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I saw a ridiculous commercial on TV recently. It was a mimic game show and the point of the commercial was that soy milk and other non-dairy alternatives have a couple of ingredients, while dairy milk only has 1, so you should pick dairy because it's simple and has less ingredients. ::eyes roll::
I took the commercial as a sign that the harms of dairy are getting out there and the dairy industry is getting nervous. I'm sure if sales were as high as normal they wouldn't be running advertisements against their non-dairy competitors... nonetheless, dairy isn't just one ingredient. Just because they're not required to put what the cow was force-fed (corn, soy, etc., which invariably comes back out in their milk), plus note the antibiotics and hormones the animal was also given (also in the milk), and anything else that is artificially added doesn't mean it didn't happen ;) But this isn't a rant on dairy, because we all know how gross and bad for our bodies it is. If you don't know, this is a good start on why dairy is awful. I also recommend watching Forks Over Knives.
Now, let's talk plant-based milk! I have a video blog post, what is non-dairy milk?, but the topic is worth a little more exploration.
When people ask me which one they should purchase, my general answer is to find a plant-based milk you like and use it. If you don't like soy milk, that's fine. Try almond or rice or oat milk. Try different brands, too. There is a reason there are so many brands — they taste different. You might also prefer sweetened over unsweetened. The only milks I suggest avoiding are the coconut milk-based ones because they are so high in saturated fat (and they don't always work well in cooking and baking) and hemp milk because the earthy hemp flavor can be strong and not complementary to the flavors in your recipes. You can also make your own rice milk very easily. (You can also make your own almond milk and oat milk easily, but soy milk generally needs a machine).
What to look for when buying your non-dairy milk:
1. Make sure the plant-based milk you are using doesn't contain oil. Refrigerated milks tend to, but shelf-stable do not. The shelf-stable ones also tend to be cheaper, and the great thing about them is you can stock up so you never run out in the middle of the recipe.
2. If you trying to eat a low-fat diet, you might want pick the brand with the lowest amount of fat per serving. This tends to be rice or oat milk, as soy and almonds both are fairly rich in fat naturally. You can, however, find low-fat and fat-free soy milks. We like WestSoy's non fat soy milk but tend to buy unsweetened almond milk.
3. Pick the brand with the least number of ingredients.
4. Buy unsweetened if you can. If you need your plant-based milk sweetened, that's fine. Sugar is a scapegoat, not the biggest concern. A little sweetener in your plant-based milk is nothing to worry about — just make sure you're buying sweetened plain or vanilla, not chocolate or another flavor, which is basically a candy bar in a glass.
I predominantly use unsweetened almond milk in my cooking and baking, but I don't drink it by the glass or eat cereal. When I ate cereal, I used sweetened fat-free soy milk. Scott used to drink plant-based milk by the glass when he was transitioning to a plant-based diet (because he used to drink a lot of milk by the glass and habits are hard to break) and he liked sweetened soy milk or sweetened almond milk.
I find most people coming off milk like sweetened almond milk the best, but again, we all have our own tastes.
Finally, about that commercial. I can make rice milk (and almond milk) with just rice or almonds and water. So, I win on simplicity. LOL!