Valérie Fernandez

By Valérie Fernandez

May 24, 2016


Non-dairy beverages: They’re not all the same!

Article revised on 12 June 2017

Non-dairy beverages, marketed as a vegetarian alternative to cow’s milk, are taking over supermarket shelves. How to find through the growing offer?

In spite of the health claims on the packaging, you should know that there is a considerable difference in nutritional value from one type to another. More importantly, they are not always equivalent to a plain old glass of milk.

Only FORTIFIED soy beverage has a comparable nutritional profile and constitutes a serving of milk or milk alternatives according to Canada’s Food Guide.

Non-dairy beverages may be “organic,” “gluten-free, ”or “rich in Omega-3,” but they are often much lower in protein and other vitamins and minerals, particularly if they are not enriched.

Always ensure that the non-dairy beverage you reach for is one that is FORTIFIED.

For guidance, refer to the table below.

Per cup (250 ml)1% milkSoy beverageAlmond beverageRice beverageOat beverageHemp beverage
Calories10885 - 11060 - 70120 - 130130100
Protein (g)96 - 711 - 244
Fat (g)33 - 43336
Carbs (g)13
(lactose, natural sugar)
5 - 111 - 1223 - 26248
Sugar (g)135 - 127 - 810196
Vitamin D (% DV*)45%

Only FORTIFIED beverages contain the same amount of calcium (30% DV) and Vitamin D (45%) as the same amount of milk.

Calcium (% DV*)30%
AdvantageVery nutritiousSource of complete protein

Pleasant flavour, similar to the base ingredient

Contains a significant quantity of omega-3 fatty acids
DisadvantageAnimal productAlways opt for the FORTIFIED typeVery low in protein- Very low in protein
- High in carbs
- Low in protein
- High in carbs
Low in protein
Flavoured non-dairy beverages (chocolate, strawberry, mango…) often contain a lot of added sugar, so it's better to opt for the unsweetened varieties.

Comparison chart for some of the “original” or “plain” flavour non-dairy beverages.
*Daily value

Flavoured or too sweet?

If you do not enjoy the flavour of plain non-dairy beverages, it can be tempting to try one of the many flavoured varieties available such as mango, strawberry, cappuccino, chocolate… They certainly do taste good, but watch the sugar content!

Some varieties contain as much as 20 g of sugar per 250-ml serving. That’s the equivalent of 5 packets of sugar per cup! Even the “original” variety often contains sugar.

Ideally, the beverage you choose should contain the least amount of sugar per serving or, even better, choose one that’s marked “unsweetened.”


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