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The best of dairy-free alternatives
If you suffer from a dairy allergy or are lactose intolerant, you know just how hard it can be to make food choices that won't upset your digestion.
Milk, cheese, yogurts and even chocolate is off bounds and meal planning becomes a must as most sufferers will have to dodge dairy at every meal.
Thankfully, there are some tasty dairy and lactose-free alternatives available that should make your decisions a little easier. From soy to almond, hazelnut and rice, there's an abundance of options available to anyone skipping on dairy.
Here are our top picks:
Probably the most popular alternative to dairy, soy has provided a base for making lactose-free milk, cheeses and yogurts that are widely available in supermarkets. Soy milk is high in protein - which is particularly attractive for anyone on a restricted diet that also avoids meats - and is suitable for baking and cooking. It does have a strong, distinctive taste however, so it is well worth trying it before adding it to your favourite cake recipe!
In recent years, nut milks have become very popular with dairy-free dieters as they provide a tasty alternative to cow's milk and have plenty of health-benefiting nutrients. Almond milk is probably the most common and because of its sweet taste, it works well for baking, in coffee or over nutty granola cereal. Both almond and hazelnut milks are high in vitamin E which is a great anti-ageing nutrient. However, this alternative comes with its own warnings: anyone that suffers from a nut allergy should dodge this one too.
Who would have thought the humble rice grain could be made into a dairy alternative? Rice grains are ground down and added to water to create a milk-like liquid and usually it is flavoured with vanilla to give it a better taste, but because it is probably the most 'watery' of milk-alternatives available, it's not that well suited to baking.
Although this is not suitable for anyone with a dairy allergy, for anyone who is lactose intolerant, this could be the best swap. Some brands are able to extract the lactose molecules from cow's milk during the pasteurisation process to produce milk that is completely lactose-free. For bakers, this is probably the closest like-for-like swap you can make if a lactose-free alternative is all you need.
Although oats can be made into a milk-like substance, similar to almond milk and hazelnut milk, it is probably the least versatile. For celiac sufferers, this is off bounds as it does contain gluten, and it is also low in protein and nutrients making it a poor alternative to cow's milk. However, it works great with hot cereals like porridge thanks to its light, nutty flavour.
This could come as a surprise but hemp can also be made into a milk. Just like soy and rice, hemp milk is more watery compared to its traditional dairy form and does contain less protein. But for sauces that require a splash of milk, this could be the perfect alternative.