Lactose Intolerant? Don’t Avoid These Foods

by Karen Bakies RD LD FAND

If you are lactose intolerant, it means you have a hard time digesting the sugar (called lactose) naturally found in milk. As a result, you may experience discomfort after eating dairy foods.

But, living with lactose intolerance doesn’t mean having to give up your favorite dairy foods! Did you know that you can still enjoy these three foods?

  • Milk:  Choose lactose-free milk.  It’s real dairy, just without the lactose! Lactose-free milk provides the same 9 essential nutrients as regular milk, and is available in white and chocolate.
  • Cheese: Add naturally-aged cheese like cheddar, colby or Swiss (which are naturally low in lactose) to salads and sandwiches.
  • Yogurt:  Eat easy-to-digest yogurt with “live, active cultures” to help digest lactose.

That’s right — you can still enjoy milk, cheese and yogurt. Not only do they taste great, dairy foods are also important to meeting your nutrient needs. Milk, cheese and yogurt provide key essential nutrients such as calcium and protein, and all cow’s milk is fortified with vitamin D. It’s difficult to get enough of these nutrients without dairy in your diet.

Try small amounts of milk or other dairy foods daily, or mix with other foods. Slowly increase the amount over several days or weeks to find what works best for you.

Even if you’ve been diagnosed with lactose intolerance, cooking can still be easy! Explore tips, information and recipes on the Eat Confidently with LI website.

Remember, being lactose intolerant is not the same as having a milk allergy. A milk allergy is caused by a reaction to the protein in milk, which means you must eliminate dairy foods and ingredients from your diet. This is different from lactose intolerance, which occurs when your body has a hard time digesting the natural sugar in milk.

Karen Bakies RD LD FAND

Karen is a registered dietitian and is the Nutrition Affairs Director for the American Dairy Association Mideast. A scientist at heart, she seeks out quality nutrition research to share with others in a profession she is passionate about. Karen is a mother of three and enjoys cooking, gardening, running and traveling.


  1. ken | | Reply

    Yogurt is very high in lactose , even if it has “active cultures” . There are lactose free yogurts on the market, both made with dairy and without. Recommending regular yogurt to people with lactose intolerance is ridiculous.
    Hard cheeses work well like cheddar, jack, etc. but look at the ingredients, some cheese is not made by traditional methods and whey is added back in.

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