Comparing milk alternatives for the lactose intolerant
Ask the Diva: Coconut or Hemp Milk?
Q. Which would be better of the two for a child who is lactose intolerant? Coconut or hemp milk?
A. Plain unsweetened coconut milk is very low in protein and carbohydrates. It's basically just saturated fat diluted in water. That's not necessarily a bad thing for a toddler. Toddlers need fats, including saturated fats, for brain development--which is why the American Association of Pediatricians advise moms to give their toddlers whole milk instead of low fat or skim.
Hemp milk, on the other hand, usually has a little bit more protein (although not as much as cow or soy milk). It is comparable in fat but most of the fat comes from polyunsaturated fats, including small amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. Because both types of fat support healthy growth and development, I think it's pretty much a toss-up. But the two taste completely different--and your toddler may vastly prefer one to the other. Whichever you go with, just be sure you're choosing an unsweetened variety. You may also want to look for one that's fortified with calcium and vitamin D, as dairy products are the primary source of these nutrients for most people.
For more on the nutritional pros and cons of non-dairy milks, see chapter 1 of my new book, Nutrition Diva's Secrets for a Healthy Diet.