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What to Drink Without Milk

29 July 2010 22 Comments

In my inbox today was an article from Team Beachbody entitled, “9 Foods Not to Give Your Kids.” Without even reading the article, I headed straight here to type.

Something deeply disturbed me at a restaurant recently. You know those very large thick plastic cups (maybe 32 oz?) that they serve bottomless pop in? (yes, I know, soda for California!) We watched the most obese child I have ever seen (probably about 7 or 8 years old) downing several of these, but that wasn’t the worst part. His little sister, who couldn’t have been more than 2 years old, drank four entire cups of Coca Cola in these. Four 32-ouncers! At first I was shocked to see someone feeding pop to what looked like a child barely past infancy, but then seeing her 32-ouncer being refilled three times!

But putting the article and my memory together reminded me of the dairy council studies that basically state kids who don’t drink milk eat less healthfully. In some cases this is true, for kids and adults. I have spoken to many people who replaced their daily glasses of milk with pop and sugary juices. In this case … yes, you are adding sugars to your diet and replacing nutrients with empty calories. But there are certainly healthy ways to make the switch …

Water – Hands down the winner for hydration. Want some excitement? Go for sparkling mineral water. I’m a Pellegrino girl myself (now sold in personal-size for on the go many places), but taste test and find which type of bubbles suit you best. A great sub when you are craving carbonation. Also, since water is calorie-free, it leaves more room in your diet to add healthful foods for more nutrients.

Tea – Iced or hot, but try to keep it unsweetened, or sweeten wisely. These days many herbal teas are so packed with flavor that you won’t feel much need for any additives. And yes, kids often like it too! One of my new favorites for flavor cravings on cool days is the Sweet & Spicy Herbal tea from Good Earth. Again, tea is a great no calorie option (you can even add a teaspoon of sweetener for a good low calorie option) leaving plenty of room for more nutrients in your diet.

100% or Fresh Squeezed Juice – For those not frightened off by fructose, fresh squeezed juice is a great option. If you are short on time and the little ones want something sweet, at least opt for 100% juice with no added sweeteners. To further lighten it and make a pop-like treat, mix half juice with half mineral water. A wonderful refresher! My latest love – half 100% pomegranate juice and half mineral water – this also helps a more expensive juice last much longer!

Unsweetened Milk Alternatives – I 0ften here the complaint that milk alternatives are too sweet … that is because many “original” and “vanilla” versions have sweetener added. Usually it is a natural sweetener, but sugar nonetheless. Almost every brand has an unsweetened version now, so choose one of those if you prefer a very low carb option.

For healthy fats and a wee bit of protein, I like hemp milks (but they do have a stronger taste than most) and coconut milk beverage (it has a nice rich whole milk feel and isn’t strong in flavor). Children seem to take to rice milk quite a bit. It tends to be naturally sweet even without sugar added, and is usually made with brown rice, but still go easy on it as rice milk doesn’t usually add much nutritional value to the diet. In terms of taste, I also like almond milk, but the flavor is often a little nutty for kids. If you aren’t against soy, soymilk is usually the highest protein option, and I have heard good results in terms of kids taking to it.

Most brands of milk alternative are fortified to rival milk in vitamins and minerals. However, the amounts of vitamins and minerals per serving can vary widely by brand – check the label if this is a concern for you. Also, if your child has trialed a couple brands of milk alternative and didn’t like them, don’t give up! There are literally dozens upon dozens of brands out there and all taste at least a little different.

There are many new beverages popping up in stores like Whole Foods that have a healthy claim. Some might warrant the occasional splurge, but keep an eye on the labels as most are still quite high in sugars. To give you a point of reference, nonfat to lowfat milk has 12 to 13g of sugar per cup. Yes, milk is not sugar-free! If the unsweetened milk alternatives, tea, and water options work for you and your family, you will actually be getting a lot less sugar in your diets!

What are your favorite dairy-free beverages? Any other suggestions for adults or kids?


  • Claire said:

    I’m guilty – I do tend to drink a lot of diet pop (coke, root beer, fresca, hey what’s on sale this week?) and not nearly enough water. Juice makes me feel pretty oogy, even watered down, so in this house it’s reserved for the kids, who drink it 50/50 with water. They drink loads of milk, at least 1 cup a day. They’re more than happy to drink water, and often ask for it specifically if we’re out in the heat. They’re exposed to pop but they’re really not crazy about it – one or two little sips and they lose interest. If we go out to eat, it’s milk whenever available. Although, my 2-year old does also love soy milk – she’s always thieving it out of my cereal bowl!

  • Nicole said:

    It’s amazing how often I’m asked, “But what do your kids drink if they don’t drink [cow’s] milk?” Um, water? Seriously, for my kids without dairy issues, their pediatrician said as long as they have some yogurt and cheese, everything is A-ok. The one with dairy issues (besides myself) is still too young to be too worried about deficiencies.

    As always, it’s up to parents to help their children choose wisely while young. The easiest thing to do is to not have any kind of drink other than water. Children can’t miss what they don’t know. My kids use rice milk (we’ve tried other types but this is their favorite) only in their cereal. On rare occasions, they’ll have a glass on the side and even then, it’s about 3 oz (we have small glasses we use for this purpose or on occasion, for juice, 100% of course).

    I’ve found that even with a restricted diet (dairy/soy/gluten/egg-free) there’s way too much sugary stuff still to choose from!

  • Lee said:

    I agree with another comment that kids don’t miss what they have never had. My 5 year old doesn’t drink any sodas. My husband and I don’t drink it, so it is never in the house. The one or two times he tried it he hated it. He drinks water all the time and milk with cereal or a snack. He also prefers his orange juice watered down. He is a very picky eater! I have the unique situation that he doesn’t eat the things that kids typically like(pizza, french fries, spaghetti etc). He doesn’t care for candy either. Its not an issue for us..just the grandparents who want to spoil him with something!! I drink soymilk primarily and use it for cooking. I have tried almond milk. Kinda pasty for me. I can’t stand rice milk. Something about the texture bugs me. I have not tried hemp or any other type of milk. Other than that, water is the beverage around our home..to the horror of our family who visit.

  • Christina said:

    I have replaced cow’s milk with Almond or Coconut milk,but I never drink it by itself nor did I ever drink cow’s milk by itself. Since going dairy free I use it in cooking or cereal. As for drinks, I drink tea, water and watered down 100% juice. I have always watered down juice to stretch it and the kids don’t know any different. Soda is a thing of my past. I only have a half of a can on special occasions. Other than that we don’t keep soda in our home.

  • Pure2raw twins said:

    I love coconut milk, although when I first got off dairy I used almond milk, then hemp milk. Now there are so many alternatives out there, it is great!

  • Fiona said:

    Juice is too much sugar all at once for me, but herbal teas are my friend! That or water if I want something cold.

  • Katie said:

    For milk replacement, I use almond milk. If I need some creamy, I go for coconut milk. I used to be all about soy milk, but not so much anymore. I was never a drink a glass of milk kind of person though; I generally just drink water and tea. Boring.

  • melissa @ the delicate place said:

    i get so upset when i see young kids who are overweight. they are too young to “cook” for themselves and it literally breaks my heart because i feel like their parents are indirectly killing them! /phew end soapbox rant. i drink unsweetened almond milk or coconut milk because it’s nourshing and it leaves me feeling fabulous. i make tea spritzers with loose leaf tea i brew and allow to cool, grate some fresh ginger and ice in a blender and top off with sparkling mineral water. ::AHHH:: and i drink water by the liter prob 2-3L daily

  • theemptynutjar said:

    I do eat dairy. But in terms of “milk” I tend to gravitate to alternatives (almond and hemp mainly…hemp is expensive , so that is rare buy). Soy and rice milks can also be options.

  • Kelly @ Healthy Living With Kelly said:

    I love unsweetened almond milk…it is so good. I love that I can have my “milk” and not have all the side effects of milk! SCORE! My husband loves hazelnut milk. I have wanted to try oat milk but just haven’t actually purchased it yet.

  • Emilee said:

    I have an espresso machine and couldn’t give up my morning latte when I had to quit dairy for my nursing son. So, I started making mochas with coconut milk and they are SO good! My older son (3) drinks milk, water, or very watered down juice. He’s never had a soda. I like drinking the flavored sparkling waters from Trader Joe’s…the mixed berry is my favorite.

  • Laury @thefitnessdish said:

    What a great post! I like all of the points you made. That story about the children in the restaurant drinking all those ENORMOUS glasses of soda is disturbing! Especially the 2 year old!!!

    I agree, if you make fresh squeezed juice and half water to cut down the fructose, you are in business. When we have kids, I really do not want to give them milk…and I fore-see a lot of battles and judgment from family and others. This is something I want to learn lots about before I get there…because, I know that the dairy industry are the ones making all the claims on how milk is crucial for kids, etc etc. I don’t think it will be a problem with my kids drinking soda…I haven’t had a soda in like 15 years, my family didn’t drink a lot (although my husbands did, but since cut back)–my family does a lot of sweetened tea, which is bad also…I know I will be good, it’s just going to be a battle with my in-laws and my family when we have children…no picnic, I know they all think I am extreme, and you need to give kids a treat…but I don’t want my kids wanting something that I would never give them because they had it somewhere else. I want them to actually be grossed out by it bc they are not used to sweet, sugary soda…or milk from another species!

  • Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) said:

    omg my heart sunk when i read about those kids..wow.

    in the interest of brevity, I will link a post i just did about picky eaters (kids) and what to do about it…

    basically in this house, eat your veggies or starve 🙂 my 3 yr old has a palate for bok choy, kale chips, kombucha, kefir and raw desserts. 95% of everything we eat is made from scractch, raw vegan, GF, and clearly dairy free.

    she’s NEVER had cow’s milk, has almost never had almond milk, no soy milk…gasp. She and we drink water. And the past month of my brewing, homemade kombucha or kefir, but 99% of what we drink is water.

    Anyone who panders to “picky eaters” simply reinforces the “bad behavior” and sets child up for lifetime of picky eating, health issues, etc etc that stem from eating the SAD.

    I could go on and on…


  • Rachael said:

    I come from an herbalist background, and I’m a big fan of non-caffeinated teas, hot or cold, for children and adults. Adding a little cold sparkling water jazzes them up a bit, and some of my favorites include rose-hips and hibiscus tea with lime sparkling water, lemon chamomile iced tea, peppermint iced tea, blackberry sage…I could go on an on. For kids at night, especially, a little chamomile and lavender tea and honey makes for blissful sleep.

  • Jay said:

    Good on you Averie…sounds great, lucky kids! I am allergic to milk and think it is really over rated as a whole food. I think it is perfect if you are a calf. The story about the kids drinking all the soft drink is really disturbing and very sad. It seems to me that kids these days won’t drink it unless it is flavoured. We only drink water with our meals and our son has the same. Fruit juice is considered a treat for the weekend. I think the dairy industry has done a great job of making everyone fearful of not getting enough calcium unless they consume copious amounts of milk or dairy. There are ‘other’ sources of calcium after all!! 🙂

  • Erica said:

    ugh- it scares me how much soda some kids drink. WATER people! Water! I think some of the other alternatives are great in moderation (especially things like almond milk for cereal), but water should really be the bulk of what we drink. Great post 😉

  • Ricki said:

    My favorite non-dairy milk these days is unsweetened vanilla almond. I also like the rice milks (though they do taste sweet!). And for refreshment, I’m hooked on a homemade ginger-mint iced tea that I can guzzle 4x a day.

  • Dairy Free and Fit » Blog Archive » Lightly Sweetened Summer Sippers said:

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  • drora kemp said:

    I have hated dairy products ever since I remember myself. I can taste a trace of butter in baked products, the smell of croissants makes me gag, I can’t eat cakes with whipped cream toppings and had my first cheese cake when I baked a Toffuti one. I am Caucasian and my parents were normal dairy consumers.
    When I visited Paris, the Mecca of food, I lived on baguettes with turkey and olives.
    My cholesterol levels are great, but can’t help, when looking at mountains of gourmet cheeses or baked goods, wishing to be reborn a normal, dairy-ambivalent person. Moreover, I have never met anyone with my affliction. Has anyone done so?

  • Angela said:

    Hey guys i am 13 and never drank milk alot but ate alot of things with dairy in it. I was told two years ago that i had esinophinol esophogitis and they didnt know whih food was messing up my throut and u eliminate 8 food types which are nuts fish dairy eggs wheat soy shellfish and something else qnd ita really hard watching my family eat yummy foods like this and i wish i hated dairy stuff but i dont and i dont even think im allergic to them. But i like hempmilk in stuff but not even consumed witgought anything and i HATE rice milk

  • Dairy Free and Fit » It’s Never Too Late said:

    […] What to Drink Without Milk […]

  • Leonila Mellie said:

    Mineral water is great for the health because it can provide trace minerals for the body.