Lactose Intolerant? Try These 12 Tips to Enjoy Dairy

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  • 4 min read January 24, 2023

Guess what? Being lactose intolerant doesn’t necessarily mean you have to give up your favorite dairy products. Unlike allergies where certain foods must be avoided, lactose intolerance is more of a spectrum where people can tolerate varying degrees of lactose.

So if you wound up regretting that cappuccino, don’t worry! You don’t have to give up all dairy because of one bad reaction—it’s not all or nothing. It’s all about understanding how much lactose is in the food you love and how much you can handle in one sitting. Here are 12 tips to help you enjoy your favorite great tasting dairy products, and the health benefits that come with them, without the uncomfortable symptoms.

1. Have cookies with your cow’s milk. Seriously.

While an 8-ounce glass of cow’s milk has 12.6 grams of lactose, having milk with food helps slow digestion which improves tolerance. Try small amounts of milk with cereal, in smoothies, or with meals. There’s a reason milk and cookies go so well together.

2. Don’t sleep on lactose-free cow’s milk.

Whether you’re at the supermarket or ordering your favorite bubble tea, you can still choose dairy milk without a single drop of lactose in it. Made by filtering out the lactose from the dairy milk, or by adding the same lactase enzyme that breaks down lactose, lactose-free milk is a great option for those with lactose intolerance. After all, it’s still real cow’s milk—you’ll still get your nutrients and that same rich taste.

3. Try yogurt at your next brunch outing.

Low-fat, plain yogurt has roughly 5.7 grams in every 3/4 cup serving. But don’t let that scare you. Yogurt’s live and active cultures help digest this lactose, which can make it easier to tolerate.

4. Give Greek yogurt a try.

Thanks to its unique straining process, Greek yogurt has less lactose than traditional yogurt—roughly 4.2 grams of lactose per 3/4 cup serving. And it still has live and active cultures that help you digest this lactose. Plus, Greek yogurt has high-quality protein and just sounds fancy, in a good way.

5. Experiment with lactose-free yogurts.

Whether you prefer traditional yogurt or Greek yogurt, there are a lot of lactose-free dairy-based yogurt options for you to choose from.

12 Lactose Tips to Enjoy Your Favorites Dairy Foods

6. Be patriotic—order American cheese.

Made from natural cheese, American cheese contains just 1.2 grams in a 1/4 cup serving, making it the perfect choice for lactose-friendly grilled cheese sandwiches.

7. Craving a cheese platter? Go au naturel.

Between cheddar, Swiss, mozzarella, gouda, Colby, Monterey jack, provolone—*insert deep breath*—brie, blue, and parmesan, there’s a good chance your favorite cheeses are natural cheeses. And they can stay your favorites. Due to the steps in cheese making and the natural aging process, natural cheese has lower amounts of lactose.

8. Use cottage cheese to make the lasagna of your dreams.

Whether you're making lasagna, a casserole, or some dip for your charcuterie board, cottage cheese can come in clutch for you and your lactose-intolerant friends and family—a half cup of cottage cheese contains just 3.2 grams of lactose.

9. Experiment with a lotta ricotta.

A soft and natural cheese known as a must in Italian cuisine, ricotta cheese has less than 2 grams of lactose per 1/4 cup serving.

10. Go ahead, enjoy your cream.

Fun fact: cream cheese, liquid cream and whipped or block cream have less than one gram of lactose per tablespoon. Want to spread strawberry cream cheese on your bagel? Go for it. Want whipped cream on your morning mocha? Make it happen!

11. Keep screaming for ice cream.

Traditional ice cream has 3.9 grams of lactose per 2/3 cup serving, making it tolerable in small doses for many people who are lactose intolerant. But having a low lactose tolerance doesn’t mean you have to miss out. Lactose-free ice cream is available in many mom-and-pop grocery stores in addition to national supermarkets, providing you and your loved ones with a variety of ice cold and deliciously creamy options.

12. Butter your toast. And your blueberry muffin. Your biscuit too.

With less than 0.1 grams of lactose per teaspoon, butter is nearly lactose-free.

All in all, if you’re lactose intolerant, you can probably work small amounts of dairy into your meals—like putting natural cheeses on your sub sandwiches—or choose dairy foods with minimal to no lactose. Then, gradually increase your portion size to find your comfort level. Once you find that tolerance level, there’s only one thing left to do: enjoy your food!