7 Facts Parents Need to Know About Non-Dairy Milks

Soy and almond milk alternatives are popular choices, but it’s essential for parents to learn the facts they need to know about non-dairy milks. The majority of these alternatives are not nutritionally equivalent to cow’s milk, and they should only be administered to children after their first birthday.

Nondairy milks like rice milk, soy milk, and almond milk are quite popular, particularly among people who want to bring up vegan children or who are having problems getting formula. Other nondairy milk, including oat milk and hemp milk are also very common.. For many families, though, it is not about following a trend. Some prefer these milks due to cow’s milk sensitivity or allergy. Other households consume a vegan diet that excludes all animal products. I have dairy and nondairy milks in our home, and I’ve even prepared my own almond and cashew milk.

Certainly, nondairy milks can be a component of a balanced diet for children. However, as a nutritionist, I’ve observed some misleading information that bothers me. It is essential to be knowledgeable in order to ensure that your child receives the proper nutrients. Here are some essential facts concerning nondairy milks:

1. Never use nondairy milk as infant formula.

Infant formulas are specially formulated to satisfy the needs of infants. They are FDA-regulated and must meet federal nutrient requirements. Nondairy milks cannot be substituted for formula. Never substitute soy milk for soy-based infant formula, and never give your baby almond milk. Infants cannot substitute nut milk, other nondairy milks, or cow’s milk with breast milk or formula. After the age of one, both dairy and nondairy milks can be included in your child’s diet.

2. Nondairy milks are not nutritionally equivalent to cow’s milk.

Nutritionally speaking, nondairy milks are not direct replacement for conventional milk. In fact, calcium-fortified soy milk is the only nondairy milk considered comparable to dairy by the USDA’s MyPlate recommendations (due to its protein content). In contrast to nondairy milks, cow’s milk offers a natural source of protein, calcium, potassium, and vitamin B12.

3. Nut milks produced at home are not good sources of calcium or vitamin D.

Keep in mind that nondairy milks are generally fortified with calcium and vitamin D, despite the fact that homemade nut milks are simple to create and taste much fresher than store-bought versions. Therefore, the homemade variety will not contain the same nutrients.

4. Most nondairy milks contain very little protein.

I’ve read that almond milk is an excellent source of protein. It has only about 1 gram of protein per serving, compared to 8 grams in cow’s milk and 7 grams in soy milk. (Almonds are a good source of protein, but the nut solids are strained out when the milk is made.) The protein content of hemp, cashew, rice, and coconut milk is low or extremely low. So unless you’re feeding soy or pea milk, don’t rely on nondairy milk as a good source of protein, and make sure your older-than-1-year-old child is getting protein from other sources.

5. It is necessary to shake nondairy milks before serving.

Calcium solids can sink to the bottom of a carton of calcium-enriched milk. To obtain the bone-building calcium in your glass, shake the carton vigorously prior to pouring.

6. Nondairy milks can be loaded with sugar.

Be wary of flavored nondairy milks, which may include several tablespoons of sugar per glass. A cup of vanilla almond milk from a well-known brand has four teaspoons of added sugar (that’s roughly half a day’s worth for a child aged 4 to 8!). I’m fine with my children drinking flavored milk, but even “original” varieties may include additional sugar. Check the ingredient lists for additional sugar sources and check for the phrase “unsweetened” on the front of the product.

7. Nondairy Milks Have Unique Flavors

If you’re looking for nondairy milk that your children enjoy, you have various options, and they all have unique flavors. In contrast to almond and cashew milk, rice milk has a sweet taste. Determine what your family prefers by experimenting. And if kids don’t like nondairy milks on their own, they may enjoy them in a smoothie!

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