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Eat Confidently With Lactose Intolerance

Updated January 23, 2024

Anna Tvedt

SDSU Extension Nutrition Field Specialist

Originally written by Whitney Blindert, Midwest Dairy Council, under the direction and review of Ann Schwader. Updated by Anna Tvedt, SDSU Extension Nutrition Field Specialist.

About Lactose Intolerance

Chalkboard with the words “Lactose Intolerance” written on it next to a glass of milk.
(Canva photo)

February is Lactose Intolerance Awareness Month, but anytime is a good time to clear up confusion about the condition, and return to confidently eating the dairy foods you love. Lactose intolerance occurs when a person has difficulty digesting lactose (the sugar naturally found in milk), which may cause them to experience physical symptoms when consuming foods that contain lactose, such as gas, diarrhea, bloating, belly pains, and nausea.

Many people don’t realize that lactose intolerance doesn’t have to mean complete dairy avoidance; avoiding dairy can mean missing out on key nutrients. Milk is affordable and naturally nutrient-rich like no other beverage, providing nutrients we need like calcium for strong bones and protein for healthy muscles.

Because tolerance for lactose varies from person to person, lactose intolerance is a highly individualized condition. A person should talk to their doctor or a registered dietitian about a management approach that best suits him or her.

Consuming Dairy Safely

Young woman taking a small sip of milk from a glass.
(Canva photo)

There’s no need to switch to imitation milk; by following simple tips and tricks for management, people with lactose intolerance can feel good about choosing dairy foods first.

  • Sip It. Start with a small amount of milk daily and increase slowly over several days or weeks to tolerance.
  • Stir It. Mix milk with other foods, such as smoothies, soups or sauces, or pair it with meals. This helps give your body more time to digest it.
  • Slice It. Top sandwiches or crackers with natural cheeses, such as Cheddar, Colby, Monterey Jack, Mozzarella, and Swiss. These cheeses are low in lactose.
  • Shred It. Shred your favorite natural cheese onto soups, pastas, and salads. It’s an easy way to incorporate a serving of dairy that is low in lactose.
  • Spoon It. Enjoy easy-to-digest yogurt. The live and active cultures in yogurt help to digest lactose.

For more information about dairy and for recipes, visit the Midwest Dairy website.

Related Topics

Nutrition, Health, Dairy Cattle