Photography by: Brian Leatart
Is there a catch? Well, milk alternatives don't have the same nutritional profile as cow's milk. So purchase a product that's been fortified with calcium and vitamin D, along with riboflavin and vitamins A and B12. What you don't want to buy--at least on a regular basis--are milk options that have been fortified with flavored sweeteners, since their sugar content can be high. Also, none of these products is a suitable replacement for breast milk or infant formula.
Turning Up the Heat
While some people restrict nondairy milks to their morning coffee and cereal, an easy way to experiment with the range of flavors is to make a smoothie: In a blender, combine a cup of nondairy milk with your favorite fruit; blend, then enjoy. Use frozen fruit or an ice cube for a more milkshake-like consistency, and add a bit of honey or maple syrup for extra sweetness.
But don't stop there. Milk alternatives can achieve near greatness when used in cooking and baking. In most recipes, you can replace cow's milk with a nondairy variety using a 1-to-1 ratio. Still, different types work better in different situations.
Unflavored soy milk, for example, shines in savory dishes, adding a thick, creamy texture to foods. Since it tends to curdle at high heat, use soy milk in recipes that contain little or no acid, add it at the end of the cooking process, and don't allow it to come to a boil. Because some soy milks tend to taste beanlike, sample them before using to avoid injecting any unwelcome flavor.
Inherently nutty- and slightly sweet-tasting, nut milks are considered best for desserts and savory-sweet dishes such as curries. The sweeter and lighter grain milks also work well in desserts, especially baked goods.
Whether in a glass, a cereal bowl, or a casserole, milk alternatives aren't just for vegans or the lactose sensitive. With their intriguing array of flavors and added nutrients, "nondairy milks can be a good addition to anyone's nutrition routine," says Wilkins.