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A dear old friend of mine has recently been receiving some harsh criticism in the press. Labeled "soda in drag," chocolate milk — actually, the entire category of sugar-laden flavored milks — has been singled out as the latest target in the war against childhood obesity.
Those leading the campaign (including Food Revolution's Jamie Oliver, who equates the milks to candy) are advocating that they be removed from school cafeterias entirely. The folks on the other side of the argument, however, feel that flavored milks are being unfairly pegged. Plus, according to reports, some parents say their children simply aren't interested in drinking plain milk.
So how about some healthy, flavorful alternatives? Milks made from almonds or cashews, for example, are cholesterol free and wonderful sources of calcium and magnesium. And in terms of taste, they have a nutty, sweet flavor that can even be improved by adding spices or natural sweeteners.
If you need a little inspiration, check out the following healthy (and tasty) alternative milk recipes.
This popular, low-calorie cow's milk alternative is a good source of calcium, magnesium, and vitamin E. Although commercial varieties are widely available on the market today (stick to the unsweetened original flavor if you're buying pre-made), it's surprisingly easy to make at home — and better for you too. Plus you can choose to embellish the milk's nutty, slightly sweet flavor with ingredients like vanilla, cinnamon, and honey.
Soy Milk Berry Smoothie
Arguably the most well-known of the alternative milks, soy milk has earned fans for its healthful properties, including being low in saturated fat and high in protein (though some recent studies have linked it to certain diseases). In this recipe — which only has about 168 calories per serving — the milk is combined with frozen unsweetened berries and pineapple juice to create a tasty, health-conscious smoothie. And of course, you can always try making a homemade version instead of going with store-bought soy milk. (Though if you do go with a commercial brand, stick to the organic variety.)
This increasing popular nut milk has a lot to brag about in the health department: It's cholesterol free, low in overall fat content, and a great source of copper, magnesium, and B vitamins. Although great on its own, you can add a touch of maple syrup to sweeten and complement the milk's naturally nutty flavor.
Cashew Oat Milk with Cinnamon and Agave
This recipe combines the aforementioned good-for-you benefits of cashew milk with oats. Milk made from this grain is high in fiber, cholesterol free, and rich in phytochemicals.
Chocolate Hemp Milk
Don't let the name give you any wrong ideas — milk made from hemp seed is a good way to take in omega-3 and -6 essential fatty acids, as well as phosphorous and calcium. Keeping things natural, this recipe calls on raw cacao and honey or agave as sweeteners.
Although this recipe doesn't use an alternative milk, it does feature dates, which are known for being a great source of dietary fiber, potassium, and B-complex vitamins. What's more, they're packed with carbohydrates, which help boost energy.