So how do you choose the perfect dairy free milk substitute for your allergic child? There are a few factors to weigh, but in the end, it’s all good because we have so many great options these days. I’ll try to simplify this for the overwhelmed, which is why I won’t talk about the expensive flax, oat & hemp milks and obviously not the nut milks either.
In my fridge right now, I have 4 options: Original Silk Soy, Vanilla PureCoconut, Plain Rice Dream, Plain Soy Creamer. Plain soy & rice are for drinking, PureCoconut is for baking, creamer is for ice cream making. Keep reading if you want the why!
I’ve recently switched to using Silk PureCoconut exclusively in my baked goods & I’m in LOVE. I used to use soymilk, but I was never really happy with the final product. I could taste the soybeans a mile away. I’ve switched over completely & it’s just awesome. The fat content is perfect for muffins & cookies. The faint coconut flavor in the final baked product gives a buttery essence. This stuff makes the best pancakes poured straight into Bisquick mix.
Silk PureCoconut is a coconut beverage and not the same as coconut milk from the can. Canned coconut milk is very thick, nearly solid with fats when chilled. Silk PureCoconut is thinned out with water and fortified with vitamins. Second best option is soymilk. I’ve tried rice milk in baked goods, and haven’t had very good luck. I think it’s chemically about the same as adding water!
There are many factors to consider when choosing the right milk for drinking. Nutrition is obviously the big one. So, lets look at the side-by-side nutrition comparison of plain versions of soy, coconut & rice.
In general, most dairy-free milks are fortified with calcium & other vitamins. Some have a little more, some have a little less, but they’re pretty equal at the end of the day. For calories, rice milk is the highest. This makes sense because rice is a carb, but it doesn’t have much protein. For fat, coconut milk is the highest. This also makes sense because coconut has a lot of natural oil, but it doesn’t have any protein. For protein, soymilk is on top. Again, makes sense because soy is a bean and it’s middle of the road on fats and calories.
So how do you choose? Well, like nearly everything I happen to believe moderation & variety are the best options. My kids don’t like drinking coconut straight. It’s just too thick and strong flavored for them, so I just use it for baking. So getting down to soy and rice, they much prefer drinking rice. It’s cleaner tasting. Problem is, nutritionally, there’s no protein and the fat is all added oil . Eeks! Well, think about it, rice is naturally fat free. So we’ve compromised, and do soy with cereal or cookies and rice for drinking at mealtime. Seems to work for us.
Do a taste test!
Many years ago (awww! look at those little bugs!!), when the market in dairy-free milks started exploding ( yeah for marketplace competition—prices have dropped, quality has improved, innovation has brought new options and flavors to market!), I realized there were so many great options beyond the boxed Westsoy I was using. I went to the grocery and bought a bunch of options and brought them home for the girls to try in a blind taste-test. We did it up, complete with score cards. They loved it. Turned out, we all chose a generic soy milk as the favorite, which really surprised me & made my budget happy. Have fun!
P.S. The pink background in the top picture is the new coral color I painted my kitchen walls. Isn’t it awesome!1