Low-Carb Milk: The Best Plant-Based Alternatives to Whole Milk

Dairy-based milk is a staple for many on a ketogenic diet, but, for some, it's not a viable option. Fortunately, there are many plant-based kinds of milk available, and you may even like their taste better.

Whether you avoid dairy because you're allergic or choose to use plant-based milk per your preference, there's a lot to explore!

We're self-proclaimed keto foodies, so we're going to walk you through the best plant-based milk to drink on a ketogenic diet; it’s our pleasure.

Lactose Intolerance and Dairy

You may be a fan of heavy cream and dairy-based cheeses, but your gut may not comply with your wishes to consume them without discomfort.

An intolerance to lactose, an element found in traditional dairy-based milk, may cause gas, bloating, and indigestion for some to the point that consuming it downright unbearable.

Unfortunately, people with lactose intolerance don't produce enough of the enzyme lactase, which is needed to digest lactose.

And a deficiency in lactase can leave some running to the bathroom gripping their grumbling belly after drinking a seemingly harmless dairy-based milkshake.

Although cheeses and cream or milk are the favorites of many, about 75% of the population cannot digest these foods. Lactose is a disaccharide and contains two sugar molecules—glucose and galactose.

And again, our bodies cannot break lactose down into glucose and galactose without lactase to enable it to be absorbed into the bloodstream and used for energy.

Primarily, without lactase, lactose travels through our body undigested, which leads to gastric discomfort or digestive issues.

Here are other names used when foods include dairy—to make sure your gut doesn’t betray you at an embarrassing or inconvenient time:

  • Milk
  • Milk solids
  • Milk powder
  • Whey
  • Whey protein
  • Milk casein
  • Curds
  • Milk sugar
  • Buttermilk
  • Cheese
  • Malted milk
  • Dry milk solids
  • Sour cream
  • Whey protein concentrate
  • Milk byproducts

Dairy may be tough on the tummy for those with an intolerance, but it generally contains a lot of nutrients that one may not get if omitted from the diet.

Fortunately, many plant-based kinds of milk contain nutrients like calcium and vitamins like A, B12, and D.

Let's take a look at the array of delicious plant-based kinds of milk that work well on keto. Also, we'll cover the nutritional profile of each milk to help you keep your micronutrients in order, without consuming dairy-based whole milk.

Hemp Milk:

Products made from hemp are increasing in popularity due to their dense nutrient profile and health benefits. And, in addition to producing creamy and delicious milk, hemp is neutral in flavor.

Also, it's a snap to make hemp milk at home as an affordable and satisfying beverage to boost needed nutrients and hit those vital micronutrients.

Add water and shelled hemp seeds to a high-powered blender, with three times the amount of water to seeds, and blend until you achieve your desired consistency.

Plus, hemp milk is rich in nutrients like calcium, iron, zinc, manganese, magnesium, and phosphorus—it’s a nutritional powerhouse. 

Besides, if you find the micros impressive, check out hemp milk's keto-friendly macros. An eight-ounce serving of unsweetened milk contains only 80 calories, less than one gram of net carbs, and three grams of muscle-building protein.

Almond Milk (Unsweetened): 

This milk is mild in flavor and very versatile as it is suitable for either sweet or savory recipes, as a 1:1 replacement for dairy milk.

Also, almond milk is rich in many nutrients, like bone-building calcium, which can become deficient when we remove whole dairy milk from our diet. 

Plus, almond milk is rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. The milk's healthy fats are also essential because it helps reduce LDL (bad cholesterol) and increase HDL (good cholesterol).

Besides, almond milk contains a substantial amount of vitamin E, which helps the body fight against free-radical and oxidative damage.

Similar to making homemade hemp milk, add water and blanched almonds (skin removed) to a high-powered blender, 3:1, and blend until you achieve your desired consistency. 

One tip with making almond milk, soak the nuts overnight, as is advised when milking or consuming all nuts, to break down the phytic acid and neutralize the enzymes to aid in digestion.

Coconut Milk (Unsweetened):

Aside from its luscious consistency and ability to transform basic smoothies and sauces into an utterly decadent experience, coconut milk is also rich in medium-chain fatty acids.

Like hemp and almond milk, you can easily prepare this indulgent plant-based drink at home. All you need to make coconut milk is water and unsweetened coconut flakes, using about a 3:1 ratio, blend until smooth, and you're good to go. 

Plus, freshly-made coconut milk may make you wonder what you've been drinking all these years if you've only tasted the store-bought variety, it’s so tasty. 

Also, coconut oil is high in fiber, which makes it virtually zero-carb while providing loads of healthy fats to keep you satiated. Plus, coconut milk is naturally a bit sweet, which is an added benefit if you're missing sugar on keto.

Besides, the MCTs found in coconut milk aid in increasing HDL (good) cholesterol, which prevents colon cancer and promotes heart health. 

Macadamia Milk:

Buttery and creamy are two words that come to mind when thinking of macadamia nuts.

Also, in addition to being a great plant-based nut milk choice to use in sweet or savory dishes, it provides many health benefits—especially when coupled with a ketogenic diet. 

Here are some of the fantastic health benefits of the macadamia nut and its milk:

Nutrient-dense Nut:

Macadamia nuts are rich in healthy fats and also contain a plethora of nutrients (e.g., manganese, copper, magnesium, iron, thiamine, and vitamin B6).

Helps Control Blood Sugar: Macadamia nuts are very low in sugar and are an excellent food choice for anyone keeping it keto as it helps regulate blood sugar levels.

Packed with Antioxidants:

Oxidative and free-radical damage contribute to many diseases, including heart disease and dementia. Fortunately, macadamia nuts are loaded with antioxidants and help to prevent many degenerative diseases.

Fights Inflammation:

Macadamia nuts are filled with flavonoids and are anti-inflammatory to help prevent disease. 

May Improve Heart Health:

This tree nut also contains a form of vitamin E called tocotrienols, which helps lower cholesterol and prevents heart disease as well as some cancers.

Flaxseed Milk:

Adding these nutrient-rich seeds into your diet in smoothies, puddings, omega-3-rich oil, or making it into plant-based milk, is ideal.

Also, flaxseed milk contains calcium and vitamins B12, D, and A without the addition of soy. Plus, since flaxseed milk is just cold-pressed flax oil and purified water, it's absent of protein—helpful since moderate protein intake is advised on a standard ketogenic diet.

Pea Protein Milk:

Peas may seem to be out of bounds on a low-carb, high-fat, ketogenic diet, but its macros are better than you might think. Although it's a less commonly known plant-based milk, it's simple to make, using milled yellow harvested peas.
The milling process separates the pea protein from the fiber and starch in the peas. Then you mix the pea protein with water in a 3:1 ratio and voila—keto-friendly pea protein milk. 

Also, some may opt to add a pinch of salt, nutmeg, or cinnamon to the milk to enhance the flavor—easy peasy; we couldn't resist.

Pili Nut Milk:

Almond and coconut milk are very popular in the keto community, but pili nut milk is also fantastic and worth checking out. Pili nuts are one of the lowest carb nuts around, high in healthy fats, and they're delicious!

The macros provided in pili are perfect for the conscious keto dieter. Plus, there are many health benefits provided by the delectable nut.

In addition to being super high in healthy fat, low in carbs, and moderate in protein: pili nuts also contain several exogenous amino acids, and provide the highest levels of magnesium of any nut!

Also, in addition to the noted benefits, one serving of pili nuts offer your recommended daily dose of manganese and copper. Furthermore, pili nuts provide the following impressive health benefits:

Fight Inflammation:

Oxidative stress can lead to many conditions and diseases in the body. Fortunately, eating pili nuts helps reduce inflammation in the body that can cause cancer, heart disease, and cognitive diseases, which can prove life-threatening if left unchecked.

Lower LDL Cholesterol:

Thanks to the antioxidants in pili nuts, adding them to your meal plan, alone, can help reduce LDL (bad cholesterol) in the body.

Also, the nut's omega-3 fatty acid levels help prevent clogging of the arteries (atherosclerosis), heart attack, or stroke.

Enhance Cell Regeneration:

Along with helping the body fight oxidative stress, pili nuts are also a great natural sleep aid because they're rich in magnesium.
Magnesium helps promote the release of serotonin in the body, along with other relaxing hormones, a great late-night snack to ease you into a restful slumber.

Strengthens Bones:

This tasty nut, which is truly a fruit, contains many minerals like calcium, phosphorous, and manganese, which all help build and maintain healthy bones.

Plus, as we age, or if pregnant, we often need more minerals to prevent issues like brittle bones or improper development.

Boosts Brain Health:

As we have shared, pili nuts offer an array of health benefits. In-kind, the fatty acids in the nuts help to keep our brains more youthful and can help boost ketones on a ketogenic diet.

As we age, it's more likely one will develop some degenerative diseases like multiple sclerosis (MS), dementia, or Alzheimer's disease. But eating a few servings of pili nuts a week can help to combat oxidative stress in the brain as well as the body.

Cashew Milk:

Although cashews are a sweeter nut, we can drink the milk on keto in limited amounts. Also, despite their slightly higher carb load, the milk is great for sweet or savory recipes—adding a complex and delightful flavor.

Plus, if you're curious about creating dairy-free butter, cashew cream is a fantastic base to combine with other dairy-free ingredients, like nutritional yeast, to create a delicious result.

In addition to possibly boosting immunity, cashew milk is incredibly creamy and a formidable replacement for dairy in many recipes. Plus, in addition to its heavenly taste, cashew milk is quite nutrient-dense and can assist in boosting skin, eye, and heart health.

In addition to integrating plant-based milk into your meal plan, a customized meal plan is another excellent choice to keep you on track toward your goals. 

We provide a quick and easy quiz to formulate a personalized meal plan to help you reach your goals on keto. Click here to take the quick quiz and access your personalized meal plan today.

Smoothie Shake Recipes

As you can see, many plant-based milk options fit well within the dietary guidelines of a ketogenic diet. 

Whether you choose to pour some unsweetened almond milk over low-carb cereal or blend macadamia milk into a fatty, nutrient-dense, smoothie: the options are plentiful.

Here are some of our favorite keto-friendly smoothie or shake options to try with the plant-based milk of your choice:

Wake Me Up Keto Activate Mocha Frappe:

SERVES 1

TOTAL TIME: 5 MIN

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cups ice
  • ½ cup cold brew iced coffee
  • 1 tbsp Whole Earth sweetener
  • ¼ cup heavy cream (substitute with coconut cream for a non-dairy version)
  • 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1 scoop of Keto Activate in Dark Chocolate Truffle
  • Optional: 1 tbsp MCT oil

Instructions: Blend Until Smooth

Irresistible Keto Activate Choco Peanut Butter Shake

SERVES 1

TOTAL TIME: 5 MIN
Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cups of ice
  • 1 cup of unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 2 tbsp of unsweetened peanut butter
  • 1 scoop of Creamy Chocolate Keto Shake
  • Optional: 1 scoop vanilla whey protein powder
  • ¼ cup heavy cream (substitute with coconut cream for a non-dairy version)
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp Whole Earth sweetener
  • Optional: 1 tbsp MCT oil and collagen

Instructions: Blend Until Smooth

Miraculous Mint Keto Activate Chocolate Chip Frappe

SERVES 1

TOTAL TIME: 5 MIN

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup ice
  • 1 ½ cup coconut, almond, or macadamia nut milk
  • ¼ cup heavy cream (substitute with coconut cream for a non-dairy version)
  • ½ ripe avocado
  • 1 cup baby spinach
  • 1 scoop Creamy Chocolate Keto Shake
  • 2 tsp Whole Earth sweetener
  • 1-2 tsp peppermint extract
  • Optional: 1 tbsp MCT oil

Instructions: Blend Until Smooth

Ridiculous Raspberry Keto Activate Smoothie

SERVES 1

TOTAL TIME: 5 MIN

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cups of ice
  • ¾ cup of frozen raspberries
  • 2 tsp Whole Earth sweetener
  • ¼ cup of heavy cream (substitute with coconut cream for a non-dairy version)
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 ¼ cup of unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1 scoop Strawberry Cheesecake Keto Shake
  • Optional: 1 tbsp MCT oil

Instructions: Blend Until Smooth

Summary

There are so many recipes to enjoy on keto that incorporate delicious and nutritious forms of plant-based, non-dairy, milk on keto. We hope the recipes we've shared will act as a strong jumping-off point for you and that you enjoy them all!

It's exciting to learn that the nutrients found in dairy milk, like calcium, are also abundant in many plant-based kinds of milk. Plus, non-dairy, keto-friendly, milk is easy to make at home!

Take the recipes we've shared for a spin and explore new and exciting ways to integrate the wide variety of plant-based milk into your diet.  Rest assured, they are at least as tasty as their dairy counterparts—enjoy!

Sources

  1. ke, J. A. (2018). Macadamia Integrifolia Maiden & Betche, MACADAMIA TETRAPHYLLA L. Johnson (PROTEACEAE) — Macadamia Nuts, Australian Nuts. CRC Handbook of Nuts, 207–209. doi: 10.1201/9781351071130-79
  2. Correction: Effect of Tree Nuts on Glycemic Control in Diabetes: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Dietary Trials. (2014). PLoS ONE, 9(9). doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0109224
  3. Goldstein, M. R. (1992). Nuts, nuts good for your heart...? Archives of Internal Medicine, 152(12). doi: 10.1001/archinte.152.12.2507b
  4. Almonds can promote heart health without increasing weight. (2007). Nursing Standard, 22(9), 14–15. doi: 10.7748/ns.22.9.14.s18
  5. Leson, G. (n.d.). Hemp seeds for nutrition. Hemp: Industrial Production and Uses, 229–238. doi: 10.1079/9781845937935.0229

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