So, you have decided to try a vegetarian diet. You know the basics: no red meat, no fish, and no chicken. But does this mean you also have to forgo milk and your other favorite dairy products?
Whether you’re simply trying to eat more plant-based foods or have made the decision to live a vegetarian diet, it’s critical to include the right nutrients in your meatless meals, especially protein and calcium.
As you learn more about what is and isn’t allowed in a vegetarian diet, it is only natural for questions to arise. Most of these questions will relate to foods you can and cannot eat.
Here, you’ll find everything you need to know about vegetarianism, as well as if and how milk has a place in this diet.
Can Vegetarians Drink Milk?
At its most basic level, a vegetarian diet excludes meat, poultry, and fish. There are, however, a variety of vegetarian diets with additional permissions or limits. You may have heard about a pescatarian, lacto- or ovo-vegetarians, or vegan diet – which is technically vegetarian.
Aside from a vegan diet, nearly all derivatives of a vegetarian diet allow milk. So, you likely do not have to worry about including dairy if you are trying to apply a vegetarian diet to your lifestyle.
However, if you don’t like dairy products or milk, feel free to leave them out of your diet as it is not a requirement to include them in a vegetarian diet.
Milk originates from animals, most commonly cows; however, it is not animal flesh. Hence, it is not meat. Besides cow’s milk, many people in the United States and other Western nations consume goat’s milk and sheep’s milk.
So – yes, milk is vegetarian, according to the most basic definition, and you may still call yourself a vegetarian if you drink it on a vegetarian diet.
If you’re still concerned or confused, you might consider a vegan diet. Vegans do not eat any animal products, such as milk, eggs, or dairy products, like cheese and butter.
Why is it Good to Drink Milk on a Vegetarian Diet?
For vegetarians, milk is a comprehensive source of protein. If you’re thinking about going meatless, keep in mind that many plant-based sources of protein are incomplete proteins, meaning you might be missing out on some of the essential building blocks our bodies require.
Because real dairy milk is a high-quality and pure protein source, it supplies vegetarians with the entire spectrum of necessary amino acids. Protein is required for the body’s health and strength, from muscles to hair and bones to teeth.
Americans, per the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, do not consume enough calcium. Despite the fact that vegetarians consume 30% more milk than non-vegetarians and consume an additional 150mg of calcium, most vegetarians cannot consume the suggested three daily servings of milk and dairy products.
Calcium is another crucial component that may be got through milk, whether or not you follow a strict vegetarian diet. Sure, vegetarians can source their calcium from plant-based foods. However, the required portions to meet the daily recommended amount of calcium may be unrealistic for most.
Milk also contains other essential nutrients that vegetarians may find difficult to incorporate into their diet.
Furthermore, replacing milk with non-dairy calcium sources such as fortified soy milk and leafy greens might result in dietary deficiencies in other important elements such as vitamin D, protein, phosphorus, potassium, riboflavin, magnesium, vitamin B12, and vitamin A.
Simply put, milk is a quick, tasty, and cost-effective meal option. Drinking milk can help you extend your food budget, which is great when high production costs eat away at your food budget.
Milk has more nutritional content than almost any other drink you can get for roughly 25 cents a glass. B vitamins for energy, protein for muscle mass, vitamin A for a strong immune system, and bone-building minerals like calcium and vitamin D are all found in an 8-ounce glass of milk.
What Other Dairy Products Can Vegetarians Eat?
The recommended amount of dairy for anyone over the age of nine is three servings each day. Although a glass of milk (one serving of dairy) provides many necessary nutrients, especially for those adhering to a plant-based diet, there are many different ways to ensure you eat the suggested amount of dairy each day.
The variety of dairy products in a vegetarian diet allows you to use milk and dairy throughout multiple meals. These other dairy products also contribute different flavors and textures to food. Plus, as we all know, a diet with many options allows for more access and consistency.
If you don’t like milk or just aren’t keen on drinking three glasses per day, there are many other dairy foods you can incorporate into your diet that provide similar nutrients and are still vegetarian-friendly. The most common sources of dairy include:
- Heavy cream
- Whip cream
- Ice cream
- Cream cheese
- Sour cream
- And many more!
All of these foods can be ingested while following a vegetarian diet and provide the opportunity to create unique dishes. With so many options, you’ll be able to easily reach your daily recommended servings of dairy without getting bored with the same glass of milk.
Are There Any Reasons Why Vegetarians Should Not Drink Milk?
Of course, vegetarians do not have to drink milk. You can still include eggs in your diet for protein without having to completely eliminate animal-source foods – because vegetarians restrict animal flesh, eggs are still safe.
Even so, there are still many reasons why a vegetarian may wish to remove milk from their diet. For some, they may just be lactose intolerant, and their bodies physically can’t handle milk or its products. However, there are still several other reasons why vegetarians exclude milk and dairy products from their diets.
Some vegetarians withhold from consuming dairy because of ethical reasons. For example, vegans argue that dairy cows are mistreated, including steroid use and forceful impregnation, despite the fact that they are alive when milked.
Others keep milk out of their daily consumption because of health issues. It’s possible that, for some, dairy has a detrimental impact on digestion and cholesterol and contains hormones or a protein that just doesn’t agree with their digestive system.
Can Vegetarians Drink Milk Alternatives?
As you may already know, there are many dairy-free milk alternatives. These are often added to vegan diets in the place of milk sourced from animals. These milk alternatives include:
- Almond milk
- Soy milk
- Cashew milk
- Coconut milk
- Hemp milk
- Rice milk
- And many others.
Some of these milk alternatives are fortified and include nutrients that you may not otherwise be able to get from plants.
However, if you are following a vegetarian diet, it is recommended to include dairy. Not only do dairy products add more protein to your diet, which is difficult to source solely from plants, but they also provide necessary vitamins and nutrients that you won’t get from a meatless diet.
Best Vegetarian Dishes with Dairy
Sure, you still can’t eat a cheeseburger on a vegetarian diet, but you can still add cream, cheese, milk, butter, and plenty of others to add the same flavor and richness to your favorite meatless recipes.
For breakfast, you can enjoy creamy smoothies packed with your preferred fruits and vegetables – this is an easy and effective way to get many diverse nutrients and vitamins in a single meal.
Other delicious vegetarian breakfasts with dairy include pancakes, cottage cheese toast, and even a cheesy egg sandwich!
For lunch or dinner, you can try vegetable tacos with cheese, creamy soups, grain bowls, pasta with cheese, sour cream, and even a bit of yogurt for a particularly surprising and delicious sauce.
And luckily, almost all desserts are vegetarian-friendly, so you can typically enjoy all of your favorites without worrying about sticking to the guidelines of a vegetarian diet.
Final Thoughts on Can Vegetarians Drink Milk
Regardless of the diet, you are trying to follow, make sure that the food you are consuming makes you feel good and healthy.
Luckily, vegetarianism is a plant-based diet that still allows for milk and other dairy products. This means that you can choose a diet that is friendlier on the planet without having to let go of as many food groups.
Sure, you can be a vegetarian that does not drink milk, but if you enjoy the occasional glass of cool milk or mozzarella on your salad, you won’t have to say no or find a plant-based alternative. Milk is completely permissible on a vegetarian diet!
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