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Are there Carbs in Milk Alternatives?

By Megrette Fletcher, M.Ed., R.D., C.D.E

Carbs in milk alternativesIn my last post, I talked about the foods you’ll find in the dairy case. Some of my clients ask me, “Are there carbs in milk alternatives like almond milk, coconut milk, hemp milk, rice milk, or soy milk?” The answer is generally, yes, but to find out exactly how much, you’ll need to check the nutrition label. This article provides the approximate amount of carbs in milk alternatives.

How many carbs are in milk alternatives?

dairy alternative gridCarbohydrates are important when you have diabetes because the carbs in the foods you eat and the beverages you drink affect your blood sugar levels. This table provides a list of some popular flavors of milk alternatives and their carbohydrate content. I developed this general reference list by taking the average of the carbohydrate content of three popular brands.

For comparison, one cup (8 ounces) of regular, 2%, 1%, or skim cow’s milk has 12 to 15 grams of carbohydrate. You’ll generally find that only the plain or sugar free option of most milk alternatives have fewer carbohydrates than cow’s milk.

Why do some people choose milk alternatives?

Some people are lactose intolerant and struggle with digesting cow’s milk. Others eliminate animal products as part of a vegan diet. In addition, these products are shelf stable so they may be easier to take where access to refrigeration is limited.

What about other nutrients in milk alternatives?

It’s important to consider other nutrients in addition to carbohydrates. The protein content in most milk alternatives is typically less than cows milk. As you may recall from Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat with Diabetes, protein promotes the greatest satiety of the three macronutrients (carbohydrates, fat, protein).

The vitamin and mineral content may differ as well. Many milk alternatives are fortified with calcium so their calcium content will be similar to milk, but again, the nutrition label will be your best source of information about the nutrient content for each product.

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About the author

Megrette Fletcher is a registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator, author, and co-founder of The Center for Mindful Eating. Megrette is the 2013-2014 president of The Center for Mindful Eating, a non-profit, organization to assist health professionals to explore the concepts of mindful eating. She has written articles for and has been quoted about mindful eating in Diabetes Self Management, Today’s Dietitian, Today’s Social Worker, Bariatric Times, Glamour, Family Circle, The Wall Street Journal, US News and World Report, Women’s Day, and Oxygen Magazine. Megrette currently works as a diabetes educator in Dover, New Hampshire.

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