Parenting Tips

Milk substitutes for babies and children: good or dangerous?

Cow's milk has competition. Drinks made from soy, almonds or oats are very popular right now. But do they live up to the original?

Milk substitutes are becoming increasingly popular

Milk tastes boring, somehow bland, many children think. And the parents are no longer really behind it. The milk’s once snow-white image has been scratched. Milk acidifies the body, increases the risk of cancer, makes children shoot up, according to the negative headlines. Many are ethically opposed to drinking milk and opposed to factory farming. And more and more get a tummy rumbling after a glass of milk. And isn’t everything plant-based anyway better for the climate? This is how the former pick-me-up has real rivals: drinks made from almonds, oats or rice are conquering the breakfast tables.

But what are these alternatives? Do they taste better or are they healthier? We took a close look at the most common varieties.

Cow milk

Milk contains protein that children need to grow. It supplies calcium, the most important building material for the bones. The water-soluble vitamins B2 and B12 are also present, good for nerve cells and red blood cell formation. It also brings vitamins A and D as well as zinc and iodine.

Oat milk

Oat milk is cholesterol-free, low in fat and provides a lot of fiber. That’s why a glass of it fills you up. It also contains a good portion of calcium. Because the grain starch is converted into sugar during production, the drink tastes pleasantly sweet. In terms of climate, it beats cow’s milk by far.

Shortcoming: The low protein content and the lack of vitamin B12 make oat milk unsuitable as a long-term alternative to milk.

Almond milk

Almonds are healthy. However, almond milk only contains 3 to 7 percent almonds, the rest is water. They bring correspondingly few nutrients with them. Also not ideal: Almond milk does not even contain a third of the amount of protein in cow’s milk. But what speaks for this milk substitute: its creaminess and the nutty, wonderfully mild taste. Only buy the varieties without added sugar, otherwise the children will quickly get used to the sweetness. Shortcoming: Almond milk does not do well in the ecological balance. 80 percent of the processed almonds come from California. Cultivation in mono-cultures consumes a lot of water and the transport route is long.

Rice milk

Rice milk has almost as many calories as cow’s milk. The calorie content does not come from protein or fat, but from carbohydrates. Little protein, lots of sugar, but hardly any fiber – the rice milk doesn’t really score points. In addition, it contains no significant amounts of vitamins or calcium. However, it is gluten-free. Choose organic products when buying, otherwise there is a risk that the drink will be contaminated with heavy metals. Rice milk tastes relatively neutral, but has a fairly watery consistency.

coconut milk

Coconut milk is a diluted form of white coconut milk — not to be confused with coconut water. It doesn’t even contain that many calories because it’s only 10 percent coconut pulp. That is why the minerals and vitamins found in coconuts, above all potassium and biotin, are only available in small quantities. Its big plus: It tastes delicious like coconut and gives desserts or smoothies a tropical touch. Real coconut fans also drink it pure.

Is cow’s milk better?

Conclusion: plant drinks should not be seen as milk substitutes. They are completely different foods. That’s why they can and do something completely different. They are great for adults who cannot tolerate the milk sugar lactose (children are extremely rarely affected). And for breakfast muffles, a glass of warm almond milk in your stomach is better than leaving the house on an empty stomach. But the plant-based drink does not replace cheese sandwiches or yogurt during the long break. Because without protein, calcium, vitamin B12 or vitamin D – everything that is found in dairy products – healthy development becomes difficult.

Milk substitutes for babies and children: good or dangerous?

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