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The Perfect Bite: The best (and worst) milk alternatives

Hilary Hagerman
The Perfect Bite
January 6, 2014

It used to be that milk substitutes were mostly for the lactose intolerant, but now dairy-free milk is sought after by vegans, health experts and those just looking for a tasty alternative to cow’s milk. On this episode of The Perfect Bite, host Andrea Jenna is joined by registered dietitian Christy Brissette. They take a look at five different milk substitutes to determine which is best for you.

“From a taste perspective, I think they’re all a little bit different,” explains Christy. “Some of them are more on the watery side, other ones are creamier, but compared to cow’s milk, they don’t naturally have calcium in them. So you want to make sure you choose a milk alternative that contains at least 30 per cent of the calcium that you need in a day, as well as 45 per cent of the vitamin D to make sure that you can use it as an alternative to milk.”

If you are going to enjoy this milk alternative, what’s the best way to do so?

“They go great in all kinds of different recipes. You can use them in cereal, put them in smoothies or just drink them as well,” she says.

But how do they actually taste and measure up health-wise? You’re about to find out.

Also see: The Perfect Bite: The least healthy granola bar

Manitoba Harvest Hemp Bliss Original Organic Hemp Beverage (1 cup (250 ml), 80 calories, 5 g fat, 90 mg sodium, 6 g sugars, 2 g protein)

“That’s sweet,” remarks Andrea after taking a sip.

“It tastes very watered down somehow,” says Christy.

“But there’s definitely an aftertaste,” Andrea adds.

With the hemp milk, Christy says you’re getting some omega 3 fatty acids, which gives you a boost when it comes to health benefits.

Natur-A Original Organic Fortified Soy Beverage (Most healthy: 1 cup (250 ml), 100 calories, 4 g fat, 90 mg sodium, 7 g sugars, 6 g protein)

“Definitely the most discoloured out of the lot,” says Andrea. “Not as sweet.”

“It’s more of a mild flavour,” Christy agrees.

Although neither of our taste testers chose the soy milk as their favourite, it came away as the healthiest of the bunch.

“It contains protein, whereas all the other ones are very low in protein,” Christy explains. “It contains as much protein as an egg would, and that makes it more comparable to milk.”

The soy drink came out on top, despite it sometimes getting a bad reputation.

“Because it contains phytoestrogens, or plant nutrients that may act like estrogen in the body, there’s a lot of concern and research looking at that,” Christy explains. “But based on everything we know, soy in moderate amounts, so having two servings per day, actually reduces your risk of cancer and doesn’t have any impact on hormone levels.”

Also see: The Perfect Bite: Which cheese is the healthiest?

Rice Dream Organic Classic Original Rice Drink (Christy’s favourite and least healthy: 1 cup (240 ml), 120 calories, 2.5 g fat, 100 mg sodium, 11 g sugars, 1 g protein)

“I feel like this is almond milk,” Andrea comments after taking a drink of the beverage.

“Yeah, this is definitely has a nutty flavour to it,” says Christy.

Although it wasn’t almond milk (“You’re kidding!” exclaims Christy when Andrea reveals it’s rice milk), this option won our dietitian over in the taste department.

“I thought it was really neutral in taste, so you could use it in cooking, you could put in on your cereal,” she explains. “It’s not going to overpower things.”

But unfortunately, Christy’s favourite drink is also the least healthy.

“”It’s very high in carbohydrates compared to the other ones, so it’s basically like having two pieces of bread in one cup,” she explains. “It also contains a lot of sugar – 11 grams, which is like putting a whole tablespoon of sugar in each cup. That’s more than double the sugar of the other brands.”

Also see: The Perfect Bite: The No.1 worst potato chips

Almond Breeze Original Almond Milk (1 cup (240 ml), 60 calories, 2.5 g fat, 150 mg sodium, 7 g sugars, 1 g protein)

“Almost grayish tinge to it,” Christy says of the colour of this drink.

“Sweet, but I don’t like it,” Andrea says. “All of these would be good in coffee, that’s all I can say, because they’re sweet.”

The almond milk didn’t win out health wise, but Christy says it is the lowest in calories and the lowest in fat.

So Delicious Original Coconut Milk Beverage (Andrea’s favourite: 1 cup (240 ml), 70 calories, 4.5 g fat, 15 mg sodium, 7 g sugars, 0 g protein)

“It has chunks in it – coconut chunks,” Christy says. “It’s pretty good!”

“It’s not as sweet as the rest of them for sure,” Andrea says about this coconut milk blend.

This one won Andrea’s choice, she says because she loves coconut.

Christy says that the coconut milk should be more of a “once in a while” option because it’s high in saturated fat.

Do you use milk alternatives? Let us know which is your favourite (and why!) in the comments.

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