New Year, New You with Lactose Intolerance

New Year, New You with Lactose Intolerance

After the holiday cookie exchanges and potluck meals, your patients may want to focus the New Year on strengthening their eating habits and taking a healthier approach. For some who have lactose intolerance, however, new recipes and eating habits may cause apprehension. With a few tips and tricks, your lactose intolerant patients can still enjoy healthy foods that include low-fat and fat-free milk, cheese, and yogurt.

As you may know, lactose intolerance is different than a dairy allergy. It is one type of food sensitivity that is the result of not having enough lactase, an enzyme that digests lactose, the natural sugar in milk. This may result in abdominal cramping, bloating, and other uncomfortable symptoms. By trying a few valuable strategies, lactose intolerance doesn’t have to mean missing out on dairy and its essential nutrients.

While only 12% of adults self-report being lactose intolerant, close to 19.5% of African Americans and roughly 10% of Hispanic Americans self-identify as experiencing the condition. Dairy foods (milk, cheese, and yogurt) taste great and offer a powerful nutritional punch. However, if your patients with lactose intolerance (real or perceived) avoid dairy, it may result in lower consumption of calcium, vitamin D, and other essential nutrients. If you have difficulty digesting lactose, or think you might be lactose intolerant, visit your doctor for a diagnosis.

Studies show that those with lactose intolerance can tolerate up to 12 grams of lactose – the amount found in 1 cup of milk – particularly if consumed with other foods, without significant symptoms. Many factors, though, may determine the extent of symptoms that are experienced, such as the amount of lactose consumed, how much lactase is present in the body, as well as gastrointestinal transit time, and an individual’s age and genetic background. One’s enjoyment of dairy does not need to end with a diagnosis. Many individuals can still consume dairy foods including lactose-free dairy milk, natural cheeses, and yogurt.

Wondering about those valuable strategies that I mentioned earlier? Check out the tips and recipes below to help your patients achieve a “New Year, New You” mentality, and prove that the words healthy and New Year’s resolution don’t have to put a damper on New Year celebrations. And, they won’t miss out on the nutrients and health benefits that dairy foods have to offer!

Try it: Choose lactose-free dairy milk and milk products. These real milk products have zero lactose and provide the same nutrients as regular dairy foods. They also taste great! Try this creamy soup recipe as a delicious (and festive!) first-course for dinner.

Stir it: Mix dairy milk with other foods, such as soup or cereal; blend with fruit or drink with meals. Solid foods help slow digestion and allow the body more time to digest lactose. Looking for the perfect passed appetizer that everyone will enjoy? Try this recipe for blue cheese deviled eggs.

Slice it: Approach the veggie and cheese platter with a keen eye – choose natural cheeses such as Cheddar, Colby, Monterey Jack, mozzarella, and Swiss, which contain recipe for crustless cheddar and sun-dried tomato mini quiches.

Spoon it: Enjoy yogurt. Traditional and Greek-style yogurt contain live and active cultures that help digest lactose. Yogurt makes a great snack before you head out to a dinner party, as well as a great substitute in recipes. This recipe for a chocolate yogurt cake with coffee glaze is a dessert that is sure to please, whether you’re hosting or need to bring something along to a friendly gathering!

Your lactose intolerant patients can choose to use one or all of these tips.  Each is a step towards them enjoying the taste and health benefits of dairy foods.


Dispelling Myths and Helping People Enjoy Milk, Cheese & Yogurt

Fall in Love with Dairy Again

Food Sources of Lactose

Lactose Intolerance Among Different Ethnic Groups

Lactose Intolerance: Information for Health Care Providers

Lactose Intolerance: New Understandings

For more information and additional resources, visit

Christine M. Cliff, MPH, RDN, LDN, is Director, Nutrition Affairs at the National Dairy Council.