Saturday, November 19, 2011

Milk Alternatives - Soy, Rice, Almond, Hemp???

Most of you are probably too young to remember when the milkman used to deliver cold, fresh milk in glass bottles to people's front door.  Those were the days before 1%, 2%, and skim milk became popular and when most towns had their own local dairy.  Now, we approach the milk sections of our supermarket and are faced with a bevy of choices.  Besides those varieties that come from a cow, we have soy milk, rice milk, hemp milk, and, my new personal favorite, almond milk.  And to complicate matters even more, most of these milks come in plain, vanilla, chocolate and/or carob flavors. 
For various reasons, more and more people are veering away from dairy, in particular cows' milk,  and the alternatives can leave you frustrated or confused.  One thing I have found is that if it comes in a carton in the dairy section, it tends to taste more like milk than if it comes in a carton off of a shelf.  When my older son's milk and soy allergies were at their peak, we were told to give him rice milk, specifically Plain Fortified Rice Dream.  It only came in cartons on grocery shelves and was definitely an acquired taste.  It had an almost sweet, plastic-like rice flavor and sometimes competed with the tastes of cold cereals.  It was thinner than milk and was very white in color.  My son was o.k with it, but I could never develop a taste for it.  During fasting periods, I just opted to give up milk altogether, since I did not care much for soy milk that came off of those same shelves in the same rectangular cartons.

Then I discovered Silk Soy Milk in the refrigerated section and thought it was wonderful.   It added a little bit of a very pleasant, slightly sweet taste to cold cereals.  And it worked beautifully in any hot cereal, such as oatmeal, or cream of wheat.  I preferred Plain Lite Soy Milk, both because it has fewer calories than even skim milk (70 compared to 90), and because it tasted the most like milk to me.  I didn't care too much for it as a beverage to have with a meal, but for a few years, it was my "milk" of choice.  Until, that is, I read about the calcium content of Almond Milk and decided to give it a try. 

Most milks (cows', and fortified soy and rice) contain 30% or less of the daily minimum requirement of calcium.  Almond milk contains a whopping 45% per cup!  And with only 60 calories, it beats all other milks (with Rice Dream having 120 calories per cup and 1% cows' milk 110). 

As for its taste, in my opinion, it can't be beat in cold cereal, where it goes perfectly with all the ones my family enjoys - from the Kashi Go Lean cereals to Chocolate-flavored Frosted Mini Wheats.  And when I want a cold glass of milk to accompany a meal, Almond Milk is my first choice.  It has a delightful, slightly nutty, but not sweet, taste.  I wish I could say that it is my all-around milk of choice, but alas!  I find that it falls short in how it cooks up with oatmeal or other hot cereals.   For my hot cereals, I still prefer Lite Soy Milk.  It cooks up creamier, giving those cereals the perfect texture and a taste I really enjoy (an exception is Carrot Cake Oatmeal - see 2 posts below for recipe)..  

As for how these milk alternatives work in baked goods,  both Soy and Almond milks work great (substituting them for the milk in bread, cake, and other such recipes cup for cup), but Rice Milk does not work well at all in this capacity.   

I hope I have helped those of you who are stymied about which milk alternative you should try.  I have not yet tried Hemp Milk but would love to know if any of you have and what you think of it.  My husband uses a Hemp-based protein powder and it is actually GREEN!  Please tell me that the milk is not....

Until next time, happy and healthy eating!  

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