Can Vegans Drink Skim Milk?

Written by: Kelly Donovan

There are many different types of milk out there, so it can get a bit confusing if you're trying to figure out what counts as vegan and what counts as dairy. Skim milk in particular throws a lot of people off. What exactly is it?

Skim milk is not vegan. While it is a little different from ordinary whole milk, it is still a dairy product. While it can fit into some vegetarian diets, it is still an animal by-product and thus does not fit into any form of veganism.

If skim milk is dairy, what exactly sets it apart from regular milk? How can it fit into vegetarianism but not veganism? We'll discuss all of this in detail down below.

What is Skim Milk?

You don't get a special adjective unless you're somehow different from what’s considered ordinary.

So what exactly makes skim milk different from whole milk? The big difference is how much milk fat is in the product.

Whole milk contains the full measure of milk fat that it came with when milked from the cow.

Skim milk, on the other hand, goes through a heating (or sometimes centrifugal) process that takes nearly all the fat out of the product, leaving it with less than 1% fat.

So basically, skim milk is just milk that has had most of the fat taken out of it.

While this can be good for some health concerns considering the lower calorie count, the lack of fat significantly changes the flavor as well, which is why skim milk is not favored by as many people as whole milk is.

At the end of the day though, skim milk is still taken from a cow and is still an animal by-product so it is in no way vegan appropriate. It is not a plant-based milk.

do vegans drink skim milk

Does Skim Milk Cause Any Problem for Cows?

While it may have a different name, skim milk is not derived from a cow in any different way than normal milk is.

The process of turning whole milk into skim milk is done after the cow is milked, so there are no ethical concerns on that front at least.

Of course, if you're vegan, this doesn't mean much for you, but if you're OK with some animal by-products and simply don't want to engage in any animal cruelty, this is a pretty big deal.

You should however, always make sure the brand you're buying from produces their milk ethically in the first place.

After all, it doesn't matter if the process of making skim milk doesn't cause any problems if the way they get the milk at all is questionable, so bear that in mind when shopping for skim milk.

Can Vegetarians Drink Skim Milk?

Since skim milk is an actual dairy product, it's no good for vegans, who do not consume animals or any of their by-products under any circumstances. 

However, vegetarianism isn't quite as strict in most regards.

For instance, there is a type of vegetarianism called Lacto (or Lacto-Ovo) vegetarianism.

Those who adhere to this type of vegetarianism are allowed to consume dairy products, so skim milk could be considered vegetarian for them.

Of course, some vegetarians are completely fine with animal by-products and simply do not want to consume animals directly. In such a case, skim milk would be perfectly acceptable as well. 

If you've ever seen someone you thought was vegan drinking milk, they were probably actually a Lacto vegetarian, which, in many cases, is just considered standard vegetarianism.

As long as you're OK with dairy as a by-product, you can drink skim milk.

Can Vegetarians Drink Skim Milk

Is Skim Milk Healthy?

Regardless of whether or not skim milk is vegan, an even bigger question is whether or not skim milk is healthy. 

Well, while the idea of milk without much fat in it sounds like it should be very healthy, skim milk isn't quite as healthy as you might think.

This isn't to say that it is unhealthy or outright bad for you, but it's lacking in more ways than people realize.

For instance, without any sort of vitamin fortification, skim milk is not very nutrient-dense. Vitamins A and D are fat-soluble and thus very potent in whole milk, but skim doesn't have nearly as much.

What this means is that you aren't exactly getting much health benefit when you drink skim milk. It's not really doing any harm either, it's just not doing you any amazing favors. 

If you like the taste of skim milk, one of the best things you can say about it is that it is low in calories without all of that fat.

Of course, if you're primarily concerned with calories and just want a way to enjoy milk, then skim milk might be an option for you. It's not some super health drink, but it's also not some terribly harmful beverage to be avoided at all costs.

milk bottle icon

If you're lactose intolerant, you should also avoid skim milk, or ask your physician if it's safe for you to drink.

Products Skim Milk Is Often Used For

If you're vegan, obviously skim milk doesn't work for you, so you won't be drinking it. But there are still other things to consider besides this. 

The following products often have skim milk in them, marking them off the vegan list.

  • Margarine: With trans fat being banned in many places, soft margarine is popular. Such margarine does not always include milk, but skim milk is often present in them.
  • Imitation Cheese: It may come as a surprise, but even cheese that is not actual cheese may still contain dairy in it. Sometimes, skim milk is directly added to imitation cheese. Other times, certain enzymes are taken from it.
  • Processed Foods: Not all processed foods have milk in them, but a lot of them do. If you're vegan, it's probably a good idea to check the ingredients regardless, just to be absolutely sure.
  • Low Fat Dairy Foods: When you see cheese and other dairy products labeled as “non-fat” or “fat-free”, they’re often made with skim milk instead of whole milk.

Basically, you can never be sure what type of ingredients a product may have on it. The name of a product can be misleading (you wouldn't think imitation cheese would still have dairy in it sometimes).

Always check the ingredient label on any product you think might have dairy. Even if it doesn't have whole milk, that doesn't necessarily mean it doesn't have skim milk.

Good Alternatives to Skim Milk

If you're vegan and don't want to drink skim milk, but would like to get a roughly similar experience, there are some good plant-based alternatives you can look at. 

Of all of the different types of non-dairy milk, almond milk is probably one of the closest to skim milk in regards to flavor, consistency, and sensation.

Almond milk is lower in fat and calories than, say, soy milk, making it very similar to skim milk in that regard.

On the other hand, soy milk has more protein in it. If you don't want to get as close to skim milk as possible, but just want some sort of plant milk that will do something healthy for your body, you can look to things like coconut milk, macadamia milk, oat milk, or nearly anything else.

milk bottle icon

While skim milk and low fat milk may contain lower calories, if you want the full health benefits of cow's milk, opt for full fat milk.

The good thing about using plant-based milk as a substitute is that there are tons of different kinds that all have a unique identity. You can definitely find something that is up your alley, all things being considered.

Can Vegans or Vegetarians Use Skim Milk?

Skim milk is often viewed with some degree of confusion in regards to what it is and why you would want to drink it, as well as how it is different from whole milk. Some people are even convinced that skim milk is vegan, since some people use it as an alternative to whole milk.

Skim milk is still dairy. It is just milk that has had most of the fat removed from it. Generally speaking, skim milk has less than 1% total fat. This means it still comes from a cow and cannot be considered appropriate for a vegan to consume, though some vegetarians will have no issue with it.

Even if you don't drink skim milk, it can be used in many different products, even some you may inherently consider to be vegan, such as imitation cheese. Always be sure to read the ingredient labels on the food products you purchase.

If you want a plant milk substitute for skim milk, almond milk is often considered the closest in regards to consistency and flavor, but there are also many other types of plant milk out there for you to drink, each with their own unique flavors and textures, as well as health benefits.

About the Author

Kelly Donovan is a freelance writer. She enjoys helping people reach their wellness goals by educating them about how food plays a role in their health.