How to Start a Lactose Free Diet

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Studies show that up to 70 percent of adults across the globe are lactose intolerant, lacking sufficient amounts of the enzyme, lactase, to break down lactose, a type of sugar found in milk. There are many, many reasons to start a lactose free diet. Besides the fact that eating dairy products is now associated with everything from diabetes and cancer to heart disease and high blood pressure, cutting out milk if you are sensitive to dairy or lactose can reduce or eliminate objectionable digestive problems including diarrhea, gas, abdominal cramps and bloating. Whether you are lactose intolerant, allergic to dairy or dairy sensitive, or if you just don’t believe humans should drink the milk intended for rapidly growing baby cows, read on.

Things You'll Need

  • Lactose-free or vegan cookbooks
  • Educate yourself. Lactose is a component of all dairy products, including milk, butter, cheese and cream. Lactose is also in all variations of dairy products like ice cream, buttermilk, sour cream, yogurt, evaporated milk, lactose-reduced milk, acidophilus milk and many drink mixes, such as hot cocoa mix or instant breakfast drinks.

  • Beware of hidden sources of lactose. These can include pasta sauces with cheese or cream in them, baked goods, packaged foods, creamed or breaded vegetables, muffins, pancakes, instant cereals, dips, salad dressings, puddings, breaded meats, some luncheon meats, drink mixes, crackers, soups, dressings and dips, frozen foods and prepared meals. Always read nutrition labels to keep lactose out of your diet.

  • Focus on the positive. Try not to think about what foods you cannot have and instead enjoy tasting new foods you might not have tried if it were not for the need or want to avoid lactose. For example, there are some amazing soy ice creams out there, which are also lower in saturated fat and cholesterol than their dairy counterparts are, and are just as rich and creamy. Experiment with cheese alternatives; many made from rice, soy or almonds melt just like dairy versions. Soymilk, almond milk and oat milk are available in plain varieties, as well as many tasty flavors such as chocolate strawberry, chai or even Irish cream.

  • Be creative. Look for new twists on old favorites. Use cashews to make foods creamy. Blend up macadamia nuts with some agave nectar or other healthy sweetener for a rich and delicious “whipped cream.” Make creamy salad dressings using blended nuts or avocado. Dairy-free brownies, cakes and cookies are amazing and moist.

  • Be resourceful. The Internet is full of resources for lactose-free diets, but don’t stop there. Search for vegan recipes all over the web. By definition, a vegan diet is free of all meat and dairy products, and there are a plethora of vegan resources and recipes available at your fingertips.

  • Try vegan, vegetarian or raw food restaurants. At vegan or raw food restaurants, enjoy the fun of ordering anything on the menu without worrying a bit about whether something will contain lactose. Even the “cheese” and “ice cream” will be lactose free. Vegetarian or vegetarian-friendly restaurants might serve dairy products, but are often sensitive to vegan diets as well, and typically have a variety of dairy free options or are willing to keep the dairy out of the order.

Tips & Warnings

  • You might be worried about getting less calcium now that you’re avoiding dairy products. Eat many leafy green vegetables to increase the amount of calcium in your diet. You can get over 300 mg of calcium by eating just 100 calories worth of kale, romaine or broccoli.
  • Contrary to what we’ve all been told, cow milk is for baby cows. When you think about how little sense it makes for humans to be drinking the breast milk of cows, you might feel less inclined to want to cheat on your lactose-free diet.
  • Remember that “lactose-reduced” products are not lactose free; these still contain lactose. Make sure the products you buy are truly lactose free.

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