Lactose Intolerance Diet

 By Mizpah Matus B.Hlth.Sc(Hons)

lactose-intollerance-dietA lactose Intolerance diet involves eliminating Lactose, which is the natural sugar found in milk.

This milk sugar is found in every kind of milk, whether from goats, cows, or from humans.

As babies we have an enzyme called lactase, that will digest the lactose. However many people produce less and less of the enzyme as they grow into adulthood. The Lactose can no longer be properly digested, and remains in the intestine – encouraging the growth of bacterial colonies.

Symptoms include anything from stomach-ache, severe cramps, diarrhea, and flatulence. Severity of Lactose intolerance differs from person to person. For some, milk and dairy products must be eliminated completely, – for others they need only be restricted.

Lactose Intolerance Diet – Foods to Avoid

The following foods contain the same amount of lactose as half a cup of milk:

  • Condensed milk (2 tablespoons)
  • Evaporated milk (1/4 cup)
  • Processed cheese (85 g)
  • Sour cream (1/2 cup)
  • Yogurt (1/2 cup)
  • Ice Cream (1/2 cup)

These foods contain small amounts of lactose, and can be tolerated by most people:

  • Butter
  • Cottage cheese
  • Cream cheese
  • Cheese (cheddar, swiss, etc)

There are some that experience symptoms from eating breads or breakfast cereals (which may contain a small amount of lactose). In this situation ingredient labels must be read very carefully – even foods like chocolate, and cordials can contain lactose as a sweetener).

Calcium Intake

One of the biggest issues with a reduced lactose, or lactose-free diet is maintaining adequate calcium levels. Fortunately dairy is not the only major source of available calcium.

Vegetables Calcium Content Lactose Content
Calcium-fortified orange juice, 1 cup 308-344 mg 0
Sardines, with edible bones, 3 oz. 270 mg 0
Salmon, canned, with edible bones, 3 oz. 205 mg 0
Soymilk, fortified, 1 cup 200 mg 0
Broccoli (raw), 1 cup 90 mg 0
Orange, 1 medium 50 mg 0
Pinto beans, 1/2 cup 40 mg 0
Tuna, canned, 3 oz. 10 mg 0
Lettuce greens, 1/2 cup 10 mg 0
Dairy Foods
Yogurt, plain, low-fat, 1 cup 415 mg 5g
Milk, reduced fat, 1 cup 295 mg 11g
Swiss cheese, 1 oz. 270 mg 1g
Ice cream, 1/2 cup 85 mg 6g
Cottage cheese, 1/2 cup 75 mg 2-3g

Lactose-Free Diet Guidelines

On completely lactose free diet, calcium supplements may be required. Many people also consume soy bean products – such as soy milk, and soy cheese. Lactase enzyme is available in tablet and liquid form, and when added to milk, allows the lactose to break down.

Most foods can be enjoyed on a lactose intolerance diet; red meat, poultry, fish, eggs, mushrooms, fruit, vegetables, grains (rice, pasta, etc).

All processed foods (baked goods, cookies, desserts, etc) must be carefully checked. There are also a wide variety of cow’s milk alternatives flooding the market place, so find one that suits your tastes and nutrition goals.


  • Swagerty Jr, D. L., Walling, A. D., & Klein, R. M. (2002). Lactose intolerance. American family physician, 65(9), 1845-1850. link
  • Suarez, F. L., Savaiano, D. A., & Levitt, M. D. (1995). A comparison of symptoms after the consumption of milk or lactose-hydrolyzed milk by people with self-reported severe lactose intolerance. New England Journal of Medicine, 333(1), 1-4. link

  • Scrimshaw, N. S., & Murray, E. B. (1988). The acceptability of milk and milk products in populations with a high prevalence of lactose intolerance. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 48(4), 1142-1159. link
  • Mummah, S., Oelrich, B., Hope, J., Vu, Q., & Gardner, C. D. (2014). Effect of Raw Milk on Lactose Intolerance: A Randomized Controlled Pilot Study. The Annals of Family Medicine, 12(2), 134-141. link
 By Mizpah Matus B.Hlth.Sc(Hons)
Last Reviewed: December 24, 2014. Disclaimer