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Alternatives for Dairy Products - How Do They Size Up?


We as dietitians know the research when it comes to plant-based diets, and it is very compelling. So no wonder so many people are making strides to switch to incorporating more plant-based meals and foods into their diets. You can see that based on the innovations that are happening in the food industry. In 2020, dairy alternatives accounted for 15% of fluid milk sales.


In addition to a jump in sales of dairy alternatives, there have also been many innovations to these products. Back when I was in graduate school, we were taught that soy milk was the only comparable dairy alternative milk product. Now, food scientists and engineers have been able to create products that have very similar nutrient profiles to milk.


I love this graphic from Food Science Babe (a chemical engineer who has been working in the food industry for over a decade). She has outlined specific brands of milk alternatives and compared them to 2% milk.

I also highly recommend you read her article that accompanies this image. She has outlined 5 common myths about dairy and provided links to primary research that disproves these myths. Like “dairy milk contains antibiotics” - FALSE!


Bottom line:

Remember what I said before, you define your food philosophy. If you want to avoid dairy or choose milk alternatives, by all means go for it! Or you can be like me and my family and just buy each family member their preferred form of dairy - ha!

I prefer soy milk in my smoothies and milk in my lattes; my step-daughters prefer oat milk in their cereal; and my husband requires half and half for his coffee. The buttermilk is used in a specific muffin recipe that I make almost weekly. I frequently use almond milk and other substitutes in cooking and baking because they are shelf stable and easy to keep on-hand.


Author: Leslie Ouellette-Todd, MS, RD, LD, MPH