Saturday, 24 November 2012

Which milk, when, where?

Once upon a time, there was only soya milk - which is no good for me - I'm intolerant to soya milk. It causes me considerable stomach pain. Then there was rice milk I don't drink rice milk, because I'm still breastfeeding and so was advised not to, by the dietitian*.  

Fortunately for me, there are now so many dairy free milk substitutes out there, that I'm not constricted to just soya or rice milk. In fact there's so many out there now, that (if you're not allergic to nuts) it's difficult to know how/where to start. This post is about the ones we prefer and why.

I say 'ones,' as I don't have just one milk substitute. I used to think that was the way to go - I would find my replacement for milk and just stick with it. At that stage I was using Oatly - which is what we were recommended, by the paediatrician. I liked it (although you had to give it a really good shake before using it) but, made of oats, it wasn't low enough in gluten, when I developed my more recent problems, so I had to drop it and look for something else. But, eventually I came to the conclusion that the differing qualities, of each kind of milk, lent themselves to different things. So here (taking you through my daily routine) is how I prefer to go about it, now:

Coffee is my way to start the day. No one should get between me and my morning cup of coffee - it's probably the only one I'll have all day (after all, I don't want Baby to stay awake all night) and for that reason it's precious to me. I'm so used to having my coffee black now (an Americano starts my day) that no milk is required. However, if I'm so inclined, it has to be hazelnut!

Breakfast - Porridge
Most days, I start the day with gluten free porridge, in which I quite like coconut milk. I like almond milk even more, but really, I prefer hazelnut milk, in my porridge, the most. It's creamier and as it is sweet enough (for me) as it is, I don't feel the need to add sugar. Bonus!!

Brunch - Pancakes
Well, I don't have pancakes everyday, in fact, hardly ever, but sometimes the need arises. Coconut and almond both work for me in pancakes. I can't decide which I prefer.

Time for a Cuppa 
These days, no milk is required in my tea - I actually prefer it black. In my opinion, flavoured milks do nothing for tea and there's no getting away from the nutty tastes in my favourite milks, which tend to go better with coffee.

Baking - Bread
I used to use Almond milk, but I've now discovered the unsweetened version and decided that in bread, it's the best. Sweetened milks make the bread sweet, which I hate. If I couldn't have the unsweetened almond, I'd use coconut milk, instead.

Lunch - Scrambled Egg
No milk is required whatsoever - I normally just make it with sunflower dairy free spread! However, I have also used a splash of almond milk and that works too.

A Dessert - Custard
Coconut milk carries the blandest flavour, so works best for me in custard. I quite liked the sweetened almond version, but my sister (who didn't even like the coconut much - she has the luxury of being able to have dairy) really drew the line at that one. I only make custard when we have people round - we don't usually do pudding - so I haven't yet tried hazelnut, although I'm tempted!

A Night Time Drink - Hot Chocolate
Baby's choice
I've tried a few of the ready mixed hot chocolates - Kara's coconut and Blue Diamond's almond, but I find them too syrupy sweet for my tooth. 

Baby likes a little of the Blue Diamond version but I prefer making my own - preferably with Hazelnut milk, Green and Black's Cocoa powder and half a teaspoon of sugar. Topped with a splurt of Soyatoo spray 'cream,' and/or a couple of marshmallows, it's... Delish!!

Baby's Milk
I've been trying to get Baby in to hot chocolate, (despite the horrendous sugar content) as she seems to have fallen out of love with her usual soya milk and I'm trying to get some more calcium in. 

Up to now, she has been happy with Alpro Plus 1 soya milk - it's specially formulated to meet the requirements of a young child, from the age of one (with the correct amount of calories and the same added vitamins that you'd find in a toddler's follow-on milk).

Baby's 'Giraffe' milk
The problem is that, to be quite honest, I can be a bit of a worrier and, left to myself, I wouldn't have given her any soya at all, once I became aware of the potential concerns associated with this legume. 

The concerns arise from the worry that the phyto-oestrogens in soya might not be suitable to young children - boys in particular. This is because oestrogen, is of course related to female sexuality, and the worry is that it might affect boys' future fertility.

Such concerns have led the BDA** (British Dietetic Association) to recommend that soya milk should not be used for children under the age of six months. Above that age, they say that soya can be included  as part of a balanced diet, but should not be over relied on.

Of course many Vegans have been using soya milk for years and do not seem too worried by this, but the seed of doubt planted in my mind, by this advice, caused me some worry. It's why I let  Baby continue to breastfeed - so she didn't rely too much on soya milk. 

However, I have come to the decision that as Baby can't have cow's milk and this milk is the one our dietitian recommended - due to the correct calorie content and added vitamins, and as I'm expecting this stage of Baby's life to be temporary, then we just have to go along with it. Now that she is older though, and is not lacking in calories and is seemingly okay with almond milk, I'm happy to let her have some of that on occasion, instead. Hence in her hot chocolate!

And Finally - Out and about
Small is beautiful too!
When out and about, or away for the weekend, you don't want to be carting around a whole litre of dairy free milk, which is why I love these smaller cartons by Kara (more recently re-branded as 'Koko'). They are the perfect size for making a portion of porridge and also come with a straw. You can buy them singly, or in packs of three.

I've heard of people sending their primary age kids into school, with these to drink - instead of the usual cow's milk (which the schools supply). I can see us letting Baby have these, in years to come, when she goes to school (should they be required) as long as she likes them , of course!

In Conclusion
Funny how what seemed like a negative (not being able to have cow's milk) has turned into something quite positive. I don't think that I would ever have experimented with all these different milks, if Baby had been fine with cow's milk. Now, I wonder if, when I am free to go back to dairy, I might actually be happier with my dairy free milks, after all, or whether I'll find myself continuing to experiment with dairy free milks. After all, porridge with hazelnut milk is sooo delicious!

How about you? What milks do you prefer, and when?

Update: Kara (or 'Koko,' as they're now called) have recently brought out their mini cartons in strawberry and chocolate flavour. These are now available through Holland and Barrett, Ocado and some health food shops.

*In recent years, there has been concern over the levels of arsenic in rice. Babies being less able to cope with toxins in their body are therefore supposed to be steered clear of rice milk. If you're breastfeeding, the worry is that the arsenic could pass through one's system and into the baby. Personally, I don't like rice milk anyway. The little I have tasted didn't appeal to me, although I know it does to others.

However, if rice milk is all you can have, due to other allergies/intolerances, then that it what you have to use. I was interested to read an article about the concerns over arsenic in rice, the other day, which I think could prove helpful for anyone battling with these concerns.

*Arsenic in your Rice? A clinical Nutrition Report (US)
*Arsenic in Rice Drinks (FSA - UK)

**Food Fact Sheet - Suitable Milks for Children with Cow's Milk Allergy by the BDA.

Update 2: I'm very sorry, but the above link does not appear to be working. Meanwhile, this one (also by the BDA) does seem to work: Soya and Health

Related Posts:

There are alternatives - milk substitutes
Happy with Hazelnut?

Anyone for Almond Milk?
Have you tried Hemp?


  1. Great article.

    We use quite a lot of hemp milk but find it is better suited to sweeter dishes such as porridge, pancakes, rice pudding and muffins. Would love to go back to coconut milk and cream, particularly on porridge, but bub seems to react to it :(

    Currently trialling oat milk for savoury dishes such as pseudo macaroni cheese and Alpro Toddler but like you am a bit nervous about soya.

    1. Thanks for the compliment. Not sure of which specific allergies you have to struggle with, but wonder if you could use almond milk? Because you can get it sweetened and unsweetened, it means you can get a little more versatile.

      Otherwise there is also Quinoa milk (health food stores). I've not tried that yet (as I'm not sure if Quinoa would be alright for me) but the only thing is, I don't think it has added calcium.

  2. Pity the BDA are 'reviewing' the fact sheet... Would like to have read that.

    1. Hi Hannah! Sorry about that! It was up when I wrote the post a few weeks back :( I held the post back for a bit, because I wanted to write another first. However, I pushed it forward, because I've been having a few issues with copyright. Should have checked the link again. Will see if I can locate the info for you.

  3. I love Kara coconut milk in coffee and on my cereal. I have always drank tea black so that's not a problem- milk ruins tea in my opinion. I didn't mind hemp but my hubby didn't like it. I give my kids goat's milk or Kara. My sister loves almond milk but I find it a bit gloopy. I am the same as you re Soya. I have researched and researched it and cannot find a satisfactory answer as to whether it is dangerous or not- my Dad thinks it's a myth perpetuated by the meat and dairy industry. Who knows. We are all cow's dairy free by choice but we have some sheep and goat's dairy

    1. Wow! Your family avoids milk, by choice. What about food products containing milk?

      I have to say, I would love it if Baby could tolerate goat's milk - I used to LOVE goat's cheese! Never tried sheep's milk, though. However, for those with cow's milk protein intolerance both of those are considered out, due to the proteins being so similar.

  4. Yeah we avoid it all but i don't care ignore it says may contain as long as it is not a listed ingredient. although my eldest had just started pre school and I've had to say let her have food with it in if she's gonna miss out when they had a spoonful of porridge when reading goldilocks. I would hate to have to manage a kid at school with an allergy x

    1. Yeah, I was hoping Baby would grow out of this by now - the baby of one mum I met grew out of it in three months! However, looking ahead to school, I guess if that situation arose, I would ask them either to make some with a dairy free milk (assuming that it didn't conflict with children in the class with other allergies, such as nut)or allow for a separate portion to be made with her own milk. I'd even make it myself and take it in, if necessary, but it is a bit of pain - we have to think about it a lot, when we're out and about!

  5. Good to see the small cartons, as so far I've only found the flavoured ones. My son's the only one in the house having non-dairy, and buying a huge carton is a total waste when he eats at nursery 5 days a week, then only has it for cereal on 2 days...he refuses to drink any of them (apart from Oatly at nursery - won't have it at home though), so I really need the smaller cartons.

    1. Yeah, It's a horrid feeling when you opene a carton of milk for one meal and then know you won'tbe able to use the rest (for whatever reason). Up 'til now, I've only found the un-flavoured smaller cartons in the health food shops, or at the Allergy Show, but I have discovered that Amazon sell the smaller cartons in three packs (of 250ml) but you have to buy eight lots (of the three). It comes to £15.12 for 24 small cartons (plus P&P). Would that help at all?