Would you swap dairy for plant-based milk? I spoke with people around Which? who have made the switch to find out why they felt it was right for them.
Plant-based milks are well on the rise. According to research released by Mintel in July last year, almost a quarter of Brits are now drinking them.
So is it sustainability concerns, health benefits, a combination of both, or something else that’s behind the increasing popularity of the plant stuff?
What better way to find out than by speaking directly with people who have made the switch. And, as I found out, there are plenty of them at Which?. Here’s what they told me.
Which one have you switched to and why?
Amy: Rice. I became intolerant to dairy as it made me feel quite unwell.
Lauren: I’ve tried all of them but like oat the best. Oat also apparently has a lower environmental impact.
Oscar: Oat. I tried soya and almond, but found oat milk most similar to cow’s milk.
Rosie: Almond. I switched as I felt I was having a little too much dairy for my body to handle.
Katie: Almond and hazelnut. I tried it for ethical reasons and haven’t looked back.
Roughly how much more are you spending on non-dairy milk every week?
Amy: It’s about £1.40 for one litre and I probably go through one a week. It’s long life so lasts for a while if I don’t use it up within the week, so I don’t feel I spend much more.
Lauren: I usually get through a one litre carton each week. The branded version costs around £1.20. I haven’t seen any supermarket-own versions yet, please let me know if you have!
Oscar: I drink less milk generally since going Vegan, so I probably spend less than I have in the past.
Rosie: 85p – thank you, Aldi!
Katie: I’m not sure.
Are you using it the same way as cows milk? Eg. in tea and coffee, in cooking etc. Is it as versatile as cow’s milk?
Amy: Yes. I think it works really well in cooking, baking and coffee, but I’m still not a fan of it with tea! The only downside is dairy-free milk can split when you put it into coffee and tea which isn’t very nice. And nothing can beat a proper bit of cheese!
Lauren: I use it in tea, coffee, cereal, baking and desserts, but wouldn’t recommend for anything savoury, like a white pasta sauce. It’s too sweet.
Oscar: I drink tea and coffee black as I didn’t find oat milk the best in it. It’s nice with cereal though.
Rosie: I found it a really distinctive taste in my teas and coffees, so I haven’t made the full switch – but I do use it as an alternative with cereals and hot chocolates.
Katie: I only drink milk with muesli and granola but am giving the almond milk to my daughter with her cereal.
Have you noticed any health benefits?
Amy: Other than relieving the symptoms of being intolerant, no.
Lauren: I was recommended to cut down on dairy to help with a recurrent sore throat – it seems to work. I’ve been a vegetarian for years and I’m interested in cutting down on animal products anyway, I definitely feel better for it. I hope the cows do, too.
Oscar: No major changes.
Rosie: Yes – I feel less bloated after using almond milk
Katie: Not yet (a month in), but I am consuming fewer calories.
Do you think you’ll stick with it long term?
Amy: Definitely. Unless I stop being intolerant to dairy then I’d be quite keen to start eating proper cheese again!
Rosie: I plan to, yes.
Katie: Yes as I prefer the taste. I may also now try other flavours/brands. I could also be tempted to try non-dairy cheese!
How nutritious is plant-based milk?
Along with everyone above, I also spoke with Shefalee Loth, our Principal Food Researcher/Writer and Nutritionist here at Which?. Here’s her view:
Plant-based milks have become increasingly popular and they’re a great alternative for those with a dairy allergy or lactose intolerance. However it’s important to note that they’re much more pricey than cow’s milk and don’t contain the same nutrients.
Plant-based milks are predominantly water so they are lower in calories than cows’ milk. Apart from soya milk they also contain much less protein. If you have switched, go for an unsweetened version and don’t choose organic – organic plant-milks can’t be fortified by law. Non-organic plant-milk have been fortified to contain the same vitamins and minerals, for example calcium and B-vitamins, that you’d find in cow’s milk.
Could you see yourself making the switch from dairy to plant-based milk? Do you think the health and sustainability benefits are worth it? Or have you already made the switch?
Either way, tell us about it in the comments.