As for which non-dairy milk is the best? This is subjective, and ultimately, completely down to your taste. Whichever one(s) tastes the best to you, is the one that will help you transition to and sustain a satisfying plant-based diet, so go forth and try them all till you find one (or a few) that suits.
There are superior and inferior, healthy and less healthy products however, so here’s the deal.
Firstly, you may well find you don’t really need a cow’s milk alternative. I sometimes just use water on my breakfast of oats, raisins, nuts and seeds, and it’s just fine, the liquid is just to moisten the dry oats (and the water kind of turns to oat milk in the bowl!), so it works perfectly.
As I mostly drink white/jasmine/green tea, no milk is needed for this either.
Ok, so let’s tackle the most controversial, common, non-dairy milk first. The milk of the soy.
Some people don’t digest soy too well, so if this is you, or if you’re allergic to soy- you have PLENTY of other options.
Ideally you want your milk to have as few ingredients as possible – just soy beans and water. The best one in the UK is Provamel Organic Unsweetened, which has just these two ingredients, but it is quite expensive. The Tesco and Asda Organic Soy Milks have water, soy beans, and natural flavouring. I’m not sure what the natural flavouring is, but I don’t use this milk often, and it’s a more acceptable price, so this is fine for me right now. Lots of US brands tend to have several other ingredients in, including added thickeners, salt, or vitamins.
Guess what? Exactly the same paradigm applies to all the other non-dairy milk alternatives. Whether its oat, hemp, almond, cashew, coconut, flax, brazil nut, rice, hazelnut, tomato or spinach milk (ok, I made those last two up), my recommendations are always the same:
– If you can, make your own. There are plenty of ‘how-to’ vids on Youtube, and a few on the Vitamix site. Again, only if you can, make sure the ingredients are organic. You’ll be saving money by not buying cartons of milk. Don’t worry if you can’t budget for organic – you are still avoiding a ton of bad stuff by not drinking cow’s milk.
– If you do buy your milk, make sure to choose the one with the least amount of ingredients (ideally just *nut/seed/grain*, water). If you need it sweetened, it should only have apple juice added.
– If you are desperate, and can only find your chosen non-dairy alternative with a bucketload of ingredients – you REALLY don’t want it to contain sugar. Try above all to get one without sugar. Even salt as an ingredient is better than sugar.
Although I mainly use soy milk, I love almond and coconut milk. I must admit I’ve yet to try flax milk, but it’s on my to-do list for my next visit to the US, where it’s more widely available.
What do kiddos like? I’m sure this varies too, but I’ve given very neutral tasting soy milk sweetened with apple juice to non-vegan kids, and also rice milk without any complaints. If you have a kid that goes crazy for a certain non-dairy milk, please let us know in the comments!