Readily available dairy alternatives are expanding


Visit a grocery nowadays and you’re bound to see plenty of nondairy milks and products competing with the real deal. Thanks to the popularity of plant-based nutrition, nondairy products are increasingly finding a home in consumers’ carts.

New research from Mintel, a public relations and marketing firm, reveals that nondairy milk sales have seen steady growth in the past several years. Between 2012 and 2017, the market grew an impressive 61 percent. Almond, coconut and soy products continue to be popular dairy alternatives. However, new brands and products are continually competing in the nondairy segment, including pecan, quinoa, oatmeal, and flax-based products. This is a stark change from just a decade or so ago, when people with dairy allergies or dietary preferences had few nondairy alternatives to choose from.

There are several reasons why people may want an alternative to dairy, as milk, cheeses and yogurts aren’t suitable for everyone. A 2015 study published in the European Journal of Pediatrics found that cow’s milk allergies are the most common food allergies in young children. That allergy follows many people into adulthood. After allergies, the health and wellness resource Healthline says 75 percent of the world’s population is intolerant to lactose, the sugar found in milk.

Nondairy alternatives make sense for many people, though it’s important to note there are some distinct differences between nondairy and dairy products to consider.

• Nondairy products have fewer calories than dairy.

• Nondairy products contain a greater number of ingredients than dairy.

• Nondairy products have a higher water content than dairy.

• There is added sugar in some nondairy products.

Those new to nondairy items can experiment with the various products available. Here are some options to try:

• Soy milk — This product is made from whole soybeans or soy protein isolate. It’s generally creamy and mild, and is the most similar product to cow’s milk in regard to nutrition. One cup of unsweetened soy milk contains 80-90 calories, 4-4.5 grams of fat, 7-9 grams of protein and 4 grams of carbohydrates.

• Almond milk — This beverage has a sweet, nutty flavor. It is low in calories, fat and carbohydrates. Almond milk is low in protein, which may deter some people. One cup of unsweetened almond milk contains 30-35 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, 1 gram of protein and 1-2 grams of carbohydrates.

• Coconut milk — Creamy like other nondairy products, coconut milk must be avoided by people who are allergic to coconut. Coconut milk is low in carbohydrates, but can be high in MCTs, a type of saturated fat. One cup contains 45 calories, 4 grams of fat, no protein and almost no carbohydrates.

• Oat milk — New to the nondairy arena, oat milk is made from a mixture of oats and water. Other ingredients may be added to produce a desirable texture. While high in protein and fiber, oat milk also is high in calories and carbohydrates compared to some other dairy alternatives. One cup contains 140-170 calories, 4.5-5 grams of fat, 2.5-5 grams of protein and 19-29 grams of carbohydrates.

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