Milk alternative reviews

If you can't or won't drink cow's milk, what are your options?
 
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01 .Introduction

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We review over 70 varieties of soy, rice, almond, oat and coconut milks to see how they stack up nutritionally.

  • See nutrition information for the types  of non-dairy milk (excluding flavoured varieties) reviewed for our article in the table.
  • See Milking your options for a profile of each of these non-dairy milk alternatives.

On this page:

For more information about Beverages, see Food and drink.

Alternatives to cow's milk

Milk is a good source of many nutrients including protein, iodine, vitamin A, vitamin D, riboflavin (vitamin B2), vitamin B12, zinc and, importantly, calcium. Australian dietary guidelines recommend we include two or three serves of milk, its products or alternatives each day.

But what are your options if you have an allergy or intolerance to dairy and can’t drink it, or for ethical and environmental reasons you’d rather avoid it? Or you just plain don’t like it? An increasing range of beverages made from soy, cereals and nuts can be found in supermarkets and health food shops. But are they nutritionally adequate substitutes for cow’s milk, and should you choose one over another?

According to Tania Ferraretto, spokesperson for the Dietitian's Association of Australia (DAA), a major consideration is your overall diet. “If you’re avoiding milk because you just don’t like it – but you’re still eating other dairy products such as cheese – then you can probably base your choice purely on taste and cost,” she says. 

Watching your weight or worried about your cholesterol? Then add low kilojoule and low fat to your buying criteria. But if you follow a vegan diet, for example, then “choosing a substitute that’s high in protein and calcium should be a priority,” says Ferraretto. And, generally speaking, alternatives with 2.5% or less fat aren’t suitable as a substitute for cow’s milk for children under the age of two.

CHOICE verdict

The alternative most suitable for you depends on your overall diet or reasons for avoiding cow’s milk. One option might be to keep more than one type for different uses – soy milk on your cereal for a little extra protein and calcium, rice milk for baking and a glass of chilled almond milk for a low-kilojoule snack, for example.

However, in terms of nutrients, calcium-fortified soy is the best substitute for cow’s milk. If you’re removing cow’s milk and its products from your diet completely, consult a dietitian to make sure you choose the most suitable alternative for your needs. Visit the DAA to find one near you.

Cow's milk allergy & intolerance

A cow’s milk allergy occurs when your body produces antibodies against the protein (casein and/or whey) in milk. In this case all cow’s milk and its products – and usually goats and sheep milk – must be avoided. Intolerance, on the other hand, is likely to result from an accumulative reaction to lactose, the dominant sugar in milk. 

For people with lactose intolerance, lactose-free cow’s milks are an option. Pauls Zymil Lactose Free and Liddells Lactose Free are common brands. People with lactose intolerance may also find that they can tolerate cheese and yoghurt made from cow’s milk, as they’re lower in lactose.

If you suspect you have a cow’s milk allergy or intolerance seek the advice of your GP and get a referral to an immunologist, allergy specialist or an accredited practising dietitian for help and advice. A correct diagnosis and dietary advice is vital as a lifetime of avoiding foods unnecessarily can be a hassle and more importantly can mean you miss out on essential nutrients.

Brands and varieties tested

  • Australia's Own Organic Almond Milk
  • Australia's Own Organic Oat Milk 
  • Australia's Own Organic Rice Milk
  • Australia's Own Organic Soy Light
  • Australia's Own Organic Soy Malt Free
  • Australia's Own Organic Soy Premium
  • Black & Gold  Soy Milk
  • Bonsoy Soy Milk
  • Coles Lite Soy Milk
  • Coles  Regular Soy Milk 
  • Inner Goodness (Aldi) Rice Supreme Rice Milk
  • Inner Goodness (Aldi) Soy Supreme Light Soy Milk
  • Inner Goodness (Aldi) Soy Supreme Regular Soy Milk 
  • Inner Goodness (Aldi) Soy Supreme Regular Soy Milk 
  • Just Organic Organic Soy Milk
  • Macro Organic Light Soy Drink
  • Macro Organic Rice Milk
  • Macro Organic Soy Drink
  • NaturGreen Oat Calcium
  • Pacific Natural Foods Organic Almond Original
  • Pureharvest Organic Almond Milk 
  • Pureharvest Organic Oat Milk
  • Pureharvest Rice Milk
  • Pureharvest Rice Milk Calcium Enriched 
  • Pureharvest Aussie Dream Organic Rice Milk
  • Pureharvest Aussie Dream Organic Rice Milk Enriched with Calcium
  • Pureharvest Aussie Soy Lite with added calcium
  • Pureharvest Aussie Soy Original Soy Milk
  • Pureharvest Nature's Soy Organic Enriched with Calcium
  • Pureharvest Nature's Soy Organic Lite
  • Pureharvest Nature's Soy Organic Malt-Free
  • Pureharvest Nature's Soy Organic Original
  • Sanitarium So Good 99.9% Fat Free
  • Sanitarium So Good 99.9% Fat Free
  • Sanitarium So Good Almond Milk
  • Sanitarium So Good Barista
  • Sanitarium So Good Essential Soymilk
  • Sanitarium So Good Lite
  • Sanitarium So Good Lite
  • Sanitarium So Good Regular
  • Sanitarium So Good Regular
  • Sanitarium So Good Rice Milk
  • Sanitarium So Nice Lite Soymilk
  • Sanitarium So Nice Regular Soymilk
  • So Delicious Almond Plus Original
  • So Delicious Almond Plus Unsweetened
  • So Delicious Coconut Milk Original
  • So Delicious Coconut Milk Unsweetened
  • So Natural Calci Rich Soy
  • So Natural Original Soy
  • So Natural Rice Milk 
  • So Natural Rice Milk with Omega 3 DHA
  • So Natural Soy Extra Milky
  • So Natural Soy Light
  • Vitasoy Calci-Plus
  • Vitasoy Calci-Plus
  • Vitasoy High-Fibre
  • Vitasoy High-Fibre
  • Vitasoy Light
  • Vitasoy Oat Milk Original
  • Vitasoy Original
  • Vitasoy Rice Milk Original
  • Vitasoy Rice Milk Original 
  • Vitasoy Rice Milk Protein Enriched
  • Vitasoy Vitality
  • Vitasoy Soy Milky Lite 98.5% Fat Free 
  • Vitasoy Soy Milky Lite 98.5% Fat Free 
  • Vitasoy Soy Milky Regular 
  • Vitasoy Soy Milky Regular  
  • Woolworths Home Brand Rice Milk 
  • Woolworths Home Brand Soy Drink


 
 

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Instructions

Comparison table list

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  • Additional columns can be viewed by using the Next/Previous buttons.
  • Column headings are explained in Using the table at the bottom of the page.

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Compare
 
Price ($)CategoryFresh/UHTEnergy/100mL (kJ)Protein/100mL (g)Fat/100mL (g)Sat fat/100mL (g)Sugars/100mL (g)Sodium/100mL (mg)Calcium/100mL (mg)Added sugars/sweeteners?Brand
             
Almond Milk3.79AlmondUHT1500.62.70.2Australia's Own Organic
Oat Milk3.95OatUHT238110.1Australia's Own Organic
Rice Milk2.59RiceUHT2720.610.1Australia's Own Organic
Soy Light(A)SoyUHT15931.50.3Australia's Own Organic
Soy Malt Free2.59SoyUHT180230.4Australia's Own Organic
Soy Premium2.59SoyUHT213330.4Australia's Own Organic
Soy Milk1.86SoyUHT2442.93.30.7Black & Gold
Soy Milk4.49SoyUHT2414.12.20.3Bonsoy
Lite Soy Milk1.49SoyUHT1683.11<1Coles
Regular Soy Milk1.56SoyUHT2443.130.2Coles
Rice Supreme Rice Milk1.99RiceUHT275<110.1Inner Goodness (Aldi)
Soy Supreme Light Soy Milk1.49SoyUHT2013.41.50.2Inner Goodness (Aldi)
Soy Supreme Regular Soy Milk1.49SoyUHT2683.63.30.3Inner Goodness (Aldi)
Soy Supreme Regular Soy Milk1.69SoyFresh2603.13.40.4Inner Goodness (Aldi)
Organic Soy Milk1.99SoyUHT3053.63.20.6Just Organic
Organic Light Soy Drink2.09SoyUHT2153.21.70.3Macro
Organic Rice Milk2.29RiceUHT2570.61.10.1Macro
Organic Soy Drink2.09SoyUHT3113.14.70.5Macro
Oat Calcium5.95OatUHT1880.81.50.3NaturGreen
Organic Almond Original5.95AlmondUHT104.550.410.0Pacific Natural Foods
Organic Almond Milk6.95AlmondUHT1750.30.4<0.1Pureharvest
Organic Oat Milk2.79OatUHT2422.320Pureharvest
Rice Milk3.5RiceUHT2330.51.30.1Pureharvest
Rice Milk Calcium Enriched3.7RiceUHT2370.51.20.1Pureharvest
Organic Rice Milk2.49RiceUHT2330.51.30.1Pureharvest Aussie Dream
Organic Rice Milk Enriched with Calcium3.59RiceUHT2370.51.20.1Pureharvest Aussie Dream
Lite with added calcium2.45SoyUHT2322.91.50.3Pureharvest Aussie Soy
Original Soy Milk3.5SoyUHT3053.63.20.6Pureharvest Aussie Soy
Organic Enriched with Calcium3.95SoyUHT2342.52.30.4Pureharvest Nature's Soy
Organic Lite3.95SoyUHT2322.91.50.3Pureharvest Nature's Soy
Organic Malt-Free2.49SoyUHT1812.92.70.3Pureharvest Nature's Soy
Organic Original1.89SoyUHT3053.63.20.6Pureharvest Nature's Soy
99.9% Fat Free2.02SoyFresh1403.10.1<0.1Sanitarium So Good
99.9% Fat Free1.95SoyUHT1403.10.1<0.1Sanitarium So Good
Almond Milk2.79AlmondUHT1300.51.20.1Sanitarium So Good
Barista1.99SoyUHT1953.31.80.3Sanitarium So Good
Essential Soymilk2.59SoyUHT2203.21.50.2Sanitarium So Good
Lite2.02SoyFresh1603.10.90.1Sanitarium So Good
Lite1.95SoyUHT1603.10.90.1Sanitarium So Good
Regular2.02SoyFresh2603.13.40.4Sanitarium So Good
Regular1.95SoyUHT2603.13.40.4Sanitarium So Good
Rice Milk2.61RiceUHT2140.60.80.1Sanitarium So Good
Lite Soymilk1.79SoyUHT2003.21.40.2Sanitarium So Nice
Regular Soymilk1.79SoyUHT2603.130.4Sanitarium So Nice
Almond Plus Original(A)AlmondUHT121.9752.10.80.0So Delicious
Almond Plus Unsweetened(A)AlmondUHT69.72.10.80.0So Delicious
Coconut Milk Original5.95CoconutUHT870.4122So Delicious
Coconut Milk Unsweetened5.95CoconutUHT87.1250.42.12.1So Delicious
Calci Rich Soy2.19SoyUHT213330.4So Natural
Original Soy2.15SoyUHT234230.5So Natural
Rice Milk2.09RiceUHT2120.310.1So Natural
Rice Milk with Omega 3 DHA2.29RiceUHT2360.310.2So Natural
Soy Extra Milky(A)SoyUHT2643.43.40.3So Natural
Soy Light(A)SoyUHT15931.50.3So Natural
Calci-Plus2.85SoyFresh2703.230.6Vitasoy
Calci-Plus2.75SoyUHT2703.230.6Vitasoy
High-Fibre2.87SoyFresh20331.50.3Vitasoy
High-Fibre2.87SoyUHT20331.50.3Vitasoy
Light4.6SoyUHT820.90.50.1Vitasoy
Oat Milk Original2.49OatUHT25811.90.3Vitasoy
Original2.75SoyUHT2693.330.6Vitasoy
Rice Milk Original2.87RiceFresh2090.31.20.1Vitasoy
Rice Milk Original2.9RiceUHT2090.31.20.1Vitasoy
Rice Milk Protein Enriched2.9RiceUHT2311.51.20.1Vitasoy
Vitality(A)SoyUHT1863.31.80.3Vitasoy
Lite 98.5% Fat Free2.34SoyFresh15931.50.3Vitasoy Soy Milky
Lite 98.5% Fat Free2.25SoyUHT15931.50.3Vitasoy Soy Milky
Regular2.34SoyFresh2203.230.4Vitasoy Soy Milky
Regular2.25SoyUHT2203.230.4Vitasoy Soy Milky
Home Brand Rice Milk1.99RiceUHT2450.61.30.2Woolworths
Home Brand Soy Drink1.49SoyUHT3002.74.60.7Woolworths
Compare

USING THE TABLE

  • Prices are per litre, based on the prices we paid in Sydney supermarkets and health food stores in Feb 2012.
  • Nutrition and ingredient details are taken from the product label.

TABLE NOTES

ns Not specified on the label

(A) Not purchased. Nutrition and ingredient details taken from company website.

Almond milk

$2.79-6.95 per litre*

Almond milk contains the same heart-healthy fats as olive oil, and is naturally low in kilojoules and saturated fat. It contains a moderate amount of protein but only one of the five brands we found is fortified with calcium. Most products we reviewed have added sweeteners – look for sugar or agave, cane or rice syrup on the ingredients list.

Coconut milk

$5.95 per litre*

Coconut milk is low in carbs and kilojoules, but is significantly higher in saturated fat than other non-dairy alternatives and is lacking in protein and calcium.

Oat milk

$2.49-5.95 per litre*

Oat milk is relatively low in fat and saturated fat, and offers a moderate amount of protein. It also contains cholesterol-lowering beta glucan. However, two of the four products we looked at aren’t calcium-fortified. And oat milk may not be suitable for people with gluten intolerance.

Rice milk

$1.99-3.70 per litre*

Rice milk is the most hypoallergenic of all the milk substitutes, and 12 of the 15 products we reviewed are calcium fortified to levels similar to cow’s milk. It’s low in fat and saturated fat, but it’s also low in protein. None of the products we reviewed were sweetened, but rice milk is naturally high in sugars – it’s twice as sugary as soy milk on average.

Soy milk

$1.49-4.60 per litre*

Soy milk has more protein on average than other alternatives, so it’s good for vegans and those who don’t get protein from meat sources. Most products we reviewed are calcium-fortified to a level similar to cow’s milk, and are also frequently sweetened. Regular soy milk has a higher fat content on average than the alternatives, so it’s a good cow’s milk substitute for kids under two who can tolerate it (soy is a common allergen). Soy milk contains isoflavones, a class of phytoestrogens thought to have a protective effect against some cancers, although it’s recommended that women with oestrogen-dependent breast cancers limit soy foods. Soy milk is available in a range of varieties including organic, high fibre, barista quality and milky-tasting.

*Prices are based on those paid in Sydney supermarkets and health food stores in February 2012.

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