and your family!
More to explore:
1. 7 Steps to Create Your Own Fitness and Diet Plan