Individuals who are lactose-intolerant have difficulty digesting lactose, the sugar found in milk and milk products. Because they lack sufficient amounts of the enzyme lactase, which is necessary for breaking down the sugars, people who are lactose-intolerant may suffer mild to severe abdominal discomfort, including gas, bloating, cramping and/or diarrhea, following the eating or drinking of milk or milk products. Steve Hertzler, professor of human nutrition at Iowa State University, notes that it is important to recognize that lactose maldigestion occurs on a continuum, with some individuals being more sensitive than others. Following a lactose-free diet can help sufferers avoid symptoms.
Lactose-free milk (to which lactase enzyme has been added), non-dairy creamers, soy milk and rice milk can all used in a lactose-free diet. Yogurt, which contains active and live bacterial cultures, may be well-tolerated by lactose-intolerant individuals, since the cultures convert lactose to lactic acid, aiding digestion, according to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Avoid yogurt without live cultures, milk, cheese, cream, hot chocolate mixes and evaporated and condensed milk.
Look for breads which are made without milk, such as French and Italian breads. Saltines and whole grain crackers, pasta, noodles, rice, potatoes and other grains are all free of lactose. When choosing cereals, look for those which are made without milk. Avoid instant potato or rice mixes, prepared bread products made with milk and pancakes or waffles made with milk.
Oils and shortening are lactose free. Margarines (without butter or milk) and many salad dressings are lactose free; check the labels to be sure. Cream cheese, butter and party dips should be avoided.
Fruits and Vegetables
Virtually all fresh or cooked fruits and vegetables, and fruit or vegetable juices, are free of lactose. Avoid creamed vegetables, vegetables coated in batter or fruit smoothies made with milk.
Meats and Other Proteins
All meat, fish and poultry is lactose free, as are eggs, dried peas and beans, peanut butter, nuts and seeds. Any products made from soybean or tofu are also free of lactose. Avoid cream sauces, main dishes or casseroles with cheese and omelets or souffles cooked in milk. Check the labels of processed meats, since they are sometimes prepared with milk.
Soups and Sauces
Broth, bouillon and consomme are all free of lactose, as are vegetable or meat soups made with water. Avoid chowders, cream soups, whipped cream and gravies made with milk.
Angel food cake, frozen fruit bars, fruit ices and sorbets, plain gelatins, jellies, jams and preserves are lactose free, as are any baked goods prepared without milk. Avoid pastries filled with cream or cheese, pudding, custard, sherbet, ice cream, fudge and chocolates.
References and ResourcesLactoseIntolerant.org: Clinical Research on Lactose Intolerance
National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse: Lactose Intolerance
University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill: Campus Health Services - Lactose Free Diet