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9 Alternative milks explained in one infographic

Monica Beyer is a mom of four and has been writing professionally since 2000, when her first book, Baby Talk, was published. Her main area of interest is attachment parenting and all that goes with it, including breastfeeding, co-sleepin...

The pros and cons to dairy-free milks will help you pick the best for your body

It's not uncommon to avoid dairy, and it's easier than ever with the bevy of alternative milks that you can find at your local grocery store. How do they compare to cow's milk?

The pros and cons to dairy-free milks will help you pick the best for your body

If you're hunting for a cow's milk replacement — either because you're vegan, you have an allergy or just want to cut back on your dairy — you'll likely be able to find plenty of choices. Allison Enke, registered dietitian for the Whole Foods Market exclusive brands team, explains the benefits as well as what to watch out for when you're selecting an alternative milk.

The pros and cons to dairy-free milks will help you pick the best for your body

Soy milk is the most common milk substitute, but there are plenty of others — and often, they come in different flavors, such as chocolate and vanilla. However, Enke says you should always opt for the unsweetened varieties that have no added sugar for your best nutritional bet. Also, she encourages looking for milks that are fortified with calcium, vitamin B12 and vitamin D, as these beverages don't naturally contain them. There are other factors to weigh when you're choosing a milk, including what you plan to use it for. Enke lays down the pros and cons of the more popular types, and a few that are less well-known.

Here are the general nutritional makeups of several popular alternative milk brands per 8-ounce glass:

Soy

  • Silk, organic unsweetened
  • Calories: 80
  • Fat: 4 grams
  • Protein: 7 grams
  • Total carbs: 3 grams
  • Calcium: 30 percent daily value
  • Pros: Similar nutrition profile to cow's milk, contains the most protein of nondairy beverages, great coffee creamer
  • Cons: High in fat, unsuitable for those with soy allergies

Almond

  • Almond Dream, unsweetened
  • Calories: 50
  • Fat: 3.5 grams
  • Protein: 1 gram
  • Total carbs: 3 grams
  • Calcium: 30 percent daily value
  • Pros: Low in calories, similar to the texture of cow's milk, great in smoothies and desserts
  • Cons: Off limits for those with nut allergies, doesn't have a lot of protein

Rice

  • Rice Dream, enriched unsweetened original
  • Calories: 70
  • Fat: 2.5 grams
  • Protein: 0 grams
  • Total carbs: 11 grams
  • Calcium: 25 percent daily value
  • Pros: Hypoallergenic — excellent choice for those with allergies
  • Cons: Not a lot of protein, tends to be the highest in carbohydrates compared to other nondairy beverages

Coconut

  • So Delicious, original unsweetened
  • Calories: 45
  • Fat: 4.5 grams
  • Protein: 0 grams
  • Total carbs: 2 grams
  • Calcium: 10 percent daily value
  • Pros: Thick, creamy texture, great for baking, makes an excellent nondairy whipped cream
  • Cons: Low in protein, higher in fat compared to other nondairy beverages

Hemp

  • Pacific Foods, unsweetened
  • Calories: 70
  • Fat: 5 grams
  • Protein: 3 grams
  • Total carbs: 1 gram
  • Calcium: 30 percent daily value
  • Pros: Contains omega-3 essential fatty acids, works great in cereals and smoothies
  • Cons: Low in protein

Oat

  • Pacific Foods, organic oat original
  • Calories: 130
  • Fat: 2.5 grams
  • Protein: 4 grams
  • Total carbs: 24 grams
  • Calcium: 35 percent daily value
  • Pros: Provides fiber, whole grains and iron
  • Cons: Low in protein

Flax

  • Good Karma Foods, unsweetened
  • Calories: 25
  • Fat: 2.5 grams
  • Protein: 0 grams
  • Total carbs: 1 gram
  • Calcium: 30 percent daily value
  • Pros: Contains omega-3 essential fatty acids, low in calories
  • Cons: Very low in protein

Sunflower

  • Sunflower Dream, unsweetened
  • Calories: 45
  • Fat: 4 grams
  • Protein: 1 gram
  • Total carbs: 2 grams
  • Calcium: 30 percent daily value
  • Pros: Low in cholesterol, high in vitamin E, great source of folic acid
  • Cons: Low in protein

Quinoa

  • Suzie's, unsweetened
  • Calories: 70
  • Fat: 1 gram
  • Protein: 2 grams
  • Total carbs: 12 grams
  • Calcium: 30 percent daily value
  • Pros: High in vitamin E, hypoallergenic
  • Cons: Low in protein (although the protein is complete)

Images: Karen Cox/SheKnows

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