Dairy like milk, yogurt, and cheese are high-calorie options that are great to include in your diet if you’re looking to gain weight. However, dairy is not the best option if you are lactose intolerant or follow a plant-based diet.
High-calorie alternatives to milk are intended for lactose intolerant, vegetarian, or vegan individuals. Oat milk, rice milk, and soy milk are great high-calorie milk alternatives that can help you achieve a higher caloric intake without giving you the gastric distress that regular dairy products provide.
In this article, you will learn everything related to high-calorie milk alternatives—the best ones to include and what benefits or cons they might have. Additionally, you will learn how to make DIY versions of high-calorie non-milk alternatives rather than relying on store-bought products.
Why You Might Want A High-Calorie Alternative To Milk
Here are the 3 main reasons to include high calorie milk alternatives into your diet:
You’re Looking To Gain Weight
The primary reason you would want a high-calorie food is to achieve a caloric surplus. People on a weight gain journey need to consume a diet high in calories.
However, why would you want to add a milk alternative rather than simply drinking cow’s milk? Likely because you have an allergy to milk protein.
It is said that 4% of the population has an allergy to milk protein. This means that your body detects the milk’s protein as a strange substance in your body and creates an allergic response.
An allergic reaction could be milk or severe. It can range from just having a rash to a life-threatening event of your mouth, tongue, and throat swelling preventing you from breathing correctly.
People who have an allergic reaction to milk protein cannot have any product that comes from dairy, which is why you’d be seeking a milk alternative.
There is a distinction to be made between vegetarians and vegans. Vegetarians eliminate most of the animal proteins. However, they can still consume eggs and dairy products. Vegans, on the other hand, don’t consume any animal products (such as milk).
Having a plant-based approach has several benefits. It can reduce the risk of heart disease, promote weight loss, and improve sugar levels, but it means that milk is no longer an option when looking for high-calorie bulking foods.
You’re Lactose Intolerant
Lactose intolerance happens when your body cannot break down the lactose molecule found in dairy products. This means that the lactose molecule goes straight to your intestines, where your gut bacteria ferment it. This can result in bloating or diarrhea.
It is said that over 68% of the population has a certain degree of lactose intolerance. This means that you can consume some dairy once in a while and have no problems with it. However, when you overindulge, you might then get gastric distress.
When this happens, you might then want to choose milk alternatives.
3 Best High-Calorie Alternatives To Milk
One of the main problems with most milk alternatives is that they are not very high in calories.
In most cases, you’ll find 50-80 kcal per cup, which is less than the 124 kcal per cup that you’d normally get from drinking 2% cow milk.
This doesn’t represent a significant number of calories for someone looking to increase their caloric intake, especially if you’re only drinking one or two cups per day.
That is why, in our case, when seeking high-calorie options to milk, we want to look for options that have more than 80 kcal per cup, which only leaves us with three choices that can be considered “high calorie”.
The best high-calorie milk alternatives are:
- Oatmeal Milk
- Rice Milk
- Soy Milk
1. Oatmeal Milk
Oat milk is created when you mix water and oatmeal in a blender until you get a fine consistency. In some cases, additives and stabilizers are added to have a better texture and flavor. It has a someone sweet flavor compared to cow’s milk.
One cup of oatmeal milk (240 mL) contains 120 kcal, 16.0 g of carbs, 1.9 g of fiber, 3.0 g of protein, and 5.0 g of fat.
The nutritional content can vary from each brand, but this is the average of the nutritional content that you can find on the market related to oat milk. If more fats or sugars are added, then the caloric content increases.
Oat milk has a similar caloric content but a very different macronutrient ratio compared to cow’s milk. It has less protein than cow’s milk, while more fats and carbs. Depending on the brand, the total number of carbs can be higher than 16 g, even reaching 20-30 g of carbs per cup.
If you already have your protein intake covered and want to add carbs to your diet, then oat milk is the best option for you.
One of the most significant benefits of oats is its high fiber content and fiber type. Oats have a kind of fiber called beta-glucan. It seems that people who have regular consumption of this food have a reduction in their cholesterol levels.
In a study on 66 men, they were given either rice milk or oat milk over five weeks. Those who consumed oat milk saw a reduction in their cholesterol levels by 6% compared to rice milk. Though there was no reduction in triglyceride levels, there was a slight increase in those that consumed rice milk.
If you want to make oat milk at home, it is very cheap and easy to make. If you want to learn how to make oat milk, here is one quick recipe that you can try out.
Want to learn more about oat milk for bodybuilding? Learn more in my article: Is Oat Milk Good Or Bad For Bodybuilding (Pros & Cons)
2. Rice Milk
Rice milk is made by grinding the rice and mixing it with water. Out of all the milk alternatives, it is less likely to produce any gastrointestinal symptoms or allergic reactions. As with oat milk, it has a sweeter taste than regular cow’s milk.
One cup of rice milk (240 mL) contains 113 kcal, 22.0 g of carbs, 0.7 g of fiber, 0.7 g of protein, and 2.3 g of fat.
Like oat milk, the nutritional content can vary depending on the brand. If it is sweetened, then it probably has a higher carb intake and a higher caloric content.
It offers a lot of carbs, with a low protein and fat content compared to other milk alternatives. If you need to fill your carb intake fully, then rice is one of the best options. However, if you need to have a higher protein intake, you need to either supplement with some protein powder or have another alternative.
You can create rice milk at home. You need rice, water, and a blender. If you want to make it at home, a recipe can help you.
- Related Article: 15 Best High Calorie Low Carb Foods
3. Soy Milk
Soy milk is traditionally made by soaking soybeans for 12-24 hours and then blending them with water until you get the desired consistency. It has a creamy texture like cow’s milk but a different flavor depending on the brand.
One cup of soy milk (240 mL) contains 90 kcal, 3.0 g of carbs, 1.0 g of fiber, 8.4 g protein, and 5.1 g of fats. Like with other milk alternatives, the carb intake can increase depending on added sugar.
Soy milk is one of the milk alternatives with the highest number of proteins to offer. It has the same protein content as one cup of milk. This makes it the best option for those looking to increase their calories and protein at the same time.
Not only does it have a good number of proteins, but the protein that it contains is also high-quality protein.
Proteins are made up of amino acids. Some are created by our body (non-essential), while others need to be consumed through our diet because our body cannot make them (essential). A protein is said to be high-quality when it provides all the essential amino acids that you need, which is the case for soy milk.
- Related Article: Do Bodybuilders Eat Soy? (What NOT To Do)
Soy milk also contains omega-3 fatty acids. These are essential to our bodies since they help reduce inflammation. Reducing your inflammation means that you have better muscle recovery (if you’re someone who works out) and an improved immune system.
Additionally, it seems that for women entering their menopause, soy can help protect them against heart disease.
While it might be a little more difficult to make soy milk at home, you can always try. Here is a recipe that you can use if you want to try making it at home.
Related Article: Can You Mix Whey Protein With Soy Milk?
What To Consider When Substituting?
So, how do I choose which milk alternative is the right for me? Here is a couple of these to consider.
Determine how much protein it has. If you have trouble adding protein during the day, you might want to go with a milk alternative with more protein, like soy milk.
If you don’t have a problem with protein because you manage to reach your protein intake with food and supplements, you can choose other milk alternatives that are lower in protein but higher in calories, like oat milk and rice milk.
You can also make a milk alternative that is low in protein higher by adding a protein shake. That way, you get those calories and still get that extra protein.
One of the benefits of milk is its high calcium content. One cup of cow’s milk (246 mL) contains 325 mg of calcium. This represents 27% of the daily recommended value. Calcium is essential to have good bone health and avoid fractures and injuries later in life.
Milk alternatives are usually not high in calcium unless they are fortified. To have a good calcium intake during the day, make sure you get a milk alternative with at least 150 mg of calcium per cup (hopefully 200 mg).
Sugars are often added to increase the flavor of the milk alternatives. If you are looking to improve your caloric intake, having the sweetened version might be a good idea. This case allows you to increase your caloric intake to achieve the desired goal.
Remember that you still need to control the sugar intake throughout the day. The American Hearts Association recommends having less than nine teaspoons of sugar for men and less than six teaspoons of sugar for women per day.
Determine if you have any allergies. This will depend on which milk alternative to get.
For example, some people are allergic to nuts, soy, or gluten. If you are prone to getting food allergies, you might want to have rice milk since it is less likely to give an allergic reaction.
How To Make A High-Calorie Milk Alternative
If you want to make your milk alternative at home, here are a couple of ingredients you can add to make them higher in their caloric content.
Sugar is the best way to add calories. Whether it is regular sugar, brown sugar, or raw sugar, they are high in calories. That is why you also find them in my lists of Top 10 foods high in calories but low in protein, and 15 high-calorie low FODMAP foods.
One teaspoon (4g) of sugar contains 16 kcal. Although it might seem a lot, the benefit is that you can add the amount you want until you get the desired calories. For example, if you’re going to add 50 extra calories, you might want to add one tablespoon (the same as three teaspoons).
Honey or syrups are also good alternatives if you want to have more variation in your diet.
Oils are energy-dense. This means that you get a lot of calories in a small portion of food. For example, one teaspoon of oil has a similar number of calories as one tablespoon of sugar.
There are different oils that you can add. Each one has a different benefit. You can have one type one day and change it the next. Remember that variety is essential in a healthy diet.
- Olive oil. It has anti-inflammatory properties, helps reduce cholesterol levels, and has potent antioxidants.
- MCT oil. It has the benefit that it gets absorbed quickly in your body. Providing fast-acting energy for you. It is ideal for those following a ketogenic diet. Studies have shown that MCT oil could aid in weight loss.
- Ghee. It can provide a creamier taste. It has omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce inflammation and decrease the incidence of heart disease.
- Avocado oil. It is also high in omega-3 fatty acids that help reduce inflammation in your body. Additionally, studies have shown that it helps reduce cholesterol levels in your body.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which Milk Alternative Has the Most Calories?
Plain unsweetened oat milk is the one with the highest calories. It contains 120 kcal per cup (240 mL). If you decide to add fats and sugars, then other milk alternatives can be higher in their calories.
Which Non-Dairy Milk Is the Best for Weight Gain?
The best option is soy for an active person looking to increase their muscle mass due to its high calories and high protein intake. You can also mix milks to get the best of each. For example, if you mix oat milk with soy milk, you get a beverage high in calories, with a good carb and protein content.
What Can Be Added to Milk To Increase Fat?
To increase the fat content in milk, you can add MCT oil which is easier for the body to digest. You can also add olive oil or coconut oil. You can add some melted ghee to the drink for a creamier flavor.
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About The Author
Brenda Peralta is a Registered Dietitian and certified sports nutritionist. In addition to being an author for FeastGood.com, she fact checks the hundreds of articles published across the website to ensure accuracy and consistency of information.