This post is by OYS writer Melissa. You can read more about Melissa here and see all of her other posts here. Check out Melissa’s blog Nutrition and Wellness for Life. She offers wellness consultation services that focus on helping you eat better and exercise more. She also has a FB page!!
Reading food labels is time-consuming, but it can truly help you make small changes that will help make your diet more healthful. If you missed my post about reading food labels, check it out here. Once you get the hang of what to look for, it does get easier. But to help you out even more, I’m offering a regular monthly series covering different foods we all buy at the grocery store on a regular basis. If there is a food you want me to do a comparison for, just let us know! You can check out my previous comparisons on yogurt, frozen treats, bread, and granola bars here.
This month I am comparing milk. Milk used to be just milk, but there are so many new options out there these days. Whole milk, 2%, 1%, skim, soy, coconut, or almond? Organic or conventional? Flavored milk or plain? Lactose-free milk? As with every other food choice, you need to take into account your dietary needs, your budget, and your taste preferences when buying milk. I decided to test three options for plain-old milk drinkers who are not lactose intolerant.
I used the Shop Well app to help me out with this comparison. If you want to learn more about Shop Well and what it can do, check out this post.
I grew up drinking whole milk, even past when I was two years old, which is when doctors recommend children switch over to a lower fat milk. My best friend used to love coming to my house for dinner because we always had whole milk and her family only served skim. Whole milk is thick and creamy, and of course it’s loaded with fat and calories. Good for a growing baby, not so good for a middle-aged woman who is trying to watch her weight. Let’s look at the stats. One cup of whole milk will give you 149 calories, almost 8 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of which are saturated fat. You do get a nice 8 grams of protein and 28% of your daily calcium needs, but you can get that protein and calcium from other lower fat options.
Skim milk has been my go-to for a long time. If you are still drinking whole milk, it might be a good idea to step your way down to skim milk gradually. Start by dropping to 2% for a week, then 1% for a week, then finally to skim. Once you have been drinking skim milk for a while, whole milk will taste too rich for you. The best reason to switch to skim is to drop the fat grams you get from whole milk. One cup of skim milk is just 83 calories, significantly lower than the whole milk. You are still getting the same 8 grams of protein here, and 30% of your daily calcium needs, slightly more than the whole milk. Use skim milk on your cereal, in cooking and baking, or just to drink straight.
I recently switched to almond milk in my effort to consume less animal products. As a nutrition consultant, I have learned a lot about the effects animal products are having on our bodies, so I am slowly trying to phase a lot of them out. That’s mainly why I am putting almond milk as the best choice. It is a plant-based food, which is how we should be eating most of the time. Buying almond milk can be tricky. When you see it in the dairy case, you are going to see a lot of options. It’s important to pay attention to a few key things. First, make sure you buy unsweetened almond milk. Any of the sweetened flavors will give you added sugar, which we don’t want. Also, there are many almond milk blends out there now. I love the almond/coconut milk blends, but the coconut milk adds saturated fat. There is also plain almond milk and flavored almond milk. You can decide which you like best based on your tastes. So now let’s look at stats. This is for unsweetened vanilla almond milk. One cup gives you only 30 calories! That’s the lowest of all of the milk options. It does have 2.5 grams of fat, but no saturated fat. These fats are the good fats coming from the almonds, not animal fats. You are getting 0 grams of sugar here, compared to the 12 grams of milk sugars you get from the cow’s milk. Calcium jumps up even more to 45% of your daily needs. This is great for women because we tend to need more calcium, especially as we age. Some people may look at the 1 gram of protein and see this as a downfall, but it’s really not. Most Americans are consuming way more protein than they need to, so it is very likely that you are still going to get your protein needs from other sources. Almond milk does have a different flavor than regular milk, but I love it. It might just take some getting used to. You could start by mixing it a little bit at a time with regular milk until you can switch to just almond milk.
Milk is a grocery item most of us buy every week. It’s time to reevaluate your milk choice to see if it’s the best one.