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NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — Cow’s milk has ample competition in the dairy case, with an ever-growing array of ‘milks’ made from almonds, cashews, peas, oats, hemp and more. These plant-based alternatives make us feel like we’re doing something good for our bodies, but are they really any better?  The answer is… complicated. Registered dietitian Molly Kimball gives us the rundown on top picks for cow’s milk and plant-based milk.

COW’S MILK – for comparison

Per cup: 12 grams sugar; 8 grams protein. 50% more sugar than protein [lactose, naturally-occurring milk sugar]. Excellent source of vitamins A+D.

Ultra-filtered milk – familiar in varieties like Fairlife and Trader Joe’s – improves these stats, with 50 percent more protein and 50 percent less sugar than regular milk.


Protein varies, 0-10 grams per cup (coconut milk and almond milk are among the lowest). Added sugar can be a drawback, with even ‘original’ varieties of many plant-based milks packing in ample added sugar.

Most plant-based milks are made from nuts, seeds or grains that are mixed with water and salt; many of the major brands also include thickeners and emulsifiers like guar gum or gellan gum.  

Top PLANT-BASED picks: Molly’s Current Favorites

Ripple Pea Protein Milk (original, unsweetened)

  • Per cup: 80 calories, 0 carbohydrate, 0 sugar, 8 grams protein
  • Ingredients include pea protein, sunflower oil, algal oil, vitamin/mineral blend, water, sunflower lecithin, sea salt, organic guar gum, gellan gum

Keto Mylk by Mooala

  • Per cup: 70 calories, 7 grams fat, 0 carbohydrate, 0 sugar, 1 gram protein
  • Ingredients include water, organic coconut cream, MCT oil, coconut oil, also small amounts of pea protein, calcium, vitamin D, gellan gum

MALK unsweetened almond milk

  • Per cup: 70 calories, 6 grams fat, 3 grams carbohydrate, 3 grams fiber, 0 sugar, 2 grams protein
  • Ingredients: water, organic almonds, Himalayan Pink Salt

MALK – along with Forager and Three Trees – doesn’t include any stabilizers or emulsifiers – just the nuts or seeds, water, and potentially flavor enhancers like sea salt or vanilla beans).

3 of Molly’s Least-Favorite Milk Options:  

  • Oatmilk | high carb, also high sugar, with only low-to-moderate protein
  • Lava Milk [made from pili nut] | high carb, high sugar, low protein
  • Rice Milk | carb carb carb, with minimal protein


The good news is that for those who wish – or need – to avoid cow’s milk for dietary, nutritional or environmental reasons, there is a milk alternative to suit nearly any taste preference, intolerance or sensitivity. The key is to check labels closely to find the milk alternative that has the majority of the nutrients you’re looking for, without the stuff that you don’t want.


FUELED Wellness + Nutrition is powered by Healthy Portions Meal Co. Learn more about the variety of Eat Fit options at Healthy Portions Meal Co, proud sponsor of FUELED Wellness + Nutrition with Molly on WGNO. 


Molly Kimball, RD, CSSD is a registered dietitian + nutrition journalist in New Orleans, and founder of Ochsner Eat Fit nonprofit restaurant initiative. Tune in to her podcast, FUELED | Wellness + Nutrition and follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at @MollyKimballRD. See more of Molly’s articles + TV segments at, and sign up for Eat Fit Wellness Bites weekly newsletter, here.