Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Milk Project

Welcome to my project..."The Milk Project". I set out on a quest a few months ago to explore the vast market of non-dairy milks and find some new favorites.  Giving up milk, was one of the first things I did on my journey to becoming vegan, mainly because it was a source of constant stress and discomfort on my body, as I've been lactose intolerant nearly my whole life.

See my results below as I sipped, tasted, and chugged
 15 different non-dairy milks.

In a post of mine from the past about "Alternative Allergy Remedies" I share that cutting out all forms of dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese, butter, etc) helped alleviate most of the allergy/sinus symptoms I was battling with on a daily basis. In this post I cite one of my favorite quotes that stopped me cold in my tracks from wanting to ever drink or eat dairy again:

"Research cited by Robert Cohen has made the point that there is up to a gallon of extra mucus in the body created as a result of drinking dairy. The mucus problem is associated with the fact that 87 percent of milk protein is casein, the main ingredient of Elmer's Glue."

Yes, you read that right- Elmer's Glue! Gross- a pound of that in my body! You've gotta be kidding me! Goodbye milk (or cow's milk that is).

 On top of my intolerance, I've come to learn that the milk industry and cow's milk itself is something not worth supporting, or drinking.  The funny video below makes an interesting point...we're not baby cow's so why are we drinking cow's milk? I don't feed my breast milk to my dogs, and we don't drink the milk of monkeys/cats/or other mammals (besides goats) that nurse their let's say bye-bye to that cow milk! There are plenty of other plant-based alternatives.

(I actually review this Silk PureAlmond Milk below, so you can check out how I liked it. Also, an interesting fact about the "Silk" brand is that although it is a plant-based milk, it is owned by Dean Foods, one of the largest dairy processors and distributors in the country. So if you're a die-hard vegan and really want to keep your dollars away from a brand that supports the exact industry we're trying to avoid, you may want to look into some other non-dairy brands like SO Delicious one of my personal favorites).

Don't worry cows, I won't take your milk!

But once I kicked the "moo juice" I went to a common alternative, soy milk. I particularly liked vanilla soy milk, as it reminded me of melted ice cream. Add that to some cereal, and I was one happy milk-free girl.

Over time, I got tired of vanilla soy milk and started looking for alternatives. My new love then became almond milk, vanilla of course! I even learned how to make my own almond milk, which you can read about here.
Here I am making my own almond milk (squeezing the milk
from a nut-milk bag).

And once Brandon went vegan, Rice Dream Original Rice Milk entered our lives and it served as a great neutral base for cereals, drinks, and a variety of baking and cooking needs. But then while walking through my natural foods store one day, I began to look at the non-dairy milk section that seemed to just keeping going, and going, and going!  There were all kinds of milks. From coconut milk to hemp milk, and even milk made from hazelnuts! "Wow...I've got to try some of these," I thought.  And thus the "Milk Project" was born.
Found this quote on one of my milks,
"Change your milk. Change your life."
I like that.

What a better excuse to splurge and experiment with all the different flavors, brands, and varieties.  Let's just say the "inner-scientist" in me was very excited at the prospect of this project (my wallet on the on the other hand, not so much). So to ease the price burden (these milks are not always cheap!), I purchased one or two (sometimes three) a week from my local health food store for taste testing.
One of my many "taste testing sessions."

One note about my project is that you won't see any soy milk for a couple of reasons.  Soy milk is one of the easiest and readily available non-dairy milks, and my milk project was all about showing you the unique milks you might not have though existed or that you maybe looked past because they were a bit strange. Secondly, I try to keep my soy intake low. As a vegan, I naturally eat more soy because several of my meals throughout the week include soy products as a form of protein (such as tofu, tempeh, or tvp). Now although soy has touted some great health benefits, I don't want to go overboard with it. So whenever I can, I look for a non-soy alternative...and in this case that means avoiding soy milk. It's not that I won't ever drink it, it's just that I don't want to rely on it as my main non-dairy milk, especially since there are plenty of alternatives out there. *I also did not try any oat milks, because they just don't seem to agree with me, even when they are gluten-free.*
Which milk will be the winner?

Enough back story and explaining, let's get on to the results!  In the end, I tried 15 different kinds of non-dairy milks. Below is a picture of each milk, some of it's stats (calories, fat, sugar), and my honest review of it. Keep in mind, every one's taste buds are different so what I find knockout delicious, you may think is gross! And what you may think is delicious, I might think is drain-worthy (a trait I learned well in this project). So just take my reviews with a grain of salt, and try the brand and flavor for yourself. Without further ado, my results!

My Pick for Best Overall Non-Dairy Milk....

Calories: 120
Fat: 2.5g
Sugars: 10g
Comments: Okay, so this is one that I already liked and used frequently, but even after trying all the milks I did, I continue to like it for several reasons: great neutral flavor that is probably the closest to regular milk in flavor, good price (I buy from Wal-Mart and it's probably the cheapest price of all my non-dairy milks), and it goes works great in cooking and baking. This is a great milk for those "first-timers" out there that are looking for an easy milk to transition to first.

It's Brandon's choice of milk for his cereal,
even if that cereal is "Oops! All Berries!"
Gotta love that man's sweet tooth! ( :

A close alternative to the Rice Dream brand is the almost identical Rice Drink from Trader Joe's that is a buck or two cheaper...

Calories: 120
Fat: 2.5g
Sugars: 10g
Comments: Similar comments to the Rice Dream milk above, just cheaper. So if I went to Trader Joe's more often, this would probably be my top pick.

My Pick for Runner Up....

Calories: 50
Fat: 4.5g
Sugars: 0g (sweetened with Stevia)
Comments: This is my new favorite non-diary milk...thank you "Milk Project!" It does have a slight coconut flavor, but it's very light. The vanilla flavor complements it very nicely and is not overpowering.  I also love that it is sweetened with Stevia, as opposed to sugar. This helps me because I try to avoid sugar whenever I can. This is my go-to milk to put on cereals, and even to drink. It gets the Ashley's Green Life two thumbs up!

My favorite: SO Delicious Sugar-Free Vanilla Coconut Milk

It's nice and white too, not always a guarantee with non-dairy milks!

A close alternative to the SO Delicious brand is the almost identical "Vanilla Coconut Milk" from Trader Joe's that is a dollar cheaper, but not sugar-free.

Calories: 90
Fat: 5g
Sugars: 8g
Comments: The coconut flavor is stronger in this version, but I still love the combo of the vanilla and coconut flavors!

Brandon's Pick for Runner Up...

Calories: 100
Sugars: 10g (sweetened with dried cane syrup)
Comments: Wow...this milk is goooood! Did you ever use that bottle of Hershey's Chocolate Syrup that you could mix in with milk? I loved that stuff as a kid, and the second I took a drink of this chocolate coconut milk, I was blown away that it could taste so similar (and yet be so much healthier!). Granted, this milk isn't perfect. It does have some sugar, 10g, but that's about the same amount that's in Rice Dream. Also, it's a bit pricey. When it's not on sale, it can cost almost as much as a Rice Dream that's double it's size! But Brandon  loves it, so he usually has me get two cartons a week and he'll use it in smoothies or just drink it straight out of the carton, because it's just that good! You've got to try this milk.

His favorite way to drink it?
Right out of the carton! I don't blame
him...that stuff is good!

As for Avery's favorite milk? Well, that would be her mom's milk, which after 14 months of nursing, she shows no signs of weaning. This is fine with me, because not only is it still providing her with a wealth of vitamins, nutrients, and's free! Talk about going green while bonding, feeding, and loving my baby girl.
Pumped or fresh, Avery's choice
is breast!

Now back to the "Milk Project." Here's all the other flavors that I tried, and although some of them were "okay" they just weren't for me...

Calories: 45
Fat: 4.5
Sugar: 0g (sweetened with Stevia)
Comments: I had so much luck with the other SO Delicious Sugar-Free Coconut Milk that I thought this would be a sure-fire hit, but it was just okay. Without the vanilla flavor, I just tasted a watery coconut flavor. I was hoping it could have taken the place of my Rice Dream, but the coconut flavor was a bit too strong to be used in baking and cooking for me.

Calories: 110
Fat: 3.5g
Sugars: 14g
Comments: This one actually had a pretty good flavor for being a nut milk, but the sugar count (14g) was a bit high for me. They did have a chocolate flavor one though that might make a nice little dessert drink.

Calories: 60
Fat: 2.5g
Sugars: 7g
Comments: Not bad, just not feeling the almond flavor. I'd probably drink one of Silk's soy milks over this almond milk.

Calories: 70
Fat: 2g
Sugars: 8g
Protein: 5g (most have less than 1g)
Comments: The protein in this milk comes from pea protein and rice protein, in case you were curious. I'm not sure if this is what makes it so thick or what, but for me it was a bit too thick. It was almost like drinking watered-down yogurt. I suppose it would be good in a smoothie because it would give you that extra protein, but you wouldn't have to taste or see it's thick texture.

When I went to pour this one down the drain (just not quite for me),
I captured just how thick it really is. Look at those clumps!

Calories: 70
Fat: 2.5g
Sugars: 8g
Comments: I did not like this flavor much at all. From this project, I've learned that nut milks are not for me...I might be a "coconut convert" now. Well, rice milk will always have a special place in my heart, but nut milks, probably not.

Calories: 60
Fat: 5g
Sugars: less than 1g
Comments: Apparently the key for me with coconut milks is that they have to be sweetened or with some other type of flavor. This one was so "watery" and just off tasting, I had to throw it out. Perhaps the sweetened version would have been better.

Calories: 45
Fat: 3.5
Sugars: 0g
Comments: I thought this would be a great milk that combined my old love (almond milk) with my new love (coconut milk), but that was not the case. Despite it's great nutritional specs of being low in calories and sugar, it was lacking in the flavor department for me and I didn't think the coconut and almond tasted very well together at all. Oh well...

Calories: 40
Fat: 3.5g
Sugars: 0g
Comments: Anytime I buy something in "original" flavor I'm looking to see if it can take the place of my dearly loved Rice Dream that's so neutral and wonderful...unfortunately this "original" almond milk did not fit the bill. I'm sure it was because it was "unsweetened" and it left a little almond flavor in everything I put it on.

Calories: 90
Fat: 4g
Sugars: 12g
Comments: After learning my lesson from some of the other milks, I knew when trying something as "adventurous"  as a sunflower milk (I know I'm a crazy girl!) I'd better stick with some sweetener and vanilla flavoring. Unfortunately it didn't help me much, because I remembered that I don't like the flavor of sunflower seeds...thus meaning, I don't like the flavor of sunflower milk! No amount of vanilla or sugar was going to cover up that sunflower seed after-taste.

Calories: 70
Fat: 6g
Sugars: 2g
Comments: I'm afraid this is my least favorite of the whole project because it has such an earthy flavor. It doesn't help that I got the original flavor, that was about boring and yucky. Perhaps a little sweetening and vanilla flavor would have helped. I love hemp seeds in my smoothies, but I don't think hemp milk is for me.

So that's the results of my "Milk Project," but don't take my word for it, do your own milk project. Explore the variety of flavors and brands out there. You could try a little at a time to decrease the load on your wallet. See if you can find a new favorite out there for your cereal, for drinking, or just for dunking some gluten-free, vegan mock-Oreos in! My advice: try the sweetened version first, and try a little flavor (vanilla or chocolate) to help ease the transition to plant-based milks.

You can still enjoy some cookies and
"milk" cows needed!

Do you already have a favorite non-dairy milk? Post below!

This post was recently linked up to "Healthy Vegan Fridays" which you can find on any of these three blogs: Everyday Vegan GirlVeggie Nook, and Carrie On Vegan. So get your "vegan on" and check out some of these great recipes and other plant-based posts.

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