There are plenty of solid reasons to be wary of drinking conventional dairy milk. Maybe you have an allergy or lactose intolerance, maybe you're worried about contamination with growth hormones or antibiotics, maybe you're a vegan, or maybe you're just watching your fat and calorie intake!

Many of these milk substitutes can offer you the same health benefits as dairy milk with fewer downsides and some nutritional perks. For instance, while dairy has been shown to foster inflammation, the wholesome phytochemicals found in plant foods are likely to help fight it.

While these milk substitutes are still not allowed in large amounts on the 123Diet to ensure optimal weight loss, you're free to use a spoonful a day in lieu of actual dairy as your dairy allowance. Plus, finding a healthier favorite beverage than cow's milk could go a long way towards keeping your weight off long-term!

You do want to make sure you find a milk substitute that's free of any added sugar and low on additives. For the cleanest milk possible, you could always try making your own, but since many milk substitutes are fortified, you might miss out on some vitamins and minerals in the process.

Feel free to experiment with the milk substitutes below until you find one that suits your fancy. Alternating them could also be a great way to keep your diet diverse!

1. Nut Milks

If you're prone to excessive snacking, turning your nuts into milk may be a more practical way to enjoy them then keeping a jar of them in your pantry, and it can get you some of the food's nutritional benefits for a far lower calorie cost!

The most popular nut-based milk substitute, almond milk, can contain as few as 30 calories per cup, with cashew milk sometimes clocking in even lower. Walnut and peanut milk lilt towards the higher-calorie side at up to 150 calories per cup, with macadamia nut and hazelnut milk falling somewhere in-between.  

Which nut you choose will dictate which micro-nutrients your beverage contains, though anti-nutrients also present in nuts could potentially interfere with their absorption.

You'll get almost no carbs or sugar from most unsweetened nut milks, but you'll also get only around one gram of protein in contrast to cow's milk's eight. Some nut milk varieties are also high in fat, but it's mostly healthy unsaturated fat rather than harmful saturated.

2. Soy Milks

Soy milk is a great source of a complete protein (one containing all nine essential amino acids) for vegans. It can contain as much or even more protein per cup than cow's milk and is a great source of micronutrients like molybdenum, vitamin K1, and folate.

Soy milk is also often fortified with additional vitamins, minerals, and even omega-3 fatty acids, and is high in a class of antioxidants called isoflavones which have been found to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer.

However, isoflavones also act similarly to estrogen in the body, meaning they may negatively impact fertility in men or cause other health issues for people of any gender if consumed in excess. Because of this, soy products also shouldn't be given to toddlers.

A low-sugar cup of soy milk will likely contain around eighty calories and a similar four grams of fat to cow's milk. On the bright side, only half a gram of that fat is saturated, with the rest coming from healthier polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats.

Beware, though, that soy milk doesn't typically respond well to heat, which is why almond milk has become more ubiquitous as a coffee add-in!

3. Grain Milks

First on the menu is rice milk, which has the distinction of being the least allergenic milk substitute. However, rice milk's high carbohydrate content, high glycemic index, low protein content, and somewhat thin taste mean that it's probably not your best option tastewise or nutritionally.

Somewhat more intriguing is oat milk. For one thing, it's got two to four grams of protein per serving, which is more than a lot of other plant-food "dairy" options can say. Though oat milk is about the same as cow's milk calorie-wise and is higher in carbs, many of these carbs come from satiating fiber.

Some of this fiber is a type of healthy soluble fiber called beta-glucan that has been shown to help lower cholesterol levels and may lead to increased feelings of fullness and lower blood sugar levels. Note also that while oats themselves don't contain gluten, they are frequently processed with other grains that do, meaning they may not be safe for someone with a severe gluten intolerance.

Newer on the scene is quinoa milk. It tends to be rarer and more expensive than other milk substitutes, but it is lower carbohydrate than your other grain milk options.

Quinoa milk contains about as many carbohydrates as milk does, but boasts a more impressive micronutrient profile and significantly less fat. It also has less protein than cow's milk, but the protein quinoa milk does provide is nutritionally complete!

4. Seed Milks

A serving of flax milk can have as much calcium as cow's milk for only a fifth of the calories! However, flax milk won't typically provide any protein, though it does contain ALA omega-3 fatty acid and is often fortified with other nutrients as well.

Then, there's hemp milk. Though it's made from the seeds of the same plant that produces cannabis, it contains absolutely none of the psychoactive stuff, so you don't have to worry about getting blitzed if you pour some into your morning coffee!

Hemp milk is high in heart healthy omega 3 fatty acids and higher than flax or cow's milk in iron, though it is lower than both in calcium. Additionally, hemp milk contains between two and three grams of complete protein per serving, as well as between sixty and eighty calories. Finally, be aware that some sensitive tasters can find hemp milk's strong nutty flavor off-putting.

5. Pea Milk

Another new contender on the alternative milk scene is pea milk. It's made from a mixture of pea protein, water, and emulsifiers. Algal oil is often one of these emulsifiers, which can give pea milk a decent dose of DHA omega 3 fatty acids.

Though a cup of pea milk can contain as few as 70 calories, it has the same eight grams of protein as cow's milk. It's also higher in calcium and potassium than cow's milk, but far lower in sugar.

6. Coconut Milk

Though coconut milk contains only a third of the calcium and an eighth of the protein that cow's milk does, it does have four times as much potassium! Coconut milk is also somewhat higher in saturated fat than most other plant milks, containing about a fifth or your recommend daily intake.

However, some of these saturated fats are medium chain triglycerides, which have been shown to help reduce appetite, speed up weight loss, and control cholesterol levels. A higher-fat milk substitute will also likely taste creamier and help you feel fuller!

A cup of unsweetened coconut milk made for drinking should only cost you between forty-five and eighty calories. Less processed forms of coconut milk, which are often used in curries and usually sold canned, tend to be far higher in calories, so don't make the mistake of mixing them up!
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