Have you been to the dairy aisle lately? There are a lot more choices than there used to be. We’ve come to the point where choosing milk requires a not-insignificant amount of thought. If you’re overwhelmed in the dairy aisle, I’ve put together some information that might make picking up a carton of milk a little easier.

Cow’s Milk

Regular, whole cow’s milk has 150 calories and 8 grams of fat per cup. That’s a lot. Whole milk is a good choice for 1-year-old children who need lots of fat for their growing brains. It’s also a good choice for people who are trying to gain weight…but that’s not most of us.

Believe it or not, 2% milk is still considered a high-fat food. So, it works for people who are working their way down from whole milk to low-fat milk, and for people who need extra calories.

Skim and 1% cow’s milk are the best cow’s milk choices for most of us, including people with diabetes and heart disease. When milk is skimmed, the cream is removed from the top. This takes away most of the heart-clogging saturated fat and cholesterol. Since people with diabetes are prone to heart disease, those who prefer cow’s milk should definitely choose skim or 1%.

Lactose-free milk is still a cow’s milk product. It can be found in whole and lower-fat varieties. The sugar, or lactose, in lactose-free milk has already been broken down into its components, glucose and galactose. This doesn’t mean that lactose-free milk is a better choice for people with diabetes. Lactose-free milk contains the same amount of carbohydrate as regular cow’s milk, and it will still cause a rise in your blood sugar like any other milk.

Soy Milk

Soy milk is comparable to cow’s milk when it comes to protein content. The fat is soy milk is unsaturated, which is heart-healthy. Soy milk is a good choice for people who don’t tolerate cow’s milk or who prefer not to consume animal products.

Almond, Rice, Cashew, & Oat Milk

Need something to wet your cereal? Any of these will do. But…they have limited protein, so they are not a good choice for small children, people with poor appetites, or others who struggle to take in enough protein from other sources like meat, eggs, and beans.

Pea Milk

Pea milk is made from flour made from yellow peas. (It doesn’t taste like peas or milk, if you ask me.) Like soy milk, pea milk is a good alternative to cow’s milk. In some cases, pea milk has more protein than cow’s milk. This is a great choice for someone who is allergic to both dairy and soy as well as for people with diabetes who want vegan alternative milk.

How to Choose the Best Milk for You

As the number of choices at the supermarket continues to expand, remember what to look for in your milk:

  • Does this milk have at least 7 grams of protein per cup?

  • Is this milk fortified with vitamin D?

  • Is the amount of saturated fat in this milk 2 grams or less per cup?

  • Do I need low-calorie milk or high-calorie milk?

Julie Cunningham

Julie Cunningham

MPH, RDN, LDN, CDCES, IBCLC

I believe people with diabetes can enjoy good food and good health without feeling ashamed of their bodies.