A Guide to Dairy Alternatives
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A Guide to Dairy Alternatives

Posted on Wednesday, February 27th, 2013 at 8:00 am
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Including dairy in our diets is important because it is a great source of calcium and other helpful nutrients. However, some are lactose intolerant, and others can’t consume it because of dietary restrictions or choices. Whether you’ve already switched or are thinking of switching to a non-dairy alternative, understanding the difference between all of your options is pretty important. The most popular choices include soy milk, rice milk, and almond milk. Let’s take a look at the differences and health benefits of each:

Soy Milk

Soy milk is made from soy beans and has a thick consistency. When compared to cow’s milk, soy milk has a similar amount of protein and fat, but little to no saturated fat or cholesterol. It’s also low in carbohydrates, sodium, and sugar. Many varieties are fortified with calcium since it doesn’t occur naturally in soy.

The downside to soy milk is that many are allergic to soy. It’s also heavily processed and soybeans often feature a lot of GMOs. Soy is a controversial plant in the diet world due to its high levels of estrogen. In some studies, soy has been linked to infertility and is also believed to cause cancer in high doses.

Rice Milk

Rice milk is made primarily with brown rice and filtered water. It usually features a watery consistency and is a bit sweet to the taste. Rice milk actually contains more carbohydrates  than cow’s milk, but has very little amounts of calcium, protein and cholesterol. Most brands are fortified with vitamins and minerals such as calcium, vitamin B12, and iron.

While rice milk is a great alternative in coffee or cereal in terms of taste, its major disadvantage is that it contains little nutrition overall and can often be loaded with sugar. While it’s low in calories and fat, there are other alternatives low in fat and calories that are packed with nutrients to keep you feeling good.

Almond Milk

Almond milk is made with mashed up whole almonds and filtered water. It has a naturally sweet flavor, but can come in sweetened varieties. When compared to cow’s milk, almond milk is significantly lower in calories and sugar and is free from cholesterol and saturated fat. While it isn’t a great source of protein or calcium, it is loaded with heart-healthy fats and vitamin E. It’s often fortified to contain calcium and vitamin D.

The sweet flavor is one disadvantage to almond milk if you’re looking for something with a more milky or neutral flavor. Studies have also show that almond milk can interfere with the thyroid gland and is not recommended for anyone with lower functioning thyroids.

Which is Best?

The truth is, deciding which milk alternative is best is really a matter of dietary needs, possible allergies and taste preferences. While cow’s milk still contains more calcium than its alternatives, it is higher in fat and calories. Choose which option is best for you and enjoy!

Also confused about the difference between cage-free, free-range, or organic eggs? Check out our blog here!

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Good Tip: Saving money is important – especially if you have a lot of expenses like bills to pay, loans to pay off, and all the other things that drain your bank account. Figuring out a way to save money can feel tedious to some, and like a punishment to others. U.S. News suggests that you try one of these money saving challenges. The “No Eating Out for a Month” Challenge This one is self-explanatory. The goal is to avoid eating out for an entire month. This might be super easy for people who enjoy making meals at home. People who really enjoy dining out, or ordering food to be sent to their home, may struggle with this one. It’s worth a try because spending money on take-out is more expensive than buying groceries. The Pantry Challenge This one is a variation of the “No Eating Out for a Month” challenge. The goal is to use up all of your groceries before you buy more. It forces you to try and remember why you bought a food or beverage that you don’t know what to do with, and gives you the opportunity to find a way to use it. The one exemption to this challenge is the foods that have expired. Don’t eat them! Throw them in the trash. The “No Spend” Challenge Make a goal to avoid spending money during an entire weekend. The only exemption in this challenge is that you are allowed to pay bills. This challenge is interesting because it requires creativity. You must be creative and find workarounds for problems that you would typically solve by spending money. You may have a different outlook on spending after finishing this challenge.