The Best Milk to Drink For Those With Diabetes

The Best Milk to Drink for Those with DiabetesOur philosophy at Smart Diabetes Solutions is about transitioning over time to a healthy lifestyle. You will not find fad dieting ideas and promises of “quick fixes” here. Because of this approach, we understand that giving up completely on certain items that are part of your daily routine is not a good way to set you up for success. Milk is one of these things!

Milk has been in the top 10 of most consumed beverages in the US for decades. We put it on our cereal, in oatmeal, in protein shakes, in coffee and drink it straight from the jug. It was part of growing up for most of us, and regardless of all the mixed messages out there regarding the nutritional values of milk, we still drink it, a lot of it.

But what about those who have type 2 diabetes and can’t enjoy milk the way they used to?

The American Diabetes Association recommends that you should choose 1 percent or skim milk. But for those who are used to more fat-rich milk like 2 percent or whole, skim milk may taste closer to water than milk. And 1 percent doesn’t pack the same nutrient, mineral and protein punch as whole milk. So what is really the best milk for someone with diabetes?

The Other Option – Dairy-Free Milk

One of my favorite things about almond, coconut and non-dairy milk in general is that they don’t spoil easily. Expiration dates for dairy-free milk is usually around a month or so from purchase. Milk from a cow will only last you a week or so. Also, almond milk does not need to be refrigerated, which makes it great for traveling.

The next tidbit may surprise you. Did you know that almond and coconut milk, per cup, have more calcium than dairy milk? They also boast a higher per volume vitamin and mineral content as well.  

Something that many don’t consider is the effect cow’s milk has on the digestive system. Even those who are not lactose-intolerant could have trouble digesting the lactose (the sugar found in cow’s milk). Drinking non-dairy milk provides easily digestible nutrition, and in the case of almond milk, a very low GI and GL score.

Now I understand at this point you’re probably saying to yourself, “yes, I get it, but non-dairy milk i expensive.” In reality, non-dairy milk is comparable in price to dairy milk at the half gallon. At one point around eight years ago, non-dairy milk was more expensive because it was more of a niche product. But today, non-dairy milk is widely available and the prices have come down as processing techniques improved. Also remember that non-dairy milk spoils less easily, so you most likely won’t be wasting money  by pouring bad milk down the drain.

Transitioning to Non-Dairy Milk the Easy Way

You can slowly transition away from dairy milk or cut down on it by adding healthy non-dairy milk in your daily regimen.

I used to drink whole milk straight from the glass bottle it was delivered in. At the time I had Munroe Dairy, a local dairy delivery service in Rhode Island, bring me two gallons of whole milk a week. Now, I always have a combination of almond, coconut and 2 percent in my refrigerator at all times. It takes time, but there are some really great benefits to regularly drinking dairy-free milk.

During my own weight loss, I made the switch to non-dairy, but it didn’t happen overnight. I started by mixing 2 percent or whole milk with almond or coconut milk in my coffee, oatmeal or pancake mix. I began with maybe 25 percent non-dairy milk with 75 percent dairy milk and then kept leaning toward 100 percent non-dairy. It’s a weaning process, and just like our 21 Day Jumpstart Challenge, we feel that if you adjust gradually, there’s a higher likelihood of a lasting lifestyle change than giving something up cold turkey.

(Note: Want to get started on the path towards well-managed diabetes and great health? We’d love to see you inside our 21 Day Jumpstart Challenge! It’s free to join and is an excellent way to build the healthy habits that will allow you to reach your health goals.)

Smart Diabetes 21 Day Challenge

Try using non-dairy milk in these to start your transition:

  • In your coffee
  • Smoothies
  • Oatmeal
  • Cream sauces
  • Fruit popsicles
  • Mashed cauliflower or sweet potato
  • Creamy soups
  • Protein shakes

Check the index below to find out where your favorite milk options rank.

Remember, for those with diabetes, the lower the GI and GL, the better.

1 cup/ 8oz GI GL Cal. Fat (g) Chol. (mg) Carbs (g) Fiber (g) Sugar (g) Protein (g) Calcium (mg)
Plain Almond Milk, Unsweetened 25 0.25 30 2.5 0 0 0 0 1 450
Vanilla Almond Milk 27 0.5 90 2.5 0 16 0 16 1 450
Plain Coconut Milk, Unsweetened 40 2.4 45 4.5 0 0 0 0 0 450
Vanilla Coconut Milk 45 2.6 90 5 0 9 0 9 0 450
Skim Milk 32 4 90 0 5 13 0 12 8 300
1% Milk 34 4 110 2.5 10 13 0 12 8 300
Soy Milk, Unsweetened 22 4 110 4.5 0 9 2 6 8 450
2% Milk 38 5 120 3.5 15 12 0 12 8 300
Whole Milk 41 5 150 8 35 12 0 11 8 300
Vanilla Soy Milk 28 5 100 3.5 0 10 1 8 6 300
Almond/Coconut Blend Milk Unsweetened 34 5 35 3 0 0 0 0 0 450
Almond/Coconut Blend Milk, Original 38 5 50 3 0 5 0 5 0 450
Plain Oat Milk 69 6.9 130 2.5 0 24 2 19 4 350
Plain Rice Milk, Unsweetened 72 7.2 90 2.5 0 15 0 0 0 300
Vanilla Oat Milk 73 8.1 130 2.5 0 25 2 20 4 300
Vanilla Rice Milk 80 9.6 130 2.5 0 26 0 12 1 300


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