Guide to Milk Alternatives

March 30, 2015
Navigating the world of dairy-free living can be overwhelming! There are so many milk alternatives on the market these days and unfortunately, not all are created equally.

The following guides break down the pros and cons of each milk substitute while looking into specific nutrients, availability, use in cooking, and other allergens. Remember that if your child is not drinking milk, we need to ensure they receive enough fat, protein, calcium and vitamin D, so always compare food labels to make sure you are making the best choice for your dairy-free child.

Nutrient Comparison in Milk Alternatives

Milk (8 oz.)  Calories  Protein (g)  Calcium (mg)  Vitamin D (IU) 
Whole cow 146  276  98 
Soy 110  250-300  100 
Rice 120  1 300 100 
Boxed Coconut 45-80 100  120 
Canned Coconut 420 100  120 
Cashew 35 100  140 
Almond 40-70 100  120 
Hemp 70-110 300  120 
Flax 30-70 300  100 
Flax + Protein 30-70 300  100 

Benefits and Concerns in Pediatric Milk Alternatives

Milk  Pros Cons Allergens Brands/Flavors 
Whole Cow Best source of Calcium & Vit D

Good source of saturated fat, important for brain development and nutrient absorption

Flavor and availability
Not recommended under 1 yr of age

High carbohydrate content

No iron
Contains Lactose

Soy and tree nut free
Widely available

Available in powdered or liquid
Soy High in protein

Good source of unsaturated fats, important for heart health

Readily available and a good cooking and baking alternative
Low in saturated fat, important for brain development and nutrient absorption

High in phytates, which can impair your ability to absorb other nutrients
Contains Phyoestrogens and soy

Dairy and tree nut free
Rice Dream
365 Everyday
Pacific Foods
West Soy
Kirkland Signature

Available in original, unsweetened and vanilla
Rice Hypoallergenic
Highest carbohydrate content of all milk alternatives

Lowest protein and fat content of all milk alternatives

Very thin and not useful for cooking

Potentially high in arsenic
Soy, dairy, tree nut free

Rice Dream
365 Everyday
Pacific Foods
West Soy
Kirkland Signature


Available in original, unsweetened and vanilla
Canned Coconut Milk High in saturated fats for brain development and nutrient absorption

Great way to add fat and calories to other foods

Good for cooking

High in Medium Chain Triglycerides, an easy to digest and absorb fat
Too much fat for children that do not need to gain extra weight

Low in protein

Lower in Calcium than other milks
Soy, dairy, tree nut free (if you are allergic to tree nuts, speak with your allergist or physician before consuming coconut)
Thai Kitchen
Native Forest
Goya
A Taste of Thai
Golden Star

Available in lite and full fat
Boxed Coconut Milk Creamy mouthfeel and good cooking substitute

High in Medium Chain Triglycerides, an easy to digest and absorb fat
Lower in Calcium than other milks
Soy, dairy, tree nut free (if you are allergic to tree nuts, speak with your allergist or physician before consuming coconut)
SoDelicious
Coconut Dream

Available in original, unsweetened and vanilla
Cashew Creamy mouthfeel and good cooking substitute

Good source of unsaturated fats, important for heart health 
Low in protein
Contains tree nuts

Soy, dairy free
SoDelicious
Cashew Dream

Easy to make at home

Available in original, unsweetened and vanilla
Almond Good source of unsaturated fats, important for heart health

Low glycemic index, important for regulating blood sugar
Lower in Calcium than other milks

Low in saturated fat, important for brain development and nutrient absorption
Contains tree nuts

Soy, dairy free
Silk
Almond Breeze
Almond Dream
Pacific
365 Everyday

Easy to make at home

Available in original, unsweetened and vanilla, chocolate
Hemp Hypoallergenic

High in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, important for heart health, brain development and immune system

Low glycemic index, important for regulating blood sugar
Thin and not very useful for cooking

Can be difficult to find
Soy, dairy, tree nut free
Living Harvest Tempt
Pacific

Easy to make at home

Available in original, unsweetened and vanilla
Flax Hypoallergenic

High in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, important for heart health, brain development and immune system

High in Calcium and Vitamin D
No protein, unless specifically added

Can be difficult to find

Good for cooking
Soy, dairy, tree nut free
Good Karma
Flax USA

Available in original, unsweetened and vanilla and with protein added