Is there a dairy-free Ensure type drink?

Ensure is a popular nutritionally complete drink marketed towards seniors, people recovering from illness, or those with trouble maintaining weight. The main selling point of Ensure is that it provides balanced nutrition in a convenient liquid form that is easy to consume even when someone has trouble eating solid foods. However, one downside of Ensure for some people is that it contains milk ingredients like milk protein concentrate and calcium caseinate. For those with dairy allergies, lactose intolerance, or who follow a vegan diet, having a dairy-free nutritional drink option is important.

What is Ensure?

Ensure is made by Abbott Nutrition and was first released in 1973. It was originally marketed solely to seniors in hospitals and nursing homes who needed extra nutrition. Over the years, Ensure has expanded its marketing to target additional demographics including young adults, athletes, and anyone trying to gain or maintain weight and muscle mass.

The main nutritional selling points of Ensure are:

  • High protein – Each 8 ounce serving contains 13 grams of protein
  • Balanced Nutrition – Contains 26 essential vitamins and minerals
  • Calories – Each 8 ounce serving provides 250 calories
  • Low Sugar – Only 6 grams of sugar per serving

In addition to its flagship vanilla flavor, Ensure now comes in multiple flavors like chocolate, strawberry, butter pecan, and coffee latte. There are also several specialized Ensure products like Ensure Clear for those who have trouble swallowing, Ensure High Protein, Ensure Plant-Based, and Ensure Max Protein.

Ensure Ingredients

The main ingredients in regular Ensure are:

  • Water
  • Sugar
  • Milk Protein Concentrate
  • Corn Maltodextrin
  • Soybean Oil
  • Cocoa
  • Calcium Caseinate
  • High Oleic Safflower Oil
  • Magnesium Phosphate
  • Sodium Citrate
  • Potassium Citrate
  • Cellulose Gel
  • Natural & Artificial Flavor
  • Potassium Chloride
  • Calcium Phosphate
  • Salt
  • Cellulose Gum
  • Carrageenan
  • Choline Chloride
  • Vitamin C
  • Monoglycerides
  • Potassium Hydroxide
  • Sodium Ascorbate
  • Ferric Orthophosphate
  • Niacinamide
  • Vitamin E Acetate
  • Zinc Sulfate
  • Calcium Pantothenate
  • Vitamin A Palmitate
  • Thiamine Chloride Hydrochloride
  • Pyridoxine Hydrochloride
  • Riboflavin
  • Chromium Chloride
  • Biotin
  • Sodium Molybdate
  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin D3
  • Folic Acid

The biggest thing to note is that Ensure contains both milk protein concentrate and calcium caseinate which both come from milk. This means Ensure is not dairy-free or vegan.

Why Choose a Dairy-Free Option?

There are several reasons why someone may want or need to opt for a non-dairy nutritional beverage rather than Ensure:

  • Milk Allergy – Some people have an allergy to milk proteins like casein. Consuming dairy ingredients causes allergic symptoms.
  • Lactose Intolerance – Individuals who are lactose intolerant lack enough of the lactase enzyme needed to properly digest milk sugar aka lactose. Consuming lactose causes gas, cramping, bloating, and diarrhea.
  • Vegan Diet – Vegans do not consume any animal products, including dairy. They need plant-based alternatives to products like Ensure.
  • Kosher Diet – Those following certain Jewish dietary laws that prohibit mixing dairy and meat in a meal may prefer non-dairy nutritional drinks.
  • Better Tolerance – Some people simply digest non-dairy beverages better than dairy-based ones.

Luckily there are several products on the market that provide a comparable nutritional profile to Ensure, but without the dairy ingredients.

Dairy-Free/Vegan Options Similar to Ensure

Here is an overview of some of the top dairy-free nutritional drink options:

Ensure Plant-Based

  • Made by the same Abbott Nutrition brand as regular Ensure
  • Free of dairy, lactose, soy, and gluten
  • Contains 20 grams pea protein per serving as well as omega-3 fatty acids
  • 250 calories per 8 fluid ounce serving
  • Available in vanilla and chocolate flavors

Boost Optimum Plant-Based Vanilla

  • Produced by Nestle, makers of Boost shakes
  • Contains 20 grams pea protein and 2.5 grams BCAAs per serving
  • 350 calories per bottle
  • No dairy, lactose, soy, or gluten
  • Non-GMO and vegan

Orgain Organic Nutritional Shakes

  • 16 grams organic protein from pea, brown rice, and chia seeds
  • 21 vitamins and minerals
  • 150 calories per 8 ounce serving
  • Dairy-free, lactose-free, gluten-free, kosher, vegan
  • Available in creamy chocolate fudge, sweet vanilla bean, and rich chocolate flavors


  • 20 grams pea protein isolate per bottle
  • 300 calories per 11 ounce serving
  • Probiotics and omega-3s
  • Keto-friendly with only 2 grams net carbs
  • Dairy-free, soy-free, gluten-free
  • Unflavored and chocolate flavors

Vega Nutritional Shakes

  • 20 grams pea, brown rice, and sacha inchi proteins
  • 1 billion probiotics
  • Flavors like chocolate, vanilla chai, berry, and mocha
  • 240-260 calories per bottle
  • Non-GMO, gluten-free, vegan

Amazing Grass Protein Superfood

  • Plant-based protein from pea, quinoa, and hemp
  • Added greens like spirulina, alfalfa, wheatgrass, and barley grass
  • 100 calories and 20 grams protein per serving
  • Dairy-free, gluten-free, vegetarian
  • Several flavors including chocolate, vanilla bean, and berry

Iconic Protein Drink

  • 20 grams organic pea and rice protein
  • 250 calories per bottle
  • Probiotics and vitamin D
  • No dairy, soy, gluten, GMOs
  • Chocolate, vanilla, and unflavored options

Nestle Compleat Organic Blends

  • 20 grams pea protein per 310 calorie bottle
  • No gluten, cholesterol, or artificial colors/flavors
  • Plant-based DHA omega-3
  • Flavors like chocolate cherry and peach mango

Nutrition Comparison

Here is how these dairy-free options compare nutritionally to the original Ensure formula:

Nutrition Facts Ensure Ensure Plant-Based Boost Plant-Based
Calories 250 250 350
Total Fat 6 g 5 g 12 g
Sodium 200 mg 160 mg 290 mg
Total Carbohydrate 28 g 24 g 28 g
Protein 13 g 20 g 20 g
Sugar 6 g 1 g 2 g

As you can see, the dairy-free options provide very comparable macros, calories, and protein content to regular Ensure. The biggest differences are that the plant-based options tend to have less sugar and more protein.

Choosing the Best Dairy-Free Nutritional Drink

When choosing a dairy-free nutritional drink, here are some tips to consider:

  • Look for options with at least 15-20 grams protein per serving from quality plant sources like pea, brown rice, hemp, and chia.
  • Seek beverages with additional nutrients like probiotics, omega-3s, vitamins, and minerals.
  • Pay attention to calories, carbs, and sugar based on your own nutritional needs.
  • Consider any additional dietary restrictions like being gluten-free, soy-free, kosher, etc.
  • Opt for drinks with minimal or no added sugars.
  • Try a few flavors and brands to see which you prefer.
  • Buy individual bottles first before committing to a case.
  • Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns about whether a nutritional shake is right for your needs.

The good news is that the dairy-free options listed here all provide complete, balanced nutrition in a convenient format comparable to Ensure. Choosing the right one comes down to your taste preferences, diet, and any ingredient sensitivities.

Benefits of Dairy-Free Nutritional Shakes

Switching to a plant-based nutritional shake can offer several benefits:

  • Avoid Dairy Allergies/Intolerances – Dairy-free options eliminate concerns about milk proteins, lactose, and casein.
  • Increase Protein Intake – Pea and other plant proteins provide an easy way to boost daily protein consumption.
  • Improve Digestion – Some people report fewer GI issues with non-dairy shakes.
  • Support Weight Loss or Maintenance – Products with lower carbs and sugar may be beneficial for managing weight.
  • Better Nutrient Absorption – Some studies suggest greater bioavailability and antioxidant absorption from plant proteins.
  • Sustainable Ingredient Sourcing – Using plant proteins is associated with lower environmental impacts than dairy production.

For those with medical conditions impacted by dairy or who follow plant-based diets, non-dairy nutritional shakes offer a way to meet daily nutrition goals.

Potential Drawbacks

While dairy-free shakes have several upsides, there are a couple potential drawbacks to consider:

  • May be higher cost than traditional dairy-based shakes.
  • Some plant proteins have a different mouthfeel and flavor profile than dairy proteins that some find less appealing.
  • Could be a risk of trace dairy exposure from cross-contamination depending on how sensitivities. Always check labels for allergy warnings.
  • May not always be covered by insurance plans if not using a prescription brand like Ensure Plant-Based.

Despite these minor downsides, there are now high quality dairy-free shakes widely available that provide very similar if not improved nutrition compared to regular Ensure.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Ensure have dairy?

Yes, regular Ensure contains milk ingredients like milk protein concentrate and calcium caseinate. The one exception is the dairy-free Ensure Plant-Based formula.

What’s the closest thing to Ensure without dairy?

The closest dairy-free alternative to Ensure is Ensure Plant-Based. It has a very similar nutritional profile with comparable protein, calories, vitamins and minerals.

Is Boost drink dairy free?

Original Boost is not dairy-free, but Boost does offer dairy-free options like Boost Optimum Plant-Based protein shakes. Read the labels carefully to ensure you choose a dairy-free variety.

Is there lactose in Ensure shakes?

No, standard Ensure does not contain lactose as the milk proteins are lactose-free. However, it still contains milk-derived ingredients so is unsuitable for those with a true dairy allergy.

Does Ensure have gluten?

No, regular Ensure formulas are gluten-free. Some plant-based versions like Ensure Plant-Based and Boost Optimum Plant-Based are also certified gluten-free.

Is Premier Protein dairy free?

No, Premier Protein shakes contain milk proteins so are not dairy-free. Premier does offer plant-based shakes without dairy called Premier Protein Clear Plant Based.

The Bottom Line

For those looking for a non-dairy alternative to Ensure that provides complete, balanced nutrition, there are now many great options on the market. Leading dairy-free shakes like Ensure Plant-Based, Boost Plant-Based, Orgain, and Iconic all provide 20+ grams of plant-based protein with a full amino acid profile. Going with a shake made from pea, rice, or hemp protein avoids milk allergies and intolerances. With comparable macros, calories, and added nutrients to regular Ensure, dairy-free shakes make an ideal nutritional choice. Just be sure to always check the label when purchasing shakes to confirm they are lactose and casein-free based on your dietary needs. Provided you find one that fits your nutritional requirements and tastes good, a dairy-free shake can be a nutritious choice.

Leave a Comment