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If Milk Doesn't Agree with You: Lactose-restricted Diet

Lactose is a sugar found in milk and other dairy products. Some people find that lactose gives them digestive problems. This condition is called lactose intolerance. Symptoms include stomach cramping, gas, bloating, and diarrhea. This diet will help you avoid dairy products that cause these symptoms.

Helpful Hints

  • Avoid milk and milk products if you have stomach cramping, gas, bloating, and diarrhea after eating these products. Try different foods to find out which ones work best for you.

  • Use a nondairy creamer, lactose-free milk, or a soy-based milk instead of dairy milk.

  • Lactase enzymes can help you digest milk and milk products with ease. They come in the form of a pill or drop that you can take before eating dairy products. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about lactase enzymes.

  • Read food labels carefully. Look for terms such as “milk solids,” “whey,” “curds,” “lactose,” “milk,” and “skim milk powder.” If you see any of these words in the label, you could have problems digesting the food. “Lactalbumin” and “calcium lactate” do not contain lactose.

  • Don’t just reject all dairy products. Some people who have trouble with lactose can tolerate yogurt with active cultures or acidophilus milk.

  • Avoid meat, poultry, or fish that is creamed, breaded, or topped with a cheese- or milk based sauce.

  • Many supermarkets carry low-lactose foods  such as lactose-free cheese and ice cream.

  • Try to include good sources of calcium in your diet such as dark green vegetables, canned fish with bones (like sardines), or dry beans. Ask your doctor if you should take a calcium supplement.

  • “(U)” or “pareve” on a food label means it is free of milk or milk products.

Lactaid and Dairy Ease

Lactaid comes in tablets and drops, and the company makes lactase-treated milk and cheese products.

For more information about this product, call the Lactaid hot line at 1-800-LACTAID (522-8243) between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday.

Dairy Ease products come in tablets, drops, or as lactase-treated milk. Check your grocery store and read labels for other low lactose, lactose- free, and lactase-treated products. Other brands may be available.

Lactose-restricted Diet Guide


 Types of Food  Choose  Avoid

Breads, cereals, rice, and pasta


6- 11 servings each day

Serving size =

  • 1 slice bread
  • 1 cup ready-to-eat cereal
  • 1/2 cup cooked cereal, rice, or pasta
  • Breads made without milk (Italian, French, and some rye and wheat breads)
  • Cereals without milk
  • Graham crackers
  • Potatoes and yams
  • Rice, noodles, and pasta



2-4 servings each day


Serving size =

  • 1 medium-sized piece of fresh fruit
  • 1/2 cup canned fruit
  • 3/4 cup of fruit juice
  • Any fruits and fruit juices

Milk and dairy products


1-2 servings each day


Serving size =

  • 1 cup milk or yogurt
  • Soy milk
  • Lactose-reduced milk and acidophilus milk (if tolerated)
  • Yogurt (if tolerated)



3-5 servings each day


Serving size =

  • 1 cup raw vegetables
  • 1/2 cup cooked or chopped vegetables
  • All fresh, frozen, or canned vegetables
  • Vegetable juice

Meats, poultry, fish, dry beans, peas, eggs, and cheese


2-3 servings or total of 6 ounces daily


Serving size =

  • 2-3 ounces, cooked
  • One egg, 1/2 cup cooked beans, 2 tablespoons peanut butter, or 1 ounce of cheese are equal to 1 ounce of meat
  • all meats, poultry, fish, eggs, peanut butter, nuts, dried beans, and lentils
  • Cold cuts or hot dogs that contain lactose filler
Fats, condiments, and beverages
  • Margarine made without milk
  • Butter (if tolerated)
  • Nondairy creamer
  • Oil-based salad dressings
  • Olives
  • Bacon
  • Shortening
  • Soup broth
  • Coffee, tea, and soda
  • Postum
  • Cream
  • Salad dressings that contain milk or cheese
  • Sour cream
  • Half-and-half
  • Cream soups
  • Ovaltine
 Snacks, sweets, and desserts
  • Sugar, syrup, honey, and jelly
  • Marshmallows, gelatin, and meringues
  • Fruit-flavored ice
  • Cakes, pies, or cookies made with allowed foods
  • Frozen yogurt (usually tolerated in 1/2 cup servings)
  • Any snacks, sweets, or desserts prepared with milk or milk products
  • Ice cream and ice milk
  • Custards, chocolate, and sherbet
  • Caramels, butterscotch candies, and toffee
  • Commercial desserts and mixes


Sample Meal Plan

 Meal Foods
  • Orange juice
  • Toast with jelly
  • Egg
  • Cereal with lactose-reduced milk
  • Tea or coffee with lactose-free, nondairy creamer and sugar
  • Sliced turkey on Italian bread
  • Salad with oil and vinegar
  • Vegetable soup
  • Apple
  • Lemonade
  • Sliced roast beef
  • Potato with margarine
  • Steamed broccoli
  • Wheat bread with margarine
  • Fruit-flavored ice
  • Tea or coffee with lactose-free, nondairy creamer and sugar


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