It is a pleasure to hand over this post to guest Colette from Growing Healthy Eaters. Colette was in touch with me recently as she has just set up as a childs healthy eating specialist. Her mission is to support parents to give their kids more nourishing food, including providing advice on dealing with allergies and intolerances. As this aligned so closely with this blog, I was delighted to welcome her to do a guest post. Her chosen subject is something I am asked about frequently – Which milk alternative is nutritionally best to buy? As many of you are reading because you have children with dairy allergies or intolerance, it is so important to have good advice on the different types of milk alternatives.
Which milk is nutritionally best to buy?
Depending on your individual circumstances there are a number of different dairy-free milks available and choosing between them can be confusing, so I’ve written this article to briefly explain nutritional differences between various types of milks. Obviously individual preferences for tastes, appearances etc., must be considered but from a nutritional point of view I’ve recommended some of the better milks below.
Lactose-free cow’s milk
One reason some of us find cow’s milk difficult to digest is because low levels of the enzyme lactase make it hard to digest the lactose (sugar) in dairy. In this case the lactose-free milk and lactose-free dairy are a suitable option. This means its cow’s milk that has been filtered to remove lactose, and has the lactase enzyme added. It tastes the same as cow’s milk and contains the same nutrients as cows milk. This is unsuitable for those with allergies like CMPA (cows milk protein allergy) as it is still milk, only with lactose removed.
E.g.: Avonmore lactose free milk, Lactofree milk (also cheddar cheese, cream cheese)
While goats milk might not seem a suitable alternative for those who are dairy free, it may be a perfect option for those who can’t tolerate cow’s milk. It differs from cows milk in the following 3 ways:
- it has smaller fat particles
- less lactose
- the protein (gamma-casein) present in cow’s milk is absent from goats milk.
Thought to be one of the first domesticated animals, goats have a long history of providing humans with milk. It’s also a natural product (eg it contains calcium naturally, while the milks below have calcium added) and its nutritionally similar to cow’s milk. However, this is unsuitable for those with allergies like CMPA (cows milk protein allergy) because its protein is too similar to that in cow’s milk.
E.g.: Glenisk goats milk, also goats plain yoghurt (add your own flavouring & sweetener).
Soya ‘milk’ is a beverage made from soybeans and it may be a healthy alternative to cow’s milk, especially for those who can’t tolerate lactose free milk or goats milk. Its comparable in protein to cow’s milk and is a good source of other nutrients like Vitamin D. While soy milk does have some calcium, it is not a good source of the nutrient and does not measure up to cow’s milk. Therefore, it is important to find a soy milk that is fortified with calcium
While there are concerns about the safety of soy, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research, moderate soy consumption is safe. This means up to two servings per day of whole soy foods, which include tofu, soybeans, soy nuts, and soy milk, versus heavily processed soy ingredients (like soy protein isolate & texturized soy protein).
Furthermore, there is no conclusive evidence that soy increases oestrogen levels in humans, nor does it feminize men. It’s best to buy organic as soy is thought to have some of the highest levels of pesticides of all crops. Soy milk products are often made with genetically modified soy beans (all Alpro products are not). Finally, just to be aware that some people are allergic to soy as it is a common allergen.
Recommended: Bonsoy Soy Milk (organic), also Sojade yoghurt (natural & vanilla) – all organic with added live cultures
Almond milk & Rice milk
Almond milk is made from ground almonds (so unsuitable for those with nut allergies). Even though almonds are a good source of protein, almond milk is not. Almond milk is also not a good source of calcium. However, some brands are supplemented with calcium.
Recommended: EcoMil Almond milk sugar-free nature calcium (added algae for calcium)
Rice milk is made from rice, a low-allergy food, so it does not tend to cause allergic reactions. Rice milk is very low in protein, as well as being low in calcium and other important components for a young child’s development. Therefore it is not advised for children under 4.5 years of age.
Recommended: Provamel Rice Calcium (unsweetened & organic) with added algae
Most other milks like coconut milk, bar those mentioned above have a longer list of ingredients with various additives so I’m not recommending them here.
Tips for buying dairy-free milks:
Check the Nutrition Facts Panel. Nutrients can vary substantially from brand to brand, as can taste and consistency.
Shake well before pouring. The added calcium tends to settle to the bottom .
Choose unsweetened. Flavoured milks are often high in sugar, and even plain versions may have added sugars to match milk’s natural sweetness.
Finally, try to remember that milk is not necessary for optimum nutrition after weaning as there’s lots of non-dairy sources of calcium available, e.g. almonds are higher in calcium than milk. “After babies are weaned, they do not need any milk to be healthy” (http://www.pcrm.org/nbBlog/white-lies-five-milk-myths-debunked- Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine)
On a personal note, cows milk (and its products) never agreed with my youngest kid since he was a baby. I first eliminated the lactose (ie lactose free milk) and that eliminated his digestive problems quickly. Then later I moved him to goats milk (which does contain some lactose) and that also agrees with him fine so I’ve stuck with that since. So problems with dairy obviously vary with individuals, so you may need to experiment to find the most suitable option for your kid.
Here’s to Growing Healthy Eaters!
My name is Colette and I have just set up as a child’s healthy eating specialist, based in Galway (and available online by Skype).
Since becoming a Mom, I’ve found that feeding a family is indeed challenging (trying to keep all family members healthy, happy & well fed!). My educational background is in Psychology and Health Promotion up to PhD level. I’ve always had a huge interest in food and nutrition, and this prompted me to undertake up-to-date training in Nutrition.
How I Work:
- Tried and tested recipes from my test kitchen (tested on my kids as well as their friends, peers and neighbours)
- Better products and better brands (and where to get them)
- Lots of tips and tricks to save time and cook more efficiently
- Planning ahead in terms of food shopping and meal planning
- Strategies to help grow healthy eaters using knowledge and approaches from my extensive psychology and health promotion background.
See Colette’s Website Growing Healthy Eaters for more details.
This post was written by Colette for dairy free kids. It reflects Colette’s opinion as a Child healthy Eating Specialist. It does not replace medical advice and each case is different, so if in doubt go to your own medical professional. You can read more about CMPA and Lactose Intolerance here.