There’s a new hot contender in the non-dairy milk alternative field, and it’s the increasingly popular oat milk. So why do we need a new non-milk milk, you might be wondering? I asked the same question, in fact.
But after researching oat milk and its competitors, I found that there are a few qualities that set oat milk apart from the other non-dairy milks you might be more familiar with.
Here’s my breakdown of everything you need to know about oat milk, and whether it’s a good choice for growing kids.
Top image: Oatly Oat Milk via Instagram
What is oat milk?
Like other non-dairy milk options, oat milk isn’t true “milk. It’s made using the same process that creates almond milk, coconut milk, soy milk, and others — essentially, soak oats in water, blend, then sift out the chunks. But for more details, Oatly oat milk has a good description of their process.
The result is a beverage with some of the nutritional benefits of oats themselves.
Popular brands include Oatly Oat-Milk, Elmhurst Milked Oats, Silk Oat Yeah, Hood’s Planet Oat Oatmilk, and Happy Planet Oatmilk. They’re pretty widely available these days, from gourmet stores to big chains like Target.
How is oat milk different from other non-dairy milks?
Unlike almond milk, coconut milk or soy milk, oat milk actually retains more nutrients from its primary ingredient than the others. That’s because oats are more water soluble than nuts or soybeans. So if you’re just looking for a grain-based milk substitute, this will do the trick, but it does give you more of the good things from “oats” than the you might expect.
Why try oat milk?
Many consumers report that oat milk boasts a creamier, more milk-like flavor than other options. I’ve tried a range of Elmhurst plant-based milks, and the bottle of Milked Oats (their name for oat milk) is by far my favorite.
Oat milk has more protein, fat, carbs, and overall calories than most of the non-dairy milks, so you’re also getting more of a variety of nutrients in each serving.
Beyond the flavor, and nutritional value, oat milk is more environmentally friendly than nut milks since nuts are notoriously thirsty crops that require larger amounts of water to grow, and it’s more affordable to make. That said, it may not be cheaper at retail — you’ll have to check your dairy (or dairy alternative) aisle to compare.
Is oat milk safe for kids to drink?
So, let’s talk kids, because they have different needs than we do as adults.
Yes, overall oat milk is safe for kids over 12 months just like cow’s milk, and may be a good choice for children who are nut-free, gluten-free, or soy-free. It may also be a good lunchbox alternative for kids in a nut-free school, day care, or camp, because the flavor is appealing.
Still, there are some nutritional factors to consider.
In early childhood, kids need protein, fat, and calories to grow. Interestingly, oat milk contains more protein, fat and calories than some of the non-dairy milk alternatives, including the nut milks. Almond milk and coconut milk for example, each contain less than one gram of protein per serving (0.4 grams and .1 grams respectively), compared to the full 1 gram of protein in a serving of oat milk.
However oat milk’s single gram of protein doesn’t come close to the 3.4 grams of protein in a serving of traditional cow’s milk, or the comparable 3.3 grams of protein in a serving of soy milk.
Considering cow’s milk is a reliable, easy, and generally important source of protein for kids, if your kids can’t have dairy or soy for any reason, you definitely want to be sure they’re getting ample protein — and fat and calories — from other sources.
(Check out our post on 7 clever, meat-free ways to sneak a little more protein into your kid’s diet.)
It’s also important to note, especially if you want to make your own oat milk at home, that it doesn’t naturally contain the natural vitamins that milk does. For that reason, store-bought oat milk is fortified with vitamins D and B12 to mirror the nutritional benefits of cow’s milk so just double check the labeling to be sure your brand is too.
And of course, if you’re making a change in your home, like going vegetarian or vegan, it’s always a good idea to have a chat with your pediatrician first.