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What to Look For in Dairy SubstitutesWhat to Look For in Dairy Substitutes


What to Look For in Dairy Substitutes

Milk allergies, lactose intolerance, and animal welfare concerns prevent many people from consuming dairy products. While you can meet your nutritional needs without dairy, it's important to pay attention to the nutrients you may lose when cutting dairy from your diet. Identify alternative dairy products that supply these nutrients without adding unwanted ingredients.

Low in added sugars

Dairy contains the natural sugar lactose, but unless it’s flavored, it does not have added sugars (sugar added during processing). Alternative milks such as almond, soy, rice, and coconut milks are popular substitutes for cow’s milk. It’s important to check food labels closely to ensure that these milks aren’t loaded with sugar. Flavored milks can indicate added sugar, but some varieties such as unsweetened vanilla are available.


One cup of skim milk contains 8 grams of protein. While soy milk has nearly as much with 6 grams of protein per cup, a cup of almond milk has much less with only 1 gram of protein. If you relied on dairy for protein, it may be important to increase your protein intake from other sources. Nuts, seeds, beans and poultry all serve as sources for lean protein.

Contains calcium

Dairy has long been associated with supplying valuable calcium, but there are other foods that also supply this mineral. Aim to add more foods to your eating plan that are natural sources of calcium. A cup of cow’s milk provides about 300 milligrams and one cup of yogurt contains about 400 milligrams. Alternatively, one cup of cooked collard greens contains about 266 milligrams and a half cup of almonds contains about 122 milligrams.

Promotes digestive health

Most yogurts are known for containing live and active cultures that are used during fermentation. These cultures are associated with gut health and improved digestion. Fortunately, this health benefit is not limited to dairy yogurts. Soy yogurts and other lactose-free yogurts can also contain live and active cultures. The food label should indicate whether or not these cultures are present.

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