In order to eliminate dairy for a while (we will introduce it after a period of time to see if there is a reaction), I definitely needed an alternative. I purchased the ones pictures above at Trader Joe's on the recommendation of another shopper whom I accosted while she was browsing the dairy alternative aisle. I'm sure she felt thankful to escape when she did, as I peppered her with multiple questions, like: "is it good? Is it thick? Would you say it's more chocolatey or banana--y"?
At any rate, here are our thoughts:
None of these "milks" have the thickness and creaminess of whole milk. All of them have their fair share of sugar. All are lower in fat and calories than whole milk. 3 of the 4 come in shelf-stable packaging, which is convenient.
Vitasoy Chocolate Banana: This dairy-free soy-based beverage is a favorite of mine. I think it's delicious--it has a nice chocolate flavor and is great in a smoothie with a frozen banana and some ice. However, Nature Kidz did not like it. They found it "too banana-ish." I guess they were expecting chocolate milk.
Vitasoy Strawberry Banana: Elder Nature Kid loves this stuff. It helps that her favorite smoothie flavor is strawberry banana. She drinks this one regularly, and she and I shared a smoothie made with frozen banana, ice, and honey and a good measure of this "filk" (faux milk) and it was really very good. Nature Kid the Youngest did not like it at all. But then, she is a peanut-butter-and-chocolate smoothie lover.
Trader Joe's Vanilla Rice Drink: This is an acceptable substitute for milk in cereal, but neither kid liked it at all straight. It just doesn't taste like milk, which is what they wanted. But over cereal or mixed into things like oatmeal, it's a great substitute and a good price.
Almond Breeze Chocolate Almond Drink: This one is Nature Kid the Youngest's favorite. She declared it "just right!" It's got a nice rich chocolate flavor. This one, of course, presents a problem if a person is allergic to almonds, but it's probably the best-tasting of the bunch and is very kid friendly.
Overall, the fact is that there is no really perfect substitute for milk in terms of taste and additives: though "natural," each of the drinks features here has a lot of sugar.