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How to choose the right milk for you

HOUSTON – The milk aisle has gotten to be overwhelming. 

Gabriella Gardner, clinical dietitian with Memorial Hermann, said with all the choices in the milk aisle some are better for you than others, depending on your dietary needs.

REGULAR COW MILK

For children, Gardner recommends regular cow's milk, "because it has a little bit more fat that will help support growth."

LACTOSE-FREE MILK

Many people find regular milk gives them unpleasant side effects like bloating and gas, and they need something lactose-free.

Brands like Fairlife milk come from a cow but have filtered out the protein that tends to upset stomachs. Non-dairy milk may also be a good choice to avoid lactose or any cow milk allergy.

PLANT-BASED MILK

These are milks like soy and hemp.

Gardner said these should be easier to digest. Her personal favorite is pea protein milk.

"I tend to prefer pea protein milk because it won't have as much sugar and then... the protein content is 10 grams. For regular cow's milk, it's eight grams of protein. So that could definitely make a difference and the carbohydrates are only six grams [in pea protein milk] compared to regular milk which can be between 12 and 15 grams of carbohydrates," Gardner said.

ALMOND MILK

Almond milk only has one to two grams of protein per cup but it does provide half of your daily requirement of vitamin E and the fewest calories. There are about 70 calories per glass.

CHOCOLATE MILK

Chocolate milk will serve up lots of sugar, calories and fat, so this should be avoided unless you’re an extreme athlete. Then, this is the ideal post-workout snack.

"There is a ratio after working out that you want to have certain amounts of carbohydrates per protein, so chocolate milk has that ratio," Gardner said.

WHICH HAS THE HIGHEST PROTEIN?

Gardner said the three milks with the most protein comparable to cow's milk are: pea-protein milk, hemp milk and soy milk.

Hemp milk is also a good choice if you're iron deficient, as it has lots of iron and more omega 3 than other non-dairy milks.

THE WARNING

Gardner said you have to do a label comparison in stores, because alternative milks may not have as much protein and essential nutrients (like vitamin D and calcium) as cow's milk.