The many considerations of drinking milk

Each week a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center provides a guest post to The Baltimore Sun's health blog Picture of Health (, which is reprinted here. This week, Amy Reed, RD, LDN, weighs in on milk.

When you are standing in the milk aisle in the grocery store, what are you looking for? Are you lactose intolerant? Do you have a milk allergy? Do you dislike the taste of certain milk products? Are you vegan? How much money do you want to spend on milk? These are the questions you need to ask yourself. Each milk product has both strengths and weaknesses. Use the scenarios below to determine the best milk product for you.

I am lactose intolerant and looking for a substitute with similar nutritional value to cow's milk.

Try soy milk. The protein and calcium levels are very close to cow's milk, and there is no cholesterol or lactose.

Fat and calorie content are not concerns, I just want a milk substitute that has a rich, creamy taste and is lactose free.

Try coconut milk. The fat and calorie content is much higher than cow's milk in natural form although there are coconut milk products now being sold that are low in fat, protein and calories.

I want to support sustainability.

Try organic milk, which is nutritionally comparable to traditional cow's milk, although costs more.

I am lactose intolerant and want a rich, creamy yet nutty flavor milk that is low in calories and protein.

Try almond milk. The protein and calories in almond milk are lower than cow's and soy milk but higher in the good fats, maintaining a creamy taste. It's also lactose free.

I am looking for a sweet milk substitute that is higher in carbohydrates and lower in protein.

Try rice milk, which is thinner and sweeter compared to other milks and contains almost twice the amount of carbohydrates as regular cow's milk. It is also lactose free and low in protein.

I am lactose intolerant but would still like to drink cow's milk.

Try lactose free cow's milk. It's nutritionally equivalent to cow's milk but easier to digest because the lactose is already broken down. It has a slightly sweeter taste but has no additional sugar.

I am not lactose intolerant but looking for an alternative to cow's milk.

Try goat's milk, which is similar in nutritional value to cow's milk although has a "goaty" taste.

I am not lactose intolerant and looking for nutritional milk that is cheap.

Try cow's milk. Cow's milk is subsidized therefore it cheaper than other milk products. Pick low fat or fat free milk to reduce calorie and fat content.

Selecting a milk product can be tricky. Be open to trying new items and consider all aspects of the milk including nutritional value, allergies, intolerances and taste.

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