Got Milk in Your Shopping Cart?
Got Milk in Your Shopping Cart?
Do we still need milk? Are alternative milks better?
young woman buying milk in grocery store dairy aisle
Milk has been an important staple in American refrigerators and pantries for decades, providing essential protein in lean times and minerals and vitamins that are otherwise hard to get in the diet. But with all of the seemingly comparable "milk alternatives" in the grocery store, many of us wonder: do we still need milk? Are alternative milks better because they're more expensive?

  1. It’s affordable
  2. A gallon of milk averages $3.30; that’s about 21 cents per cup! At such a low cost, it's easy to fit healthy eating into any budget.1

  3. It’s natural:
  4.  Milk naturally contains significant amounts of essential nutrients like calcium, protein, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and vitamin A. One cup of milk has protein equal to 10 cups of almond milk or 2 cups of low-fat soy milk.2 “Milk alternatives” have some beneficial nutrients, but other nutrients must be added to make those products comparable to milk.

  5. It’s nourishing:
  6. For such a simple food, milk packs a nutritional punch. A single cup of milk contains as much potassium as a medium banana and as much calcium as 12 cups of spinach. Milk is a great source for 3 of the 4 nutrients that most Americans are lacking: calcium, potassium and vitamin D (fiber is the fourth).  In fact, the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that everyone over age 9 consume 3 cups of milk or milk products everyday.

  7. It’s versatile:
  8. Instead of using water to make oatmeal or soup, try milk for a nutritious boost. Instead of gulping down a sugary sports drink after a workout, try a cold glass of milk: the protein will help with muscle recovery. The versatility of milk allows it to fit into a wide variety of eating occasions.

  9. It’s wholesome:
  10. Dairy families and milk processors take pride in their products so you can enjoy them and benefit from their nutrition. It’s wonderful that we can reap the benefits of milk through all stages of life.

With an affordable price tag and a whole bunch of nutrition, milk definitely deserves a spot in your shopping cart. It adds just the right balance to a meal and it makes a great addition to a snack. This, among other reasons, is why milk still belongs on your shopping list.

Tracy Witmer, Registered Dietitian

1Prices from May 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics

2USDA’s Nutrient Database nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/search/