While cow’s milk is often the milk of choice for families for its high fat, protein and calcium content, it might not work for all families due to lactose intolerance or other factors. If you are uncomfortable with, or your child cannot drink, cow’s milk, there are other alternatives for a creamy liquid for cereal, in meals or as a drink. One of those alternatives is almond milk. If you are considering making the switch to almond milk, arm yourself with knowledge of the benefits, drawbacks and risks.
The Lowdown on Almond Milk
Almond milk is made by adding water and sometimes a sweetener to ground almonds then straining to produce a creamy, nutty flavored liquid. While not technically milk -- a liquid coming from the mammary glands -- it is a useful substitute in cereal and recipes. Almond milk has become popular as an alternative to cow’s milk since an explosion onto the market in 2010, with almond milk fueling 13 percent growth in milk alternatives that year, according to statistics from SymphonyIRI Group as reported in "The Wall Street Journal."
Almond Milk Benefits
There are several items in the good column for almond milk as an alternative to cow’s milk. Almond milk is low on calories but has the monounsaturated fats that your child needs, according to Dr. Andrew Weil, Director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, on his website. It's also full of vitamins including naturally occurring Vitamin E, and it's fortified with Vitamin D and A. Almond milk also has some calcium, though not as much as cow’s milk.
Almond Milk Drawbacks
While almond milk will fill some of the nutritional needs of your child, there are some drawbacks of almond milk versus cow’s milk. Almond milk is deficient in Vitamin B12 and protein and, depending on the manufacturer, might contain high amounts of natural or artificial sweeteners. If there is any history of allergies in your family, almond milk might not be a viable alternative because of the possibility of nut allergies.
Making the Switch
If the benefits outweigh the drawbacks, make an informed choice when you make the switch to almond milk. Make sure that your child gets protein from other sources including meats, other dairy products, eggs and peanut butter. A calcium supplement, in the form of a vitamin or other calcium-rich foods like leafy greens, is also important, according to Dr. Randall Neustaedter, writing for Healthy Child. Pick unsweetened almond milk when possible to avoid overloading your child with artificial or natural sugars.