At the start of our 40s, my partner and I have decided to give up breast-feeding. I’m too squeamish to keep doing it. We just can’t stand the thought of drinking the secretions of a cow anymore. I’ve always been a bit squeamish about milk because of the thought of where it comes from, but like most of us, I didn’t think about that very much, and somehow was able to put it out of conscious thought. I also don’t like the creaminess and the way it coats my tongue and throat. Ugh. Gross. There’s no way I could’ve ever downed a glass of milk straight—not without seeing it again. Thankfully milk was often just an ingredient in my diet and flavoured and disguised by other things—on a day to day level as a functional splash on my cereal and in my regular cups of tea through the day, and the holy transmutation into thick milk shakes and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. I would’ve been going ‘mmmmmm’ at the thought of Ben and Jerry’s before watching Simon Amstell’s Carnage, and seeing what cows have to go through for our tastes. Even if I could be ok with breast feeding, the methods and practices of the dairy industry is offputting enough. Watching that, my squeamishness around milk was triggered and reinforced, and I knew I wanted milk out of my diet.
Watch this and make your own mind up about dairy.
Giving up milk seems to be the most prevalent thing to change in a way as it affects tea—a casual social beverage which is part of most people’s day in the UK. How often is an offer of a brew made in a day, and who questions or declines the offer?! It means I can only have one, or accept an offer of one, if I’m prepared with my fake milk. It also means we’re exposed to questions about why we’re declining or adding the caveat of using our own milk (that’s fake milk, not human milk). But, considering only around 25% to 35% of the world drinks milk because the rest either don’t have it in their diet or are lactose intolerant, I guess we’re not alone and shouldn’t worry.
Giving up milk has certainly limited food options though, as milk is in so many things, but the first issue in the switch out came up after we made a decidedly off cup of tea with soya milk. Going vegetarian and losing all our meat products was one thing, now our good old cup of tea was under threat through this vegan thing we’ve embarked on. After a terrifying vision of not having tea in our life to go with our surprise find of mainstream biscuits that happened to be vegan (another post, and the next one), and declaring in a despairing post to anyone that might see it on twitter that funky tea was a ‘deal breaker’, me and my partner set out on a fake milk tea experiment. These are our finds.
Soya milk: The milk most people seem to swear by. Coloured the tea nicely, but left a film on the surface, had a funky aftertaste, and stained the mug. I have no idea WTF was going on there, but not a good start. It was also rank on cereal too (we have a fairly neutral cereal choice, so maybe the taste of the milk came through more).
Alpro Soya milk nutrition Information per 100 ML: Energy 161 kj / 39 kcal. Fat 1.8 g Of which saturates 0.3 g. Mono-unsaturates 0.4 g. Polyunsaturates 1.1 g. Carbohydrate 2.5 g. Of which sugars 2.5 g. Fibre 0.5 g. Protein 3.0 g. Salt 0.06 g. Vitamin D 0.75 µg 15%*. Vitamin B2 0.21 mg 15%*. Vitamin B12 0.38 µg 15%*. Calcium 120 mg 15%*.
* 15% of the nutrient reference values (NRVs)
Oat milk: Didn’t colour the tea as much as regular milk, so it looks like tea that could floor a builder. Leaves the mug clean—like it never had tea in it. *ghost tea* The milk seems to separate and settle in the mug if left for too long, but usually ok with a good stir. If you get the milk dose right—it tastes just as it should! Drama over. That does seem to be the way it goes with this diet change so far—first stage is loss: ‘I can’t have that’, second stage is despair: ‘OMFG the replacement is disgusting, I can’t do this anymore, I can only eat kale and water or eat animals’, to third stage of ‘Oh, this replacement is okay’ and life goes on. It worked on cereal, but strangely not in porridge (for me) as it changed the taste too much. We didn’t stop at this find though, as it was only in a couple of local shops, and we worried we might run out of milk which would bring on the end of the world as we know it.
Oatly oat milk nutrition information per 100 ml: Energy 190 kJ/50 kcal. Fat 1.5 g
of which saturated 0.2 g. Carbohydrates 6.6 g of which sugars 4.1 g*. Fibre 0.8 g. Protein 1.0 g. Salt 0.11 g. Vitamin D 1.5 µg (30%**). Riboflavin 0.21 mg (15%**). Vitamin B12 0.38 µg (15%**). Calcium 120 mg (15%**). Betaglucan 0.4 g* Natural sugars from oats.
** Of the Daily Reference Intake.
Almond milk: Coloured the tea nicely, but it does separate, settle and get darker like the oat milk if left too long. Although not every mug, so I guess it could depend on how much you shake the carton. It does have a little aftertaste, but not an unpleasant one. Seems to be minimised by getting the dose right.
Alpro Almond milk nutritional information per 100 ml: Energy 93 kj / 22 kcal. Fat 1.1 g. Of which saturates 0.1 g. Mono-unsaturates 0.7 g. Polyunsaturates 0.3 g. Carbohydrate 2.4 g. Of which sugars 2.4 g. Fibre 0.4 g. Protein 0.4 g. Salt 0.14 g. Vitamin D 0.75 µg 15%*. Vitamin B2 0.21 mg 15%*. Vitamin B12 0.38 µg 15%*. Vitamin E 1.80 mg 15%*. Calcium 120 mg 15%*.
* 15% of the nutrient reference values (nrvs)
Rice milk: Coloured the tea nicely, no aftertaste, but we noticed what I’m technically calling ‘milk dandruff’ (like flecks of desiccated coconut) floating on the surface after getting so far down the bottle. And yes, we did shake it. This didn’t change the taste or texture, but I imagine it would be off-putting for omnivore guests who are no doubt going to be wary of whatever foods we offer them from now on.
Rice Dream rice milk nutritional information Per 100ml: Energy 175kJ/42kcal. Fat 0.9g of which saturates 0.4g. Carbohydrates 8.2g of which sugar* 6.0g. Protein 0.1g. Salt 0.10g. Calcium 120 mg**. Vitamin D 0,75 µg**. Vitamin B12 0,38 µg** *With no added sugar – contains naturally occurring sugars.
**15% of the reference intake of an average adult (RI) (8400kJ/2000kcal)
We haven’t tried coconut milk. We’ve heard it’s sweet and we don’t have sugar in our tea. It also seems a bit pricey, so we’re skipping this for now.
Thankfully, we can now continue enjoying a cuppa with a clear conscience when I next bump into a cow. Other daily dairy options were decidedly easier to drop, as we switched out our butter spread for a coconut spread, and it was fine. Done. Our next and on-going mission though, is cheese… That is not going so well.
Tips for the milk change:
- Shake the bottle! Most of the milks we’ve had will separate when left sitting, so you could get a nice dose of milky oil instead of fake milk. Still better than dairy milk pus though… Just saying.
- Watch the fat content of the milk, it does vary between types and brand.
- Check the protein levels and whether the fake milk of your choice has any bonus vitamins or minerals (handy for omnivores commenting derisively that you’re going to waste away and shatter like a cheap plate through a lack of calcium).
- Shake it—but don’t go too crazy as some of them can go frothy.
- Don’t judge a brew by its colour. Add a drop, try a taste and repeat until it’s how you like. I ended up with luke warm teas when I started using oat milk as it needed so much milk to get the colour I was used to.
- Manage your expectations, and don’t listen to us, or anyone else. I had read how good soya milk was and was really thrown when I found it really wasn’t in my opinion. When you’re changing a staple like this, these disappointments can be really off-putting.
I can’t believe we’ve just written a blog post about milk, but this is a post we would’ve been grateful to stumble across as vegan virgins, so we thought we might as well just write one.
The lifestyle change for me and my partner to vegetarian and then vegan has been a process of giving up life-long staple, favourite and comfort foods.
Beyond the peace of mind this gives me I find myself wondering whether I will ever see food in the same way again, and enjoy it as much as I always have.
This irregular series of non-preachy blog posts will follow us, two regular guys, meat and dairy eaters for all our lives, as we explore the reasons for and the challenges and rewards of a plant based diet as we go on our new veg munching adventure…