Recently, I made the decision to give up milk. Okay, it wasn't so much of a conscious decision as a natural byproduct of my inherent laziness. And unlike a lot of those byproducts (e.g. credit card late-fees, interrupted phone service, etc.), this one has been nothing but positive.
See, one of the perks of working in the Test Kitchen here is that at the end of the week, we get to take home any leftover food that could go bad over the weekend. And there was half a half-gallon of lonely almond milk about a month ago that was going to save me a trip to the grocery (or having to pay the extortionate gas station milk rate), so I grabbed it.
Now there are a lot of reasons to examine the choices we make in what we eat, and things like the carbon footprint of dairy cows, or even additives to milk, are certainly some factors that affect how I think about the choices that I make as a consumer. In the case of almond milk, for me, a quick glance at the nutritional info on the side of the package compared to that of the 2 percent milk that has been my choice since my mom stopped providing was revelation enough. It hit all the bullet points of my personal eye test: low in fat, calories, and sugars and high in calcium and vitamins A and D (the things that I drink milk for).There are lots of claims as to the health benefits of almond milk. Some debatable, some not. If you so choose, you can immerse yourself for hours with a quick Google search. But I don't need internet research or comparison label shopping when it comes to the final verdict on what I consume. Really, personal or planetary health always has to compete with my highly subjective palate. Namely, do I like the way it tastes?
Full disclosure: another factor that makes my decision to give up milk easier is the fact that I don't drink milk. Not by the glass. I use and consume almost a gallon per week between my morning granola kickstart and all-day coffee fixes. And in these applications, I've found that almond milk performs just as admirably as its dairy counterpart. In the case of coffee I will say that it lacks a certain tongue coating fattiness that I attribute to its lack of, well, fat. But for someone who uses milk and sugar to find equilibrium in a cup of coffee, almond milk serves this role well. And as far as taste goes with granola and other cereals the natural nuttiness goes beyond acceptable to (gasp!) preferable for me. Plus, every time I fix a bowl I feel like I'm listening to some hippie guardian angel that is patting me on the back for making a wise choice. I have also, unbeknownst to them, made the switch with my kids cereal, and they are none-the-wiser. For those by-the-glass milk drinkers, I can attest to the fact that almond milk was an across the board winner at a recent gathering of our editors and TK staff when presented with straight glasses non-dairy milk options (i.e. soy, rice, hemp, etc.).
Photo: © Laurie Castelli/cultura/Corbis