by Marie Traynor RD, Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit
Registered Dietitians receive many questions about foods commonly found in supermarkets and specialty shops. Now that Canada’s new Food Guide recommends increasing plant-based protein we are hearing more about plant-based beverages such as those made from soy, oat, almond, cashew and rice. Knowing what’s in each product will help readers decide what’s best for them. Check the nutrition facts table and compare products. Start by looking at the serving size to be sure you are comparing equal amounts.
Only fortified soy beverage is part of Canada’s Food Guide. Other non-dairy beverages do not have the same amount of protein and may not have the same amounts of vitamins and minerals as cow’s milk and fortified soy beverage. Cow’s milk has almost 9 grams of protein per cup. Non-dairy beverages range from 0 to 7 grams.
The amount of calcium found in a cup of cow’s milk is about 30% to 35% of your daily need. So look at the % Daily Value (%DV) for this same amount in fortified non-dairy beverages. Also, look for Vitamin D. You’ll find it in the cow’s milk and fortified soya beverage but often not in the others.
Consider choosing the non-sweetened versions of plant-based beverages. Check the Nutrition Facts table to compare sugar contents listed under carbohydrates. And, look at the ingredients list for words ending in “ose” and words like juice and syrups.
Children under 2 years of age should not be given non-dairy beverages such as soy, almond, rice, coconut or others because they do not have enough fat or protein to meet children’s growth and development needs. Work with a Registered Dietitian if your child has a milk allergy or is vegan.
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