What milk should I be drinking?
Current nutrition data shows that only 10% of Australian's meet their dairy needs. On average, we only have 1.5 serves of dairy a day. Dairy foods such as milk, yoghurt and cheese are great sources of calcium and protein. It is recommended that we have 3-4 serves of dairy per day to meet calcium needs. The risk of not having enough dairy is developing weak bones (osteoporosis). With so many milks available how do you know which is the best for you?
Types of milks
The type of milk that is right for you depends on a number of factors including personal preference and your activity levels. For people who are more active, full fat milk may be the way to go. If you are trying to lose weight or are watching cholesterol levels, a lower fat milk might be for you, particularly if you drink large amounts. It is a common myth that low fat milk or skim milk have added sugar. This is not the case. The extra sugar is a result of the fat being taken out of the milk. Therefore, the concentration of other components of milk also changes as a result of skim milk powder being added.
What about the other milks?
There has been a huge increase in the number of milk alternatives available. If you choose to have a milk alternative make sure that you are choosing a fortified options that provides at least 100mg of calcium per 100mL. Here is a quick overview of the range of milk alternatives available.
Soy milk is the closest replacement for dairy milk available. It is the highest in protein of all of the milk alternatives providing 7.5g per serve. Soy milk has lower amounts of saturated fat compared to milk and also provides unsaturated fat (or healthy fat). It must be noted that some soy milks also contain added sugar or sweeteners and oils for palatability .
Despite the name, almond milk only contains about 2-3 almonds per serve. Like other milk alternatives, it also contains added oils and emulsifiers. Original almond milk also has added sweeteners. There are also unsweetened options available. If you are looking for a low energy milk alternative, almond milk could work for you. Try pairing it with a high protein food as it only provides 2g of protein per serve.
Rice milk provides very little protein and is higher in sugar than the other milks. Although there are fortified options available, rice milk is not the greatest as a dairy substitute.
Oat milk, like many of the other alternatives, provides little protein per serve. However, it does have the added benefit of providing about 4g of fibre per serve. This could be useful if you struggle to get enough fibre in your diet.
There is huge variation in the coconut milks available on the shelve. Some of the products contain 8% coconut cream while others only have 1%. Coconut milk also has the highest amount of fat per serve. All of the fat in this milk is saturated fat which doesn't make it the best option. Many of the coconut milks also contain added sugar and oils, but there are unsweetened options available.
* All values are averages of brands available and display content per 250mL serve.
At the end of the day, I think it is really important to choose options that work for you and your lifestyle. If you find that you are making choices based on the lowest calorie option, it is important to think why that might be the case. As you can see, there is a huge variation in the products available and a lot of the time, the promises made on the front of the packaging may not be held true when you dig a bit deeper. I am not by any means saying that one option is better than another, however I think it is important to know about the foods you are choosing.
If you find the supermarket a minefield of confusing information why not book in for a personalised shopping tour. Let me help you choose the best options for you and your family while learning about reading labels and ingredients lists.