‘Mooving’ to an Alternative to Cow’s Milk

What to do when your kid can’t drink cow’s milk
toy cow in glass of milk

As good as it may be for them, some kids just can’t drink cow’s milk. An allergy or lactose intolerance may have some parents looking for one of the many alternative milk choices that are now on the market.

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What are alternative milks?

Alternative milks are all considered to be a “non-dairy beverage alternative” because they don’t come from a cow. Some you’ll find in the dairy case, others on the shelf. The most common include:

  • Soy
  • Hemp
  • Coconut
  • Almond
  • Rice

Make sure the milk has the essential nutrients

Andrea Rumschlag, RD, LD, a pediatric dietitian at Cleveland Clinic, says the first step in choosing alternative milk for your child is to read the label.

“The big thing that you have to look for is that they’re calcium and vitamin-D fortified,” says Rumschlag. “The alternative milk products are not going to have as much calcium and vitamin D as a cow’s milk, so you need to make sure that they’re fortified.”

Look at the milk’s complete nutritional profile

Start with the calcium and vitamin D content, but be sure to look at the amount of protein, too. They’re all going to offer different nutritional profiles based on what you’re looking for.

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“Almond milk is going to have more vitamin E than coconut milk. Coconut milk has more potassium or iron,” says Rumschlag. “Soy milk has more protein than either of those other two milks.”

Rumschlag says to make sure the alternative milk you choose supports the nutritional needs of your child, which is based on their age. If you’re not sure what nutritional profile fits your child’s needs, talk to your pediatrician or a pediatric dietitian.

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