Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Reader Questions: Supporting the Unemployed and Non-Dairy Milks

I've had two readers ask questions recently, so I figured I would go ahead and answer them here in one big answering questions blog post.

Mary asked about how to helpfully support families who are going through unemployment, uncertainty or financial troubles.  

Well, Mary that's a good question.  One I actually had to think about quite a bit, because really there isn't that much one can do other than pray. I think the biggest things are just to be a supportive, listening ear and share whatever encouragement you can. Sharing your own story of unemployment or financial difficulty (once you are on the other side) can be helpful, but only if it is done in an encouraging way and not in a this is what you should do way. 

I suppose the other thing would be sensitive to their financial issues and suggest free get-togethers instead of those that cost money (ie. meeting at your house instead of at a restaurant). Or suggest going to a free park instead of a museum or zoo that has an admission fee.  

But, DO ask to get together with them. When one is dealing with a "crisis" it can be easy for them isolate themself. There is embarassment and other issues at play, so don't let your friends do that. Make an effort to reach out.

And, I know I always appreciate any kids' clothing anyone is willing to pass on (even when not dealing with financial hardship).  This is especially true for clothing that is more expensive to buy (like winter coats, boots, etc.).

Question #2

I was asked about grain and nut based milks.

First of all, I don't know too much about these, as I don't buy them, but I do view them with suspicion.

What we do in my house is that my babies/toddlers drink breastmilk until they are age 3 or so, and after that they may or may not drink milk, but I try not to make it a regular part of their diet. I have one child who is a big milk drinker, but the other ones not so much. Right now, the only milk I buy is regular, full-fat milk.  If we had more money I would buy organic, grass-fed milk, but I don't. 

I think the healthiest milk is raw milk from your own cows that have free range to graze around happily mooing at your from green fields filled with sweet clover.  I have neither a clover filled field nor a happy, mooing cow. Personally I would only drink raw milk from my own cow or a small farm I trust VERY WELL. Pasteurization was invented for a reason, ya know. 

Anyway back to nut and grain-based milks.  

I suppose they are useful for people who can't tolerate dairy and want to have some sort of milk-based drink to use in recipes, but I tend to think that they shouldn't be drunk in any great quantity.  

Keep in mind that animal milk is designed to be a perfect, whole, food and provide ALL the nutrition a young animal member of that species needs. So cow's milk is a complete, whole nutritious food for baby cows.  Of course we aren't cows, so it's not perfect for humans and some people can't digest it.  Personally, I'm a big fan of human milk for human kids, but, once a child is weaned, I generally think that cow's milk or goat's milk is going to be more nutritious than "milk" made from a nut or grain because animal milk is complete nutrition for baby animals while nuts or grains are nothing of the sort.

However, to talk about non-dairy milks on an individual basis.  

Coconut Milk: This is probably the healthiest if it is pure coconut milk.  Coconut milk is made by blending coconut meat with water, so it's basically just coconut and has all the nutritional properties of the coconut (which is pretty healthy).   The kind which is sold in a carton and sweetened is more processed and less healthy than if you make your own or buy canned.

Almond Milk:  If you  make your own, it isn't too processed but the kind you buy in the carton really isn't all that good for you.  Almond milk is made at home by soaking almonds and then grinding them up with water and straining out the remaining pulp. It takes A LOT of almonds to make a little bit of almond milk and really I wouldn't say that it's all that nutritious as it's probably better to just eat a handful of almonds. 

Rice Milk: This provides almost no nutritional value and is generally highly processed and sweetened. 

Soy Milk:  Need I even mention this?  Terrible stuff.  Highly processed and generally just overall bad for you. 

Hemp Milk: Again, you are getting into a highly processed and usually sweetened food.  Hemp protein does contain some nutrition so I would say this is better than rice milk.  And, it is best if you make your own (basically made by soaking hemp seeds and then grinding them with water and straining...very similar to how almond milk is make). 

Quinoa Milk: You can make this at home by cooking quinoa and blending with water.  It's going to be basically as nutritious as quinoa is. I haven't seen it in stores, but I imagine that in stores it's pretty processed and sweetened and not that great for you. 

My Opinion (which probably isn't worth much): If animal milk is not an option for you, I would use either coconut milk or make your own almond, hemp or quinoa milk. I would generally stay away from any processed milk that comes in a carton.  And I wouldn't really drink any of those milks...just use them in recipes that require milk.

So...those are my answers.  That was fun.  I love answering questions.  If you have any more questions just leave them in the comments (or email me) and I'll try to answer them. And, if I don't know the answer, I'll just make it up. ;)  

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  1. The word "milk" always throws me off! It's hard for me to think of anything derived from a nut or grain as "milk." But thank you for answering my question. We don't have any dairy allergies here so I don't use any of those milks. I never thought of making coconut milk or almond milk at home! Talk about a lot of work! I'd much rather feed and milk by hand my own happily mooing cow. :-). TB

  2. You wrote: "I suppose the other thing would be sensitive to their financial issues and suggest free get-togethers instead of those that cost money (ie. meeting at your house instead of at a restaurant). Or suggest going to a free park instead of a museum or zoo that has an admission fee."

    Yes! Great advice, and it is helpful advice to remember for any family that you know with a budget.

  3. Happy cows don't moo. They tend to be quiet. At least, that is what Temple Grandin says.

    And almond milk... that is a funny mental image! Didn't know almonds had mammary glands. :) I do drink the stuff occasionally, as I'm lactose intolerant, but it really is a poor dairy substitute.

  4. My daughter asked the pediatrician about her baby who seems to have developed some slight red marks or rash on his skin. Her older children never had this. She was told that perhaps its a little bit of an intolerance to dairy coming through from her breast milk to the baby. She asked me what she can use in place of dairy and I mentioned almond milk. I agree with you about soymilk and I told her that wouldn't be the best option. I didn't think of coconut milk, though. Now that I think about it I've seen cartons of coconut milk sold at WF but have never looked into that. She would mainly use it as a creamer for her coffee but as she also bakes I'm not sure if coconut milk would always be the best option for that.


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