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Thoughts on Alternative Milk Options

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Whether it be an allergy, a sensitivity, or the knowledge that there are other options, understanding the alternatives to cow’s milk is important to your family’s well-being.

When my daughter abruptly weaned last year I chose to pump for a few months so she could continue receiving the benefits of breast milk. Then, the time came to introduce a new milk and I felt a little baffled. There were so many choices!

a glass of milk

Being in Portland, Oregon at the time, there were a plethora of milk options when I perused the grocery store aisles. I didn’t know where to begin! Coconut, raw, soy, organic, goat, almond … there were so many things to consider and I wanted to make the best choice for my toddler.

I chatted with our pediatrician about my concerns in regard to large quantities of cow’s milk in my daughter’s diet and we found a great alternative – hemp milk. Hemp milk is made from hemp seeds and offers a great source of plant-based nutrition. Rich in both omega 3 & 6, protein, calcium, magnesium, and essential amino acids, unsweetened hemp milk can be a fabulous alternative for children. Woohoo – parenting discovery score! In addition to being nutritious, hemp milk is also free of lactose, cholesterol, soy, and gluten.

Outside of hemp milk I researched (and we sampled) almond, soy, coconut, and rice milk. Here’s a little of what I learned:

  • Almond milk – A great, low-calorie option with a slightly nutty flavor. To create almond milk, ground almonds are mixed with water then filtered and fortified. Our preference was the vanilla infused version as it seemed to balance the nuttiness.
  • Soy milk – It seems that soy milk is the most readily available non-dairy milk, but we opted to avoid it due to conflicting information on the effects of the estrogen present in soy products. Plus, soy is often a GMO so buying organic soy is ideal.
  • Coconut milk – Coconut milk is similar to the canned version you would cook with, but in a lighter, more fluid consistency. It is made from pressing a coconut’s flesh and mixing with water.
  • Rice milk – Believe it or not, but rice milk usually consists of three rice products 🙂 Boiled rice, brown rice syrup, and brown rice starch. This, with a thickening agent and sometimes a little sugar or vanilla makes for a yummy vegan option.

I’ve become quite a fan of vanilla almond milk as the base for my coffee beverages and my daughter enjoys coconut milk as a fun flavor every once in awhile. Plus, have you ever tried coconut milk ice cream? It’s amazing! When researching milks for your child be sure to consider any known allergies, protein needs, and how much (or little) sugar is added to that particular milk. Currently, we haven’t completely cut cow’s milk from our diet, but I feel much better having it as an occasional ingredient in our meals rather than a daily staple.

Additional Resources

Disclaimer: Of course, before making any significant changes to your child’s diet, be sure to consult your pediatrician or naturopath. They will be able to guide you in determining what is best for your child’s dietary needs and restrictions.

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Kyla Atole

Tuesday 27th of November 2012

My son would not latch when he was born so we were forced to go to formula. at 4 weeks we discovered that he was also lactose intolerant. I switched him to soy formula and he was perfect. When it came time to start weaning from the formula I switched him to a mixture of organic soy milk and lactaid with calcium and it was wonderful. I have to say that I Love what the soy did for my son. His digestive system matured rapidly and at 2 my son is a lean mean muscle machine. The soy has helped with his muscle development so much that he is four times stronger than he should be. He can easily support his body weight and he is almost 55 lbs. He is very lean and eats like a horse! I have KEPT him on the soy for the most part and also introduced cows milk after he turned 2 and he is handling that very well. I fully intend to use soy formula soy milk for our next baby from the beginning. I am just so amazed with the development soy aids!

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