A Nutritional Comparison of Cow's Milk and Alternative Milk Products

Acad Pediatr. 2021 Aug;21(6):1067-1069. doi: 10.1016/j.acap.2020.12.007. Epub 2020 Dec 26.


Objective: Alternative milk products are becoming more visible and popular, but nutrient data to compare these products to traditional cow's milk are not easily accessible. By summarizing this nutritional information, this project aims to help primary care providers take better care of their patients by providing easy to access nutritional comparison between cow's milk and milk alternatives such as plant-based milks and goat's milk.

Methods: This project uses data from the United States Department of Agriculture's Food Data Central database and publicly available nutrition label data to compare the nutritional content of selected milk.

Results: Almond and oat milks provide less than half of the protein provided by soy, goat's, and cow's milk. Goat's milk contains the most fat of the products surveyed, while skim milk contains the lowest fat per serving. Soy milk, almond milk, and oat milk contain at least half the fat of cow's milk. Almond milk contained the most calcium of the milks surveyed. Quantities of folate and vitamin B12 were most notably decreased in goat's milk and almond milk while soy milk had almost double the amount of folate and vitamin B12 present in cow's milk.

Conclusion: Cow's milk still remains the best source of fats, protein, and micronutrients. For parents who prefer an alternative to cow's milk, the child's health should be considered. Parents may consider nutrition information when making decisions for their families, and primary care pediatricians should be able to provide current nutritional data on frequently advertised products.

Keywords: alternative milk products; cow's milk; goat's milk; milk nutrition; plant-based milk.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Female
  • Goats*
  • Humans
  • Milk*