Cutting through the clutter, coffee shops continue to add nondairy alternatives to their menus

Posted at 7:26 AM, May 07, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-08 10:21:22-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Okay, coffee lovers, this one is for you! New nondairy alternatives are hitting the coffee shop menu all the time. but are these options interchangeable?

"Past year or so oak milk has been the biggest thing," said Isaac Stinson, a barista at The Loading Dock, "There's definitely a shift in that direction as people are trying to be more healthy. A lot of people don't really know the benefits [of nondairy alternatives] or don't really know what they're doing from milk to milk."

Soy, almond, coconut, hemp, now oat milk. Even CBD-infused cold brews.

"Nashville is one of the bigger coffee cities at this point in the country," said Stinson.

He says Nashville is a hot spot for coffee culture and nondairy alternatives are a big part.

"Sometimes there are things that clients come in and ask about and it's the first time I've heard about it so I have to do my research," said Julie Mason, a registered dietitian with Allison Nutrition Consulting.

Mason and fellow dietitian Sara Gosik say all these nondairy products are nutritionally different from cow's milk and consumers need to think about them as liquid versions of their original food source.

"Something like coconut milk, it will basically have no protein. It will have mostly fat mostly saturated fat," Mason said.

Gosik says some of her clients are lactose intolerant, but says many of us can digest dairy just fine.

"Cow's milk has a stigma right now in our culture. But the interesting thing is if we were not made to have cow's milk we wouldn't have what's called a Lactase enzyme, which is actually one thing that's in our body that helps us break down Lactose which is in cow's milk," she said.

If you do get discomfort from cow's milk, soy is similar.

"Soy milk is probably the closest to cow's milk in terms of protein content," said Mason.

Almond and coconut milk are gaining popularity, but beware of added sugars.

"Some are sweetened some are not sweetened so definitely there can be some varieties among the same dairy-free alternatives," said Mason.

Some plant-based products like oat milk can be low on vitamins and minerals unless they're fortified with Calcium and vitamins like A, D, or B12.

Dietitians say try mixing-up your personal menu to help fill-in nutritional gaps.

So what's next on the menu? Even coffee insiders like Stinson say it's hard to know what's brewing.