How to Know Which Milk to Buy

Article posted in: Diet & Nutrition

Nonfat and whole, soy or almond, fortified or not—the dairy case in your supermarket is stacked with a bagillion or so versions of milk. So how do you pick the one most right for you? Some tips to help you choose among the cartons.

Stick with skim. Also called nonfat or fat-free, it weighs in at about 80 calories per cup, with only a smidgen of fat. Low-fat (1%) milk is also a good option (with 100 calories and 2.5 grams of fat per cup). Compare those numbers to whole milk, and you see why they are a waist-friendlier choice: one cup of whole contains 150 calories and eight grams of fat (more than half of which is saturated). Even reduced fat (2%) has close to five grams of fat per cup (three grams saturated). Opting for the non-fat or low-fat cartons doesn’t mean you’re skimping on calcium: all milk delivers about one-third of the recommended daily value.

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Focus on fortified. Enhanced skim milk has extra milk powders or concentrated skim milk added to it, making it richer in protein and calcium than regular skim milk. One popular brand has 11 grams of protein per cup, compared to eight grams in regular skim milk. Also, make sure milk alternatives—like soy, almond or cashew milk, and seed-based products, such as hemp and rice milk—are fortified to give you the same calcium, protein and vitamin D you get from cow’s milk. Look for 30 percent of the Daily Value for calcium and 25 percent of your daily value (DV) for vitamin D on the nutrition label.

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Opt for unsweetened substitutes. One brand of soy milk, for example, contains six grams of sugar per cup; the unsweetened version contains one gram sugar, and about 30 fewer calories, per cup. The same is true for almond milk: There are seven grams of sugar in a cup of one brand; unsweetened has zero grams of sugar and half the calories. And opting for the flavored varieties means even more sugar: chocolate almond milk packs 17 grams of sugar per cup (that’s more than four teaspoons!).