Dietitians’ Favorite Milk Alternatives

A bottles of alternative milk and ingredients for cooking.

Milk has been a staple in many households for generations, but with dairy allergies, lactose-intolerance and plant-based eating on the rise, many are turning to milk alternatives as a substitute for traditional dairy milk. If you find yourself identifying with one of these groups, then you likely have a milk-alternative in your refrigerator. 

Whether it’s for a pour over your morning cereal, a splash in your coffee, or the liquid for your smoothie, it is important that you choose the right milk for you — and that means the right combination of texture, flavor, and nutritional value. 

To help you wade through the selection at the grocery store, we polled a few dietitians for their top dairy milk alternatives. 

If you haven’t made the swap and need some guidance, look no further. For those who have, how does your choice stack up?

Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk

Mary Ellen Phipps, MPH, RDN, LD founder of loves unsweetened vanilla almond milk for its flavor and low carb content. “As a type 1 diabetic, I prefer to get my carbs from other sources,” says Phipps. 

Unsweetened almond milk is also Sara Rosenblum MS, RD, LDN’s go to non-dairy choice when she is looking for a milk alternative that is low in calories and carbohydrates.

Nutrition per cup – Calories: 30, Total Fat: 2.5g, Saturated Fat: 0g, Sodium: 170 mg, Carbohydrates: 1 g, Fiber: 1g, Sugars: 0g, Protein: 1g

Mariani Walnut Milk

Walnut milk is similar in nutrient profile to other nut milks, providing mono- and poly-unsaturated fats, vitamin D, and calcium. What makes it #1 for McKenna Welshans, RD, ACSM-CEP, is the bolder, nuttier flavor and creamy consistency, which offers a comparable mouthfeel to the real deal. Mariani Walnut Milk comes in Original, Unsweetened and Vanilla. Any choice will do as even the Vanilla only contains 4g of sugar per cup:

Nutrition per cup – Calories: 45, Total Fat: 3.5g, Saturated Fat: 0g, Sodium: 140 mg, Carbohydrates: 5 g, Fiber: 1g, Sugars: 4g, Protein: 1g

Pacific Foods Hemp Milk

Both Taylor Conrady, RD, LDN and Elle Penner, MPH RD like this seed-based milk as it is both nut-free and dairy-free, and it is overflowing with nutrients. Hemp milk offers omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, calcium, fiber, iron, potassium, plant sterols, and all essential amino acids. This is their go-to recommendation for vegans and those with dairy sensitivities or allergies. The original flavor has just the right blend of nutty flavor and sweetness.

Nutrition per cup – Calories: 140, Total Fat: 6g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Sodium: 130 mg, Carbohydrates: 19 g, Fiber: 1g, Sugars: 12g, Protein: 4g

Ripple Original Nutritious Pea Milk

This allergen-friendly milk is another favorite from Conrady. It is more versatile for those who don’t prefer a nutty flavor, and is packed with protein. She also loves that their brand offers a variety of products, including a “half and half” and protein powders.

Nutrition per cup – Calories: 100, Total Fat: 4.5g, Saturated Fat: 0.5g, Sodium: 130 mg, Carbohydrates: 6 g, Fiber: 0g, Sugars: 6g, Protein: 8g

Lactose-Free Dairy Milks

Perhaps you’re lactose-intolerant but don’t want to avoid dairy completely. Sara Rosenblum MS, RD, LDN also loves Fairlife’s fat-free milk. This lactose-free cow’s milk is quite high in protein, low in sugar, with more calcium than regular milk. She loves using it as a way to “sneak in” some extra protein and calcium at breakfast or even with snacks.

Nutrition per cup – Calories: 80, Total Fat: 0g, Saturated Fat: 0g, Sodium: 120 mg, Carbohydrates: 6 g, Fiber: 0g, Sugars: 6g, Protein: 13g

Most grocers also carry their own lactose-free milk option that may be more economical. Here’s Kroger’s 1%:

Nutrition per cup – Calories: 110, Total Fat: 2.5g, Saturated Fat: 1.5g, Sodium: 130 mg, Carbohydrates: 13 g, Fiber: 0g, Sugars: 12g, Protein: 8g

Whether you need to avoid dairy due to an allergy or just want to consume more plant-based foods, hopefully these picks help you find a milk alternative to suit your needs and preferences. 

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