Though they differ in taste and fat and calorie content, skim milk can serve as a whole-milk substitute in baking recipes. According to the American Heart Association, you can substitute 1 cup of whole milk with 1 cup of skim milk plus 1 tablespoon of liquid vegetable oil in recipes.
The Fat Difference
While the healthy fats found in foods such as avocados, oily fish, olive oil and nuts contribute to overall health by helping your body absorb needed nutrients, the same does not apply to fats found in dairy, according to Harvard University. This is because dairy products mainly contain saturated fats, as opposed to the healthier monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Saturated fats, which occur naturally in meat and dairy products, can contribute to heart disease risk.
Read more: What are Some Disadvantages of Milk?
People who are watching or need to lower their cholesterol should get no more than 5 to 6 percent of their total daily calories from saturated fats, according to the American Heart Association. This amounts to between 11 and 13 grams per day for someone on a 2,000-calorie diet. Even healthy people should watch their saturated fat intake: Harvard University suggests eating no more than 20 grams of saturated fat per day for the average 2,000-calorie diet.
According to the USDA, 1 cup of whole milk contains:
- 149 calories
- 7.9 grams of total fat
- 4.6 grams of saturated fat
- 7.7 grams of protein
- 276 milligrams of calcium
On the other hand, 1 cup of skim milk, also known as fat-free milk, contains:
- 83 calories
- 0.2 grams of total fat
- 0.14 grams of saturated fat
- 8.2 grams of protein
- 298 milligrams of calcium
By using a cup of skim milk instead a cup of whole milk in your baking recipe, you decrease the amount of saturated fat in the end product by 4.46 grams. This might not be a significant difference if you are then splitting your recipe into several servings.
Read more: Nutritional Facts for Cow Milk
Flavor and Whole-Milk Substitutes
Keep in mind, using a whole-milk substitute in a recipe might alter the flavor, color and texture of your final product. "Fat is flavor" is a repeated aphorism in many kitchens. For example, for something like a ganache, higher milk fat is necessary to create richer flavor, smoother texture and a more stable ganache according to the Institute of Culinary Education.
According to a September 2019 review published in the journal Foods, reduced-fat bakery products have poorer mouthfeel, flavor and texture than standard bakery products. So, if you are in a hurry and do not have whole milk in the fridge, you can use skim milk as a substitute. Same goes for if you want to lower your total saturated fat consumption.
But, if this does not apply to you, we recommend using whole milk if the recipe calls for it. You will end up with a more flavorful baked good. Whichever milk you choose, be sure to practice portion control and enjoy.
Is This an Emergency?
- American Heart Association: "The Skinny on Fats"
- Harvard University: "Is Low-Fat or Full-Fat the Better Choice for Dairy Products?"
- American Heart Association: "Smart Substitutions"
- USDA: "Milk, Whole"
- USDA: "Milk, Fat Free (Skim)"
- Foods: "Bovine Milk Fats and Their Replacers in Baked Goods: A Review"
- ICE: "Sweet Technique: Chocolate Ganache"