Dairy milk is, undeniably, an excellent source of nutrients that are vital to good health. However with many people suffering from lactose intolerance or dairy allergy, or simply omitting dairy from their diet for other reasons, it’s important to understand what major nutrients dairy provides, and how they can be replaced in its absence.


Why Calcium? Not only is calcium important for strong and healthy bones and teeth, it is also important for muscle and nerve function.

Recommended Daily Intake: Adults: 700mg ; Teenagers: 800mg – 1000mg


Portion Size

Calcium (mg)

Dairy Milk (semi-skimmed) 200ml glass 240mg
Soya Drink (fortified with calcium) 200ml glass 240mg
Tofu (uncooked, fortified with calcium) ½ pack (125g) 250mg
Soya Yoghurt (fortified with calcium) 125g pot 150mg
Watercress 1 bowl (80g) 136mg
Bread (white or brown) 2 slices 127mg – 134mg
Boiled Curly Kale 4 heaped tablespoons (80g) 120mg
Fresh Orange 1 medium fruit 50mg

Sources: The Dairy CouncilBritish Nutrition FoundationVeganuary 

It’s important to note that the best alternative sources of calcium are from products that have been fortified with calcium. This includes bread flour which must be fortified under UK law. In these instances the calcium is usually from rock minerals.

Other excellent plant-based sources of calcium include: tahini, broccoli, almonds, carob & treacle. It’s important to note that some foods that appear to be high in calcium may not actually be good sources. This is due to the structure of the food and its effect on how well we can absorb the calcium available. For more information about calcium visit the British Nutrition Foundation, British Dietetics Association, The Vegan Society, or Veganuary.

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Why Protein? Protein is essential for growth and repair of the body and maintenance of good health. Protein also provides amino acids including essential amino acids. This is particularly important as our bodies can’t make essential amino acids themselves, so we need to get them from our diet.

Recommended Daily Intake: 0.75g – 1.00g of protein per kilogram of body weightThis means if you weigh 60kg, you should be having 45g – 60g of protein each day.


Portion Size

Protein (g)

Dairy Milk (semi-skimmed) 200ml glass 7g
Soya Drink 200ml glass 6g
Seitan (Wheat Gluten) 100g serve 75g
Tofu (uncooked) ½ cup (126g) 20g
Quinoa (cooked) 1 cup (185g) 8g
Red Lentils (cooked) 1 cup (80g) 7g
Red Kidney Beans / Chickpeas 1 cup (80g) 6g
Peanut Butter 1 Tablespoon (25g) 6g

Sources: The Dairy Council, The Vegan Society, British Dietetics Association, Self Nutrition Data

Protein from animal sources (including dairy products) are ‘complete proteins’, meaning they contain the full range of essential amino acids needed by the body. However, plant-based proteins are more often than not ‘incomplete proteins’. This means that people eating a plant-based diet will need to combine different sources of protein to get all of the amino acids they need. Good examples of this type of protein combining include rice & beans or peanut butter & bread.

For more information about non-dairy sources of protein visit The Vegan Society.

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Why Iodine? Iodine is important for your thyroid hormones and brain function. There are currently concerns that people living in the UK generally don’t currently have enough iodine in their diet.

Recommended Daily Intake: 150 µg


Portion Size

Iodine (µg)

Dairy Milk (semi-skimmed) 200ml glass 60µg
Nori seaweed sheets (for sushi) 2 sheets 150µg

Sources: The Dairy Council, Veganuary

If ever you needed an excuse to eat more sushi, this could be it! For more information about non-dairy sources of iodine visit Veganuary and British Dietetics Association.

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Vitamins B12 & B2

Why Vitamin B12? Vitamin B12 not only helps to to make red blood cells (important for carrying oxygen through the body), it plays an important part in keeping our immune and nervous systems in good working order.

Recommended Daily Intake: 1.5µg

Why Vitamin B2? Also known as Riboflavin, Vitamin B2 plays a big part in keeping your skin, eyes and nervous system healthy, and helps your body release energy from food.

Recommended Daily Intake: 1.1mg- 1.3mg


Portion Size

Vitamin B2 & B12 (µg)

Dairy Milk (semi-skimmed) 200ml glass B2: 0.48mg
B12: 1.8µg
Yeast extract spread (ie. Marmite) 1 teaspoon (5g) B2: 0.14mg
B12: 1.2µg

Sources:The Dairy Council, Marmite

Other good sources of Vitamin B2 include Mushrooms and Spinach. It’s important to note that there are many foods that are now fortified with B2 and B12 vitamins (e.g. some breakfast cereals and plant-based milk alternatives). Vitamin B supplements are also available, however, these are no substitute for a healthy, balanced diet. For more information on B12 and B2, see NHS Choices, Veganuary, The Vegan Society, and Dietitians of Canada.

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Resources & Further Reading

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DIY Drink Alternatives

Dairy-free drinks are fairly easy to make and generally use very few ingredients. However, they can be an exercise in patience! For each of these recipes you’ll need a bowl for soaking, a blender, and a cloth or bag for straining. Enjoy!

Soya Drink

Oat Drink

Almond Drink

Sunflower Drink

Sesame Seed Drink

Cacao Hemp Drink

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