A Guide to Dairy Free Milk Alternatives

Thursday, 13 June 2019

nut milk alternatives to dairy

If, as I did, you grew up thinking that cows milk was ‘normal milk’ and anything else was just a more expensive alternative, entering into the world of non-dairy milks can be quite an eye opening step. It took me a couple of months to find a dairy free milk alternative which I liked, and even longer to figure out which milks match up with different drinks and foods.

Thankfully, I now have my firm favourite milk alternatives which I prefer much more to the taste of cow’s milk and I know that drinking dairy milk is something I would never go back to. I’m not alone in this switch over either. With more and more people every day switching over from dairy to oat and plant milks, it has been predicted that by 2021, sales of plant based milk alternatives will have risen to 20% of those of cow’s milk.

Let’s talk about cow’s milk

Cow’s milk, and dairy milk in general, has a huge impact on our environment and also leads to the mistreatment of millions of cows every year. Cow’s milk is produced by cows for their own children, meaning it is meant to be consumed by rapidly growing calves and not by humans. As we don’t really need to grow when we reach adulthood, we don’t need the level of nutrients which is inside cows milk.

It’s no secret either that cows on dairy farms are tortured beyond belief, often living and dying in pain just to produce the milk which we drink. More than 29 million cows suffer and die due to the dairy and meat industry every year, with cows being subjected to forced pregnancies followed by their calves being killed, to being overmilked until their udders produce puss (which ends up in the milk) and abused daily. The saying rings pretty true: dairy is scary.

Not to mention the environmental impact that the dairy industry and milk production has. The dairy industry is responsible for a huge amount of the greenhouse gasses in our atmosphere which directly contributes to global warming. Dairy farms are responsible for the contamination of our air, water and soil, with a carbon footprint much larger than any of their non-dairy alternatives.

What are the alternatives to cow’s milk?

There are a huge number of non-diary alternatives to cow’s milk which are suitable for vegans or people trying to cut out more dairy from their diet. The amount of different milks available can be overwhelming, and I found it difficult knowing which I should pick, and which would have the least environmental impact.

The good news is, any dairy free milk which you choose is going to have less of an impact on climate change and carbon emissions than cow’s milk does. Here is a quick rundown of my top 4 non-dairy milks, the foods and drinks which I think they taste best with and their individual impact on the environment. This list isn’t extensive, but if you’re looking to switch up your diet a bit, it’s a good place to start!

Soya Milk

Soya milk is the most popular and most accessible alternative to dairy milk, with most shops, cafes and supermarkets stocking it as their choice of plant milk. Soya milk contains the same amount of protein as cow’s milk and fewer calories, making it a good choice of milk for people on a meat free diet. Soya milk is regarded as one of the healthiest non-dairy milk options, with very little saturated fat and sugar in it. For me, I find soya quite a tasteless non-dairy milk variety, which makes it good for using in hot drinks and baking without overpowering the other flavours too much. Environmentally, soya takes four times less water than dairy milk does to produce, and releases two times less C02 emissions, meaning its impact on the planet is much smaller.

Oat Milk

Oat milk is my personal favourite variation of non-dairy milks. For me, this one tastes the sweetest, but also the least overpowering and harsh in flavour. I love using oat milk in my tea and it also tastes great and really creamy in cereals. Oat milk is said to help lower your cholesterol and is also good for bone health (don’t believe that you need to eat dairy products to have healthy bones and teeth!). Oat milk has also been found to have had less of an environmental impact than dairy milk and some other plant milks, with brands like Oatly pioneering this sustainable movement. Oats take a lot less water to grow than some of their competitors like almonds do, meaning it leaves much less of a footprint than some of the other alternatives.

Coconut Milk

Coconut is my favourite milk for drinking in coffees, especially lattes. It has a very strong, sweet, nutty taste to it, so it’s perfect for matching with the strong flavour of coffee and making the drink a bit creamier. I love using coconut milk in porridge, as it works as a natural sweetener and makes the oats taste a little less bland. Coconut milk is said to have properties which can help to promote weight loss and improve metabolism. It also has little environmental impact, as coconuts farm are relatively eco-friendly, and require very little water and land.

Almond Milk

Almond milk is one of the lowest calorie alternatives to dairy milk, making it a great alternative for using in hot drinks and cereals. Almond milk has risen to huge popularity as an alternative to dairy milks in recent years, with records showing that the market for it has surged by 250% since 2011. Personally, almond milk isn’t my favourite non-dairy alternative, because I find the taste a bit overpowering and sharp in hot drinks. Almond milk, however, has the perfect flavour for smoothies and ice creams if you wanted to make your own non-diary variety. Mixing it with fruit helps to take some of the sharper flavour away and adds some sweetness to it. Almond milk is one of the cheaper dairy milk alternatives, however it does require a lot of water and pesticides to produce, increasing its environmental impact more than some other non-dairy alternatives.

Why not take up the challenge and see if you can make the switch from dairy milk to a non-dairy alternative? You may find that you like the taste even more, and you’ll help the planet in the process.


  1. This is such a great post! Personally I prefer almond milk overall and actually prefer it to cows milk now! Charlotte-Nichole

  2. I cant wait to try oat and coconut milk.