We all grew up knowing that milk was important for strong bones. Remember those “GOT MILK?” ads? No one can deny the importance of calcium in a healthy diet. But as researchers learn more and more about the affects our foods have on us, consumers become more informed about what they’re eating. Maybe you’ve thought about how to get your vitamins without drinking cow’s milk. You’re not the only one, and there are options.

The dairy industry is run much like the beef industry. Cows are packed into tight quarters and fed a concoction of hormones and antibiotics. Cow’s milk has traces of anything the cow ate, so whatever the farmer/factory is feeding them affects your milk. Fifty years ago the average cow produced 2,000 pounds of milk a year. Today cows can produce up to 50,000 pounds! How is this possible? It’s all due to the system of mass farming. Another reason to pass on cow’s milk is the number of people allergic to it. The majority of people don’t realize they suffer from a milk allergy. Only when they remove dairy products from their diet do they discover the reason for feeling sick.

Soymilk is a popular choice when switching from cow’s milk. It’s one of the easier options to find at your local grocery store. The milk is made by grinding soybeans and it contains about the same about of protein as cow’s milk. Many manufacturers enrich their milk with calcium carbonate to increase the amount of calcium. Soymilk can be found in a many different forms, from chocolate milk to light milk. People might discover they have a soy allergy when they consume soymilk, which means they’ll have to try another option.

Rice milk comes in just as many varieties as soymilk and most groceries stock it. Rice milk is made from brown rice and doesn’t contain as much protein or calcium as cow’s milk. To balance this the milk is commonly fortified with vitamins and minerals. You can use rice milk as a replacement for cow’s milk when cooking! Because rice milk is made from common brown rice it’s possible to make a homemade version. Thanks to the variety of rice milk out there you can experiment till you find the one that fits your family.

Almond milk is slowly becoming popular as another alternative to cow milk. People with soy allergies commonly turn to almond milk. Just like rice milk it can be used in cooking and you can make your own at home. Drinkers of almond milk also receive the health benefits almonds provide.

Soy, rice and almond milk are all considered vegan since they have no animal products. When shopping for non-dairy milk you’ll be able to choose organic or non-organic. You’ll also get to try different flavor options. Kids sometimes struggle accepting a new food so trying a chocolate version of non-dairy milk might be a good way to introduce it to them. For people looking for healthier, safer milk, vegan milk is a great answer.