When I first went low-carb, one of the things that vanished from my diet was milk. It wasn’t a big loss in that I had never been a big milk drinker anyway (now if I’d had to give up diet cokes–in the broad, inclusive sense where "coke" means any carbonated soft drink–then that would be another matter!), but over time I did miss it, and I’ve found a number of alternatives, which I thought I’d share with y’all.
The problem is that, unlike dairy products such as butter or cheese or heavy cream, normal milk contains way too many carbs. If you want a make-shift low-carb equivalent to milk then the thing to do is get heavy cream or whipping cream (which have virtually no carbs) and then dilute it with water to taste. For a long time, low-carbers had to do that, but now there are a wide variety of alternatives. Here are several, as found behind Door #2 on my fridge:
The best alternatives to high-carb milk that I’ve found are the two in the center: Hood’s Calorie Countdown products. Here I have their Fat Free and Chocolate varieties. They also have a 2% variety, though I generally don’t get that one.
Hood’s Fat Free Calorie Countdown, to me, tastes indistinguishable from normal skim milk, and there’s a good reason for that: It’s made from real milk, but with the carbs extracted. Along with most of the calories. As you can see if you squint a little, it has 70% fewer calories than whole milk (45 calories per serving), making it good for dieters of any kind–not just low-carbers. It also has 75% less carbs and sugar than regular milk (3 grams of each per serving instead of 12 grams of each).
The taste of Hood’s Chocolate Calorie Countdown is delicious. This is a 2% reduced fat product, so its calories are a little more than the Fat Free version. It’s got 90 calories per serving (compared to 230 calories in a standard chocolate milk). And it has 4 net grams of carbs per serving (5 total grams, less one gram of fiber), which compares to 31 grams of carb in a normal chocolate milk. It’s also got WAY less sugar: 3 grams as opposed to 29 grams! So even if you aren’t on a low-carb diet, this is a great chocolate milk to use.
Incidentally, both of these also come with 8 grams of protein per serving.
The Hood company is based in the northeast, and if you live in New England you can even get it delivered to your home. SEE THEIR WEB SITE FOR DETAILS. Out here in California, you can get it in the stores, but you may have to ask for it. Albertsons carries it and Vons used to but doesn’t have it now unless you ask (at least that’s the way it is in my neighborhood). You can probably get it by special request from your grocer no matter where you are.
Here in California there are sometimes kinks in the pipeline getting it from New England, and so I’ve also researched other substitutes, and I can tell you about the two that you see on the ends, both of which are forms of soy milk.
The first thing to know about soy milk is that while it can be low carb, it isn’t automatically low carb. Apparently the manufacturers of a lot of soy milk load it up with sugar, which completely ruins it for dieting purposes. If you’re wanting to use it as part of a low-carb diet, what you need to get is UNSWEETENED soy milk (NOT the same thing as "plain" soy milk; "plain" means "doesn’t have a flavor like vanilla or chocolate added").
SILK is one of the bigger soy milk producers. They’ve got a bunch of varieties and are commonly available in supermarkets. Here I have pictured their unsweetened version–recognizable by its green carton. It has 80 calories per serving, but only 3 net grams of carbs (4 total minus one gram of fiber). It’s also got 7 grams of protein. Now, if you’re used to reading nutrition labels, you’re saying, "Okay, so if it’s only got 3 grams of carb and 7 grams of protein, how can you get 80 calories per serving out of that?" The answer is that this is not a fat free product. It’s got 4 grams of fat per serving, which makes it quite rich tasting, and fat is not a problem on a low-carb diet.
If your grocer has any of the Silk soy milks on his shelves, he should be able to get the green-cartoned, unsweetened one for you.
Incidentally, since this isn’t actually made from milk (unlike Calorie Countdown), there’s a little difference in the taste. I initially perceived it as a faint soy-like aftertaste, but it isn’t unpleasant, and I got used to it very fast and don’t even notice it now.
The final product–on the far right–is Westsoy’s Unsweetened (there’s the key word) Vanilla Soymilk. From a nutritional perspective, this one is quite interesting. It’s got 100 calories per serving, 4.5 grams of fat, and 9 grams of protein, making it the highest in protein of any of these products. It’s also the lowest in carbs. According to the nutrition label, it’s got only ONE gram of carb per serving (5 total grams minus 4 grams of fiber, which means it’s also a good source of fiber).
Now, you may be wondering how this could be so different from the milks discussed above–how it can have so much more fiber and so much less carbs than they do–and yet taste like normal milk. The answer is that it doesn’t. This is the least milk-like-tasting product of the ones considered. It has a thinner consistency and has a kind of nutty flavor, like almonds (which is interesting, because it isn’t almond milk–THEY ALSO MAKE THAT). It’s not an unpleasant taste, but it’s just not as milk-like as the others.
I got the above carton of Westsoy Soymilk at Trader Joe’s, but it’s available in a lot of other places, including normal supermarkets, too.
Incidentally, the soy milks don’t have lactose in them so they are also good if you’re lactose intolerant–a condition that is surprisingly common around the world. I was floored when friends of mine from other countries told me that not only were they lactose intolerant, but basically everyone in their home countries was as well. It appears that most people around the planet are lactose intolerant and you can only tolerate lactose well if your ancestors drank a lot of milk straight–without processing it into cheese first–as is the case with northern (not southern) Europeans, certain groups in the Middle East, and certain nomadic groups in Africa and Asia. MORE HERE. AND HERE.
So, whether you’re a low-carb dieter, a low-calorie dieter, or have a personal disagreement with lactose . . . Cheers!
P.S. Just ’cause I know folks will ask: The packages you can see to the right of the milk cartons are tofu . . . mostly nigari tofu, which is really good with worchestershire sauce. Mmmmmm.