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
Related: Is it realistic to go vegan with kids? One mom’s real life tips and tricks.
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.
Related: 4 of the very best non-dairy ice creams, for those who can’t ordinarily scream for ice cream
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.
Thanks for looking in to this. My one year old drinks oat milk because of allergies to milk, wheat, soy, and nuts. We make sure he gets enough calories and protein, and oat milk works well to use in his sippy cup.
My 1 year old is also allergic to Cow’s milk and Soy. Which brand of fortified oat milk you are using for your baby? Does he get enough protein and calories from Oat milk or do you add in more food to get the required calories as in Cow’s milk
Did your child have any issues regarding weight prior to using Oat Milk due to the milk allergy?
Thanks for the great article, I always suggest my nephews and niches to use oat milk as their daily routine, I use oat milk in my breakfast and To be honest I can see some progress in health on me.
Excellent review! Thanks for the info 🙂 I have an oat milk toddler and she is super healthy!
My son just turned one and has been on Elecare due to a CMPA since he was 4 months old. Switching to Elecare Jr. has not been great and I am considering putting him on oatmilk. Is there ways to supplement the vitamins that it lacks vrs. cow’s milk? I know in foods, but any other ways?
There are many kinds or colors of OATLY which one is good to give to one year old? Thank you
Hello my baby just turned 1 so I Switched her to the enfagrow toddler milk, this made her so constipated. So I switched to soy milk hopefully this works. Now I’m interested in using oat milk because oatmeal is good for constipation because it’s high in fiber. My question is did your child develop any constipation issues when you switched from formula to the oats milk?
Hi Shalivia! My kids tried oat milk once or twice, but they always preferred cow’s milk in the end, so I can’t speak to that question exactly. But I will say most of the oat milks I’ve looked at have about 2g of fiber per cup, which is higher than a lot of the other alternative milks. Good luck!
My six year old kid has lactose intolerance. Is oat milk good for digestion?
Yes my son is lactose and tolerant as well, I have been using oats milk and he’s digesting it well with no issues!
My Granddaughter on oat