Every day, the world moves and motions you to choose healthier, and whole foods. The biggest hurdle for some is finding suitable whole milk substitutes. To simply cut meat or milk from your diet might be trickier than you think, and there are several pros and cons to each substitution.
Whatever your reasons might be for wanting to explore the world of animal product substitutes, or starting with a whole milk substitute, there are several options for you to try.
Whole Milk Nutrition Facts
Whole milk is naturally a good source of high-quality protein, essential for many critical roles in your body. It is also a great source of fat, but fat does need to be consumed in moderation.
It has a healthy dose of vitamin B, riboflavin, and of course calcium – all essential for your body to grow and remain healthy.
Of course, whole milk is packed with great nutrients, but it is also one of the most common allergens. A large portion of the population struggles to digest milk, specifically lactose, to some degree of difficulty.
Most children with milk allergies do outgrow the allergy if they have it. However, others battle with the allergy for the rest of their lives.
Why Whole Milk Might Not Be Good for You
Whole milk, and any variation of cow’s milk that has not had its lactose removed through certain processes, still contain the sugar called lactose. This is the component of cow’s milk that causes allergies.
Another issue that people find with whole milk specifically, is that is high in fats. Saturated fats are present in this type of milk, and these kinds of fats contribute to HDL cholesterol, a big cause in heart disease.
You do require fat in your diet, but with so many foods nowadays containing fat, you really need to be careful of how much of it you are consuming.
Reasons People May Need a Whole Milk Substitute
Why would people want to cut whole milk from their diets? There are actually quite a few more reasons than just cutting fat from your diet.
- Allergy – Studies show that 2-3% of children under the age of three are allergic to cow’s milk, with reactions ranging from mild to severe anaphylactic shock. It is estimated that 75% of the world is lactose intolerant, meaning they don’t have the enzyme in their bodies to break down the sugar found in milk. This usually causes dietary distress and discomfort.
- Too Fatty – Reducing your fat intake is important. People exclude whole milk from their diets in order to limit the number of saturated fats in their diets and to assist in reducing cholesterol.
- Special Diet – Dietary exclusions cause people to eliminate animal products or specifically dairy products from their diets for ethical or health reasons. Having a vegan diet means you cannot consume any animal products.
- Health Concerns – some people exclude dairy products from their diets because of concerns about potential contaminants in commercial products such as hormones, antibiotics, or even pesticides
10 Best Whole Milk Substitute Options
There are many whole milk substitutes available today, some seemingly obvious, and others being a bit more controversial.
Best Dairy Substitutes for Whole Milk
If you are just looking to substitute whole milk for something slightly different but still in the dairy category, there are some great options to choose from.
1. Low Fat Milk or Skim Milk
It might seem obvious, but you can easily reduce your fat intake by swapping out whole milk for low fat or even skim milk. Low-fat milk is still creamy, whereas skim milk has no fat at all.
Nonetheless, they still provide that milky taste that is perfect for a whole milk alternative.
When baking or cooking, swapping out whole milk for yogurt is an option. It provides you with the same creamy texture in your baked goods but with a slight tart taste, along with the added benefit of some probiotics.
3. Evaporated Milk
Evaporated milk is milk with some of its water content removed, so you can easily mix equal parts of water and evaporated milk to use as a whole milk substitute.
4. Sour Cream
Much like yogurt as a whole milk substitute, sour cream can be used in its place. Sour cream is best used in savory dishes since it has a tangy flavor. It is also known to add tenderness to baked goods.
5. Condensed Milk
Condensed milk is very similar to evaporated milk, except for a large amount of sugar added. You can swap out dairy milk for condensed milk in your recipe, but remember you would need to dial down your sugar if you want to avoid it being overly sweet.
Best Non-dairy Substitutes for Whole Milk
If you would like to stay away from dairy altogether, swapping out dairy milk can be done easily with some dairy-free alternatives.
The consistency of plant-based, non-dairy milk ranges throughout the options. So keep this in mind when using them.
Rice milk is a very watery non-dairy option, whereas coconut milk is quite creamy if you get the canned variety.
6. Soy Milk
Soy milk has been around for quite a long time and is a great non-dairy alternative if you are looking for a whole milk substitute. With milk made from soy, you won’t go without the serving of protein that is found in whole milk.
It has about 6 grams of protein versus the 8 grams found in typical milk.
7. Pea Protein Milk
Pea milk is great as a substitute for whole milk because it has more potassium, with soy milk coming in at a close second. This type of non-dairy milk has about 450mg of potassium, while whole milk has about 322mg and milk made from soy has 390mg.
8. Almond Milk
Almond milk is dairy-free and actually has more calcium than whole milk, with a whopping 560mg. That is significantly more than the standard milk having only 425mg.
However, if you are allergic to nuts, then you will want to opt for milk made from soy instead because they have the same amount of calcium.
9. Oat Milk
If you’re looking for plant-based milks that make for a great substitute for whole milk, you should try oat milk. Not only is oat milk high in fiber and helps to reduce the levels of cholesterol in your body, but it also stabilizes your blood sugar.
If a recipe calls for milk and an acidic ingredient, such as lemon juice or vinegar, you’ll want to opt for oat milk as a substitute.
10. Canned Coconut Milk
Coconut milk is probably the most creamy whole milk substitute available due to its high-fat content. It works well in a cup of coffee, and in recipes that call for whole milk.
Keep in mind it has a strong coconut taste, so it might not be for everyone.
What to Consider When Substituting
As with any substitutions, you have to consider a few factors.
- Flavor – Not all whole milk substitutes taste good to everyone, test out a few to find your favorite. Non-dairy substitutes often lack creaminess. Making a small change such as swopping heavy cream for half and half shows a significant reduction in fat intake.
- Nutrition – Every whole milk substitute will have a different nutritional composition, if you are looking for a certain component, read the labels and research the ingredients.
- Allergies – You might be swopping whole milk for nut milk, which is also a common allergen, it’s good to again research all the ingredients to avoid allergic reactions.
- Price and Availability – Soy milk is one of the cheaper alternatives to say cashew milk. It’s definitely a deciding factor when you are looking for a whole milk substitute to consider if it will always be available in your store when you need it and whether it will tear a hole in your wallet too.
How to Use a Whole Milk Substitute When Baking or Cooking
Many dishes, pastries, or baked goods require whole dairy milk. But finding a whole milk substitute for baking recipes is easier than you might think.
If you are ever unsure if you can use a substitute, consult the author of the recipe or experiment on your own.
Using Low Fat or Skim Milk
This substitution is usually easy to do unless the recipe specifically calls for whole milk because it is a technical recipe. You should be fine to swap low-fat milk or skim milk in your baked goods as long as they are in the same quantities.
Using Powdered Whole Milk
Powdered milk is milk with all of the water content removed, it is easily reconstructed by following the package’s directions and added in the same quantities.
Using Evaporated or Condensed Milk
Mix a half cup of evaporated milk with half a cup of water to make one cup of whole milk substitute.
Condensed milk can be used as-is in a recipe, but be mindful of the sugar content, as it is sweetened. You may need to omit some of your sugar or sweeteners in your mixture if using condensed milk instead.
Using Plain Yogurt
Yogurt can be used in sweet recipes or savory recipes. To provide a creamy consistency to your dish, use 1 cup of yogurt in place of 1 cup of whole milk. If you’re using greek yogurt, it may be a good idea to slightly thin it out with water first. Avoid flavored yogurts here.
Using Soy or Almond Milk
Both these plant-based dairy-free alternatives have the same consistency as milk, and as long as they are unflavored and unsweetened, they can be substituted as is in most recipes. Bear in mind, that almond milk will add a nuttiness to your dish. 1 cup of soy or almond milk is equal to 1 cup of whole milk.
Using Coconut Cream or Coconut Milk
If your savory or baking recipe calls for heavy cream or whole milk, you can easily use coconut cream, half and half, or milk to replace their dairy counterparts. Coconut cream cannot easily be swopped for whipped cream though and will add a strong coconut flavor but creamy texture to your dishes.
What Is the Healthiest Alternative to Milk?
The healthiest whole milk substitute is dependent on what you require the milk to provide, or in some cases, not provide.
If you are looking for a substitute for whole milk that will not add any nutrition or as few calories as possible, you should look at using almond milk or unsweetened cashew milk.
On the other hand, if you are looking for a nutritionally dense whole milk substitute, try using oat milk or unsweetened soy milk.
Are Milk Alternatives Good for You?
Milk alternatives can be beneficial to your health if you choose the correct one to replace your standard milk.
Whilst soy milk is the closest whole milk substitute you can find, some might have soy sensitivities. Nut milk poses another allergy risk and high-fat milk alternatives such as coconut should be used in moderation.
Do Adults Need Milk?
The short answer is no. Even though you do require essential nutrients such as calcium and protein found in milk, it is well worth noting that you can find these nutrients and vitamins in other foods, not just in milk. There is no specific nutrient in milk, that can only be found in milk.
Milk has been great food for many years, and few alternatives stand up to the creamy goodness that is found in whole milk. However, there are plenty of amazing options to find the perfect whole milk substitute.
Whether you decide to substitute whole milk for health or ethical reasons, there are options. To some, they prefer the taste and nutrition of a whole milk substitute as opposed to the real thing. Try everything once, you might just find your new favorite.