Your Guide To The Best Dairy Alternatives
One of the most impactful changes I’ve made to my diet is going dairy-free – well, 90% of the time. Obviously, if you watched my recent ice cream wars on Instagram, you know that I’m definitely not super strict about it. But if I do eat real dairy, I try to keep it to a few bites, otherwise, I know there will be consequences.
Consequences, because my body is actually pretty sensitive to dairy! It almost always breaks me out, and I usually get pretty bloated if I eat a lot of it.
Even if you’re not as sensitive to dairy as I am, sometimes it’s just fun to add some variety to your diet and experiment with dairy alternatives.
Here are the best alternatives for every type of dairy!
Are dairy alternatives healthier?
Let’s talk about this first.
Dairy (milk, cheese, butter, yogurt, etc.) DOES provide a ton of nutrients – calcium, vitamin D, and protein being the big ones! However, you don’t HAVE to drink milk to be healthy.
Plant-based dairy products are usually lower in protein. Some options are still rich in vitamins and minerals, while others aren’t. Some products are packed with sugar and additives, while others aren’t.
It pretty much comes down to your personal preferences (taste, diet preference, etc.) and what works best for your body!
Dairy Alternatives For Milk
Soy Milk – For a while, this was pretty much the standard plant-based milk. Soy milk is the best dairy alternative for protein – 7 grams!
Nut Milk – Nut milks have a pretty mild taste and texture, making them super popular! They have about 60 calories, 2.5g fat and 1g protein per cup.
Oat Milk – Oat milk has become super popular recently and it’s actually one of my faves. I just love the taste! A cup has about 130 calories and 4g protein.
Rice Milk – The consistency of rice milk is a little watery, but it tastes sweeter than other non-dairy options. A cup has about 120 calories and 1g protein.
Hemp Milk – This option is a little higher in fat (~7g per cup) than the others, but it’s mostly polyunsaturated fats, which are super healthy.
Coconut Milk – Another good option for healthy fats. A cup has about 80 calories, 5g fat and 0g protein.
There are a few other options out there, but these are the ones you’ll see the most often!
Butter adds creamy texture and flavor to food, whether it’s mixed into a recipe or spread on the finished product. Most dairy alternatives for butter have similar calories and total fat. However, the fats that come from plant-based butter are usually much healthier polyunsaturated fats like omega-3 and omega-6. Dairy-free substitutes for butter include:
You can do sooo many things with yogurt! You can eat it plain, bake with it, and use it to make dressings, dips, or sauces. Yogurt made with dairy is a good source of protein (especially Greek yogurt) and probiotics. The nutrition for plant-based yogurts is kind of all over the place, but they’re still usually a good source of probiotics.
Almond Milk Yogurt – 13o calories, 7g fat, 3g protein, 14g carbs per 6 ounces of plain yogurt.
Coconut Yogurt – 180 calories, 14g fat, 1g protein, 12g carbs per 6 ounces of plain yogurt.
Oat Yogurt – 70 calories, 1.5g fat, 6g protein, 9g carbs per 6 ounces of plain yogurt.
Soy Yogurt – 80 calories, 3.5g fat, 6g protein, 6g carbs per 6 ounces of plain yogurt.
You can definitely find a few brands of vegan cheese at the grocery store, but sometimes they’re super processed. Some other options include:
Cashew Cheese – Use cashews in recipes to make a softer “cheese,” like I did in this vegan cheesecake
Nutritional Yeast – This is the most convenient alternative to hard cheeses, like Parmesan. It has a nutty, cheesy flavor but is also pretty nutritious! It’s actually a complete protein (2g per tablespoon), making it a great option for vegans.
Finding a good non-dairy option for cream is important for cooking, or if you’re a coffee drinker who likes to add a little creamer. There are tons of options for non-dairy cream in the store now. Some of them can have tons of sugar and additives so if you want something more simple, made from whole foods, try:
Coconut Milk – Super creamy and flavorful!
Cashew Cream – Kinda like making cashew cheese, but with a smoother, thinner texture.
Last but not least… ICE CREAM! You know I’m an expert in this department. There are tons of options at the grocery store for ice cream made with every milk alternative: soy, almond, oat, you name it. But if you want to make your own…
First, if you haven’t tried the frozen blueberry/almond milk hack for ice cream, you MUST try it asap! It’s seriously magical.
I also looove using frozen bananas to make dairy-free “ice cream.” Just peel, slice, and freeze bananas every time you have some that are brown/about to be thrown away. Next time you’re craving ice cream, all you have to do is throw some frozen banana in the blender with a little almond milk.
Not even kidding, it’s like soft-serve ice cream. You can even add a little peanut butter, other fruit, or cocoa powder to play with the flavor!
What are your go-to dairy alternatives? Tell me in the comments!