Keri made the change from dairy milk to soy milk and enjoys offering tips to others who want to switch to plant-based milks.
How to Switch From Dairy Milk to Soy Milk
When people find out I'm a soy milk user, they've often said they'd like to switch from dairy milk, but they can't get used to soy. I really, really enjoy my soy products now, but it did take a while to get used to them.
Here are my tips for inducing yourself into not only tolerating the taste of soy-based dairy substitutes but actually looking forward to them. This method won't work for everyone, but if you like chocolate, you could be off to a good start. How so?
6 Tips for Adjusting to Soy Milk
- Start With Chocolate-Flavoured Soy Milk
- Try Soy Yogurts
- Substitute Soy Milk in Your Hot Cocoa and Coffee
- Use Soy Milk in Your Tea
- Pick Your Brand
1. Start With Chocolate-Flavoured Soy Milk
At first, I didn't like soy in my hot drinks. But I noticed chocolate-flavoured soy milk in the stores and thought I would give it a go. It wasn't exactly the same as chocolate-flavoured dairy, but it was very smooth and went down easily.
In fact, one of the reasons that people find it difficult to get accustomed to soy is that it's a rich and "fatty" tasting milk, more similar in its effects to whole milk rather than skim or semi-skim. However, imagine that with chocolate, and it's a really luxurious taste. In fact, the fat content of my favorite brand of soy milk, Alpro, is only 1.8%, akin to semi-skim in actual fat content. Of course, it is also vegetable fat rather than the more harmful dairy fat.
Not surprisingly, I found that there was a far closer taste between chocolate soy milk and chocolate dairy milk than there is between straight dairy milk and straight soy milk. Even so, rather than opening a large carton of chocolate soy and feeling like I had to use it all up quickly, I got small cartons. If I felt I could bear one, I'd drink it. It was only two or three of these before I really started to enjoy it. By now, pure soy milk still wasn't great, but it was less of a foreign taste already. Okay, from here, I graduated to ... yogurt!
2. Try Soy Yogurts
One of the reasons I really wanted to start getting used to soy was that, after having been advised against dairy, I was really missing creamy tastes. I love creamy tastes, especially slightly sour (rather than sweet) creamy tastes. If you don't get that from dairy, then where?
Something that filled a big hole in my diet was discovering soy yogurt. Again, there is not such a difference in taste between yogurts made from soybeans and cow milk, so it's another step closer to getting used to an underlying soy taste and finding it okay.
I'm a Brit who frequently travels to the States for work, and you have more brands and fancier yogurts based on soy than we can get easily back here in the UK. We can't, for instance, get those lovely ones with pieces of whole fruit at the bottom and creamy soy yogurt on top. But there are some lovely natural flavors available on both sides of the Atlantic. Cherry—a great wake-up flavor for breakfast—and real vanilla are my personal recommendations.
So, if this is working for you, you're now on soy chocolate milk, and you're getting into soy yogurt.
3. Substitute Soy Milk in Your Hot Cocoa and Coffee
The way that most adults consume milk is in hot drinks. Most of us drink them daily, and we know how they should taste. So, suddenly using soy milk is a departure. This was where I missed my dairy milk the most for a long time because the under-taste of the soy really does come through until you can get used to it. Once I was able to actually enjoy soy milk in my hot drinks, it felt like the transformation was complete.
So, although I was starting to find the under-taste less offensive by now, through my discovery of chocolate milk and yogurts, there was still a little way to go. And here, chocolate can help again. If you like hot chocolate, I suggest ordering soy hot chocolate over the counter (they'll make it better than you probably can at home yet, as the taste and texture of soy is easily ruined if you over-heat it). If you can get some of these drinks under your belt, and make sure you're enjoying them before you attempt your soy in tea or coffee, then in my experience, the transition from dairy will be far smoother.
Lattes, Coffees and Cappuccinos
And then you're ready for the deep end. My next stage would be to go for a latte. Go the whole hog. Soy can curdle if it's overwhelmed by hot liquid straight from a coffee pot, but the more soy there is in your drink, the less likely it is to do so.
Alternatively, if you can't face the thought of a latte, have your barista make you a coffee with a little milk. They know how far they can push the qualities of soy milk under heat. It only has to curdle once at home to put you off trying again for quite a while. It's not pretty.
If you're a cappuccino drinker, are you ready to try it with soy? Soy froths more easily than dairy milk—almost a bit too easily, sometimes. It can get out of hand, and inexperienced baristas will sometimes give you a cup half full of foam!
4. Use Soy Milk in Your Tea
If you like your tea British-style, hot with milk, and you've mastered the hot chocolate (and the coffee, too, if you're a coffee drinker), then finally, you should be about ready to go for soy in your tea. Soy milk is far more stable under heat in tea than it is in coffee, so you can put in as much or as little as you like without having to worry too much about curdling.
This was the last place I got used to soy, and being an avid tea drinker, the place where I most wanted to be able to use it. Being a more delicate taste than coffee, you can clearly taste the soy when used in tea. But it does actually do the job very well once you're accustomed to it. I enjoy my tea every bit as much now as I did when using dairy milk.
5. Pick Your Brand
Not all soy milks are the same! Whilst I love my soy now, it's the purer soy milks that are by far my preference - those that are made purely of soybean and water. I just prefer the taste and consistency. Many brands offer a sweetened version too. For instance, my favourite brand, Alpro, makes a soy milk sweetened with a little apple juice.
However, there are many soy drink products on the market, where great care has been taken to add things to make a pleasant-tasting drink. They often add vegetable oil, salt, subtle flavourings, and other slightly modifying ingredients. Whilst they're not my preference, many people do really enjoy their soy this way. A brand that has been mentioned time and again when people talk about their favorite soy milk is So Good. So it's worth checking the labels and finding which sort of soy you find more palatable because the two sorts are quite different.
It does take some effort to get used to soy milk. But if you get to it in a few steps, you'll find there's no going back. Most people I've known who have persevered for a couple of months have been surprised at how much they've liked it once they've gotten through the initial barrier. Once you're used to the taste, you can really appreciate it. It's fresh-tasting and satisfying, and soothing. I now totally prefer it. I don't feel at all like I've made a sacrifice by giving up dairy milk.
Good Luck, and Enjoy Your Soy!
I hope this article has encouraged some that it is possible to get used to and enjoy soy milk. I've barely stepped into the health issues of soy vs. dairy here. Other authors have written on this. But whilst many of the health benefits are clear, especially worth noting is that there are some questions over the amount of naturally occurring hormones in soy and what the effect of that on the human body is.
In all honesty, I probably consume too much soy. When I buy dairy-free margarine, I go for the sunflower rather than soy option to give a bit more variety. But maybe I should try to get used to nut milks and rice milk now to vary my diet in an even healthier, more varied direction.