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By Lucas Duppler M.S., CISSN

Within the last couple of years, a trip down the dairy aisle at your local grocery store has evolved into a glimpse at consumer demand for alternatives to actual dairy products. According to Mintel, non-dairy milk sales are up 30 percent since 2011, and represent a $2 billion category.

There’s an important distinction that needs to be made before we go any further, that being that these products are not actually ‘milk.’ The FDA defines milk as a “lacteal secretion obtained by milking one or more healthy cows.” Of course, products such as soy and almond milks do not fit this definition, so I prefer to refer to them as milk-like products. While a plant-based diet has plenty of benefits, including obesity reduction, diabetes management, and blood pressure lowering, we’re here to discuss our main staple, protein, with which most milk-like products tend to be low in.

For instance, the average serving of almond milk tends to contain just one gram of protein. Compared to most dairy-based milk products, which contain on average 9 grams of protein, almond-based products fall short of packing a protein punch. However, almond milks tend to be lower in calories (hence the positive effect on obesity reduction), while also being lower in sugar content.

Yet, as it relates to protein, almond-based milk-like products will be awfully costly from a caloric standpoint with regards to your protein goals. As we’ve touted before, most people should be aiming to consume at least 25-30g of protein with each meal. To obtain the same amount of protein that comes from dairy-based products, you’d have to drink 9 servings of almond milk, which equates to 540 calories, roughly 440 calories higher than a single serving of skim milk. If you’ve chosen a plant-based diet for some of the positive outcomes outlined above, a much easier option would be to implement soy milk into your daily regimen. While still slightly lower in protein, these products are often fortified with both calcium and vitamin D and are lactose free, which is an obvious advantage for those whom are lactose-intolerant.