One of the best things I ever did for my health was to adopt a healthy (whole food) vegetarian lifestyle when I was 20 years old — more than 10 years ago. While I realize it's not for everyone, it was a brilliant solution for me. I felt better, slept better, my skin and digestion improved, and I had so much more energy.
Several years ago, I took it a step further and decided to adopt a plant-based vegan diet, which was actually much easier than I thought it would be. I quickly learned that, with the right dishes, recipes, and foods, I didn't even miss cow's milk (or the dairy products made with it).
What I Look for When Choosing Non-Dairy Milk
The first item most people turn to when giving up cow's milk is a non-dairy milk alternative, understandably. I tried every brand and every type I could get my hands on. With limitless choices from almond, coconut, soy, cashew, rice, oat, hemp, and even pea milk, the options can be overwhelming — even for me, and I knew what I was looking for!
Here are the top three things I look for before I purchase a non-dairy milk to try, no matter what the brand.
1. It has to be non-GMO Project Verified or certified organic.
2. It has to be free of oil (because who wants to drink oil in their milk?) and controversial additives like carrageenan (which almost all non-dairy milk products are now), artificial sweeteners and artificial colors, fragrances, and flavors.
3. It has to be either unsweetened or free of refined sugar with no more than a teaspoon of natural sugar per serving (which is 4 grams per 8-ounce serving).
I eventually discovered that my favorite brand is Silk. I'm very brand loyal because I truly love their products — and no, I'm not affiliated with the brand at all and this is not a sponsored post (just in case you're wondering!). I love the way Silk products taste and that they're affordable and available everywhere (including Walmart, Target, and my local Costco!). All their products are non-GMO verified; free of carrageenan, artificial flavors, sweeteners, and dyes; and they're 100 percent vegan (not all non-dairy milk products are).
I also appreciate that they offer plenty of unsweetened, organic, and/or light options to choose from. And their line of products includes soy, almond, cashew, coconut, and several blended options.
3 Non-Dairy Milks I Buy Each and Every Week
- Silk Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk: This is my ride or die, must-have, all-purpose, non-dairy milk. I started drinking it eight years ago and have loved it ever since. It has zero grams of added sugar and a delicious natural taste from real vanilla, it meets all of the criteria on my checklist, and it's also low in calories (35 calories) with more calcium than cow's milk. It goes great in smoothies, baked goods, tea, and more!
- Silk Organic Unsweetened Soy Milk: I don't consume many soy products, but Silk's soy milk has become my new favorite form of organic soy. Plus, it's a nice form of complete plant-based protein. In fact, this was the second product by Silk I fell in love with, which surprised me, actually. Although soy milk has been around a long time, I didn't start buying it regularly until five years ago. Because it's plain, I like to use it in savory oatmeal.
- Silk Light Soy Milk: Silk's light soy milk is slightly sweetened, but still very low in natural sugar per serving with only 3 grams per cup. I love using this as a non-dairy creamer in my coffee each day! It also makes for a mean hot cocoa and froths up beautifully — just like cow's milk with the help of a blender. Finally, I like knowing I'm getting a nice dose of plant-based protein, calcium, B12, and vitamin D, all with my coffee each day.
Of course, you might not need three non-dairy milks at once (I admit it's a lot!) My point is just that you can't go wrong trying any of these three.
What About Homemade, You Ask?
Many people also like to make their own non-dairy milk, which is quite easy to do, but I have to be honest: I actually prefer the taste and convenience of some of the store-bought options to any homemade milk I've ever made. I realize I'm in the minority here, but hey, that's me!
Try it for yourself: How To Make Nut Milk from Almonds, Cashews, or Any Other Nut
I also happen to appreciate that most store-bought non-dairy milk products are fortified with calcium and vitamin D (just like cow's milk is during processing), which many plant-based nutritionists and dietitians outside of myself recommend consuming when necessary if you're not sure you're getting enough.
What do you think? Do you have a favorite non-dairy milk? Tell us about it in the comments below!