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Which Milk Alternative is Best?

  • Which Milk Alternative is Best?
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by Ciara McNulty, Perpetua RIDE Coach


There are a multitude of reasons why someone might reduce or avoid dairy in their diet. It could be ethical reasons, intolerance or allergy, health beliefs, or some combination of all of these! Regardless of the reason, it’s important to understand that dairy is a large contributor of protein, calcium and vitamin D in a typical diet. Therefore, when opting for dairy-alternatives, your choice should be dependent on replenishing these nutrient deficits. In terms of nutrient-provision, not all plant-products are created equal.

Let’s break down the options available in Ireland. Figures are based on a one-cup serving (250ml):


Milk Type Calories (kcal) Protein (g) Calcium (mg) Vitamin D (ug) Vitamin B12 (ug)
Alpro Unsweetened Soy 83 8.25 300 1.9 0.95
Alpro Unsweetened Almond 33 1 300 1.9 0.95
Alpro Unsweetened Oat 100 0.5 300 1.9 0.95
Oatly Barista 150 2.5 300 3.75 0.95
Alpro Coconut 35 0.25 300 1.9 0.95
Alpro Rice 118 0.25 300 1.9 0.95
Pea Milk 83 8 465 1.95 2.4
Full-fat Milk 160 8.5 300 2
Low-fat Milk 108 8.5 305 2
Supermilk 113 10 400 5 1
Lactose-free Milk 102 8.5 300 2.5 1.2



Soy and Pea beverages are recommended as the first choice of dairy alternatives in terms of nutrient profile in some countries, like the USA and Australia. You can see it in the chart – they both pack a protein and nutrient punch compared to the other milk alternatives.

Pea milk is difficult to find here in Ireland, but you can find it in Holland and Barrett. Both Soy and Pea milks provide just as much protein as a glass of regular milk.

Another option that is sometimes forgotten about is lactose-free milk. Lactose-free milk contains all the nutrients available from pasteurized milk, without the sugar-molecule lactose, which can cause gut-upset in some individuals.

Important vitamins and minerals are naturally provided in milk and milk-based products. As with any ‘alternative’ or ‘substitution,’ we should keep an eye on food-fortification. Luckily, our readily available products, like Alpro and Oatly, are fortified with vitamins D, B2, B12, and calcium. Some milks even have added vitamin E and Iodine. These will always be included in the ingredients list on the package. *Of note- most organic products cannot be nutrient-fortified*

There is discussion about the ‘dairy matrix’ and how the precise packaging of the natural food molecules enhances the body’s absorption of vitamins and minerals compared to fortification and supplementation. Food-specific nutrition research is tough due to human nature of eating multiple foods in combination, multiple times per day. It’s nearly impossible to identify which foods contribute to one’s nutrition status. Although the verdict is not out, it’s an interesting topic to consider and keep an eye out for.

Additional to nutrition value, plant-milks also differ in their use. You might prefer oat-based beverages for coffee/ and tea and opt for higher-protein options for breakfasts and post-workout smoothies!



Black Forest Smoothie recipe


  • 1 cup unsweetened soy milk
  • 1 scoop chocolate plant-protein (soy, hemp, pea)
  • 1 frozen banana
  • ½ cup frozen black cherries
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cacao nibs
  • 1 tbs chia seeds (whole or milled)

Blend until ideal consistency is achieved. Top with: granola, fresh berries and nut butter!

Ciara McNulty is a RIDE Coach at Perpetua Fitness. She is currently studying for her MSc in Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics at UCD. Catch her in the RIDE room at Perpetua or on Instagram!
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