ABC Nutrition on Dairy Alternatives

Navigating the (Seemingly) Uninhabited Part of Your Grocery Store: The Dairy Alternatives

In a previous blog, we mentioned some dairy dilemma's, here are a couple more dairy alternatives for your enjoyment.

Going dairy free opens up a whole other part of the grocery store: the dairy alternative sections. What’s the deal with this stuff? Is almond ice cream actually good for your health, and does cashew milk still contain dairy since it says “milk”? There are a number of reasons to go dairy free: allergies, intolerances, sensitivities, disease management, weight loss, etc. Whatever the reason may be, now it is time to figure out how to enjoy your cereal or grilled cheese without messing up your entire diet. ABC Nutrition wants to highlight the top ABC’s for purchasing milk, cheese, and yogurt alternatives that are not only dairy free, but delicious and good for you.

1. “Milk” –

It is no surprised that labels like almond milk are misleading to someone looking for a dairy free “milk” alternative. Although these foods have the word milk in them, they do not actually contain dairy. So, which nut milk is the most beneficial and closest in nutrient content to cow’s milk? Every brand will vary with ingredients and nutrient content- you must read the label! Stay away from flavored nut milks with added sugars over 5 grams and long ingredient lists. Hemp and almond milk are the highest in protein, while coconut milk is the highest in fat and has no protein. However, keep in mind that studies have shown the saturated fat in coconuts help boost the immune system and also leads to weight loss. Coconut and cashew tend to be the creamiest milks, whereas hemp and rice milk is much thinner and more liquid like. So what is the best nut milk? Try a couple and decide for yourself based on your individual nutritional goals or needs.

2. Cheese –

While there are a number of cheese alternative on the market, this is one of the biggest culprits of added fillers and artificial ingredients. Yes, these cheeses may not contain dairy, but they can contain things that cause bloating and upset stomach. Carrageenan is an ingredient you will see often and is used to improve the texture of yogurt, ice cream, and milk. However, some research has linked carrageenan to cancer and digestive sensitivity. In addition, dairy free cheeses have to go through much processing and are usually pretty expensive. Your best bet is to avoid these cheese alternatives altogether and use Nutritional Yeast by Braggs. Nutritional yeast is high in B vitamins, high protein, low fat, and free of sugar and gluten. It offers a salty, cheese flavor without the unpredictable alternatives. If you are dying for the melty cheese you once loved, read the nutrition label and try cheese alternatives with 4-5 ingredients (rather than 15) to find the perfect flavor and texture for your palate.

3. Yogurt –

While cheese alternatives will harbor lots of added ingredients; yogurt will contain a lot of sugar as well. Be aware, dairy free yogurts can have a long ingredient list and a ton of added sugars. Each different nut alternative yogurt will have its own special taste and consistency. Pick yogurts that are plain in flavor (unless a lightly sweetened vanilla or less than 5 grams of sugar) and organic for the healthiest options. Varieties include coconut, cashew, almond and soy.

The moral of this blog is: READ THE LABEL. While it is smart practice to read the label of everything you buy, dairy free alternatives cannot be overlooked. Look for short ingredient lists and less sugar. Do not assume that just because something doesn’t have dairy that it is healthy. Have fun exploring this interesting and new section of the grocery store!