Lactose-Free Diet: What You Need to Know Before You Start


Maybe you’ve recently been diagnosed with a lactose intolerance and are considering cutting back on dairy in your diet. Or maybe you’re feeling adventurous and want to try something new. Either way, you’ve found yourself here—reading about a lactose-free diet.

Let’s be honest: Eliminating dairy from your diet can be intimidating at first, but it doesn’t have to be. With the proper planning and knowledge, living a lactose-free lifestyle can be just as delicious and fulfilling as any other dietary plan.

So before you go diving into this wonderful lifestyle of delicious non-dairy options, let us provide you with some unmissable tips and information to help make the transition smooth sailing. In this article, we’ll cover all the basics of following a lactose-free diet.

Understanding Lactose Intolerance and Lactose-Free Diets

Are you considering going lactose-free? There’s a lot to understand about why someone would choose to adopt a lactose-free diet and how to do it correctly. But before you start, it helps to understand what lactose intolerance actually is and the basic premise of a lactose-free diet.

In short, people with lactose intolerance are unable to digest the type of sugar found in cow’s milk. If a person consumes dairy products without properly digesting them, they may experience digestive symptoms such as gas, bloating, diarrhea, and cramps. Going lactose-free means eliminating these problematic dairy products from your diet.

A lactose-free diet typically involves three main steps:

  1. Removing all dairy foods including milk, cheese, yogurt and other products that contain lactose
  2. Substituting for those foods with alternatives that do not contain dairy or need to be prepared in a special way
  3. Making sure to get enough of important nutrients through other sources

By understanding these basics of the dietary change you are about to make, you will be more successful in sticking to your new lifestyle!

Common Foods to Avoid on a Lactose-Free Diet

If you’re thinking of following a lactose-free diet, there are several common food items that contain lactose that you need to avoid. Lactose is mainly found in cow’s milk and products made with cow’s milk. This includes dairy products such as cheese, ice cream, butter, and yogurt. Other food items to avoid include:

  • Breads, crackers, and some breakfast cereals
  • Processed meats like hot dogs and bacon
  • Packaged snack foods like chips and cookies
  • Coffee drinks such as cappuccinos and lattes
  • Ready meals like frozen dinners
  • Creamy sauces
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It’s important to read the ingredient lists on packaged food labels carefully. Even if the product does not appear to contain dairy products it can still contain lactose or other milk derivatives. If in doubt, avoid the product or check with your doctor or dietician for advice.

Tips for Following a Lactose-Free Diet

Whether you’re new to the lactose-free diet or you’ve been following it for a while, there are a few things you need to know before you get started. Here are some tips that will help make sure your lactose-free journey is successful and enjoyable.

Know Your Limits

It’s helpful to know how much lactose you can tolerate, so that you can plan out meals and snacks accordingly. If your symptoms are very severe, it may be helpful to ask your health care provider for a blood test so that you can determine your exact level of intolerance.

Read Labels

Reading food labels is key to maintaining a lactose-free diet. Look for “lactose-free” labels on dairy products like milk, cheese and yogurt, but also be sure to check for lesser-known sources of lactose, including condiments and seasoning mixes.

Learn What You Can Eat

There are lots of delicious substitutes to dairy products made from soy or rice milk and cream cheese. When shopping for other foods like breads and cereals, be sure to double check the labels since some of these also contain small traces of lactose. There are plenty of delicious options out there—it just takes time to find them!

Lactose-Free Diet Grocery Shopping List

Grocery shopping for a lactose-free diet is tricky, but it’s important to get it right — you don’t want to make the mistake of buying something that has lactose in it. Here are some tips to keep you on track when you’re grocery shopping:

Read Labels Carefully

The key component here is reading labels carefully before you buy anything. Check for the words “lactose”, “milk” and “lactase” on labels — these are indicators that what you’re about to eat does contain lactose, so move on and look for something else.

Stock Up On Dairy Alternatives

If dairy is off the menu, try alternative sources of calcium like cooked tofu, enriched rice and almond milk, fortified soy yogurt, squash, and turnip greens. You can also buy lactose-free cheeses and milks in most grocery stores.

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Frozen Fruits & Veggies

Frozen fruits and veggies are a great way to add flavor and nutrition to your meals while keeping things lactose free. Look for frozen veggies like broccoli, spinach, kale or cauliflower in your supermarket’s freezer section — they’ll last longer than fresh produce. And don’t forget frozen fruits – they’re a great snack alternative when fresh fruit isn’t available.

Keeping a lactose-free diet doesn’t have to be an intimidating task—with these tips in mind and an eye on labels, stocking your fridge with lactose-free options can be easy!

Lactose-Free Diet Meal Planning Ideas

Meal planning can be quite a challenge when you are on a lactose-free diet. Lactose is found in a variety of food sources such as dairy, baked goods and processed foods, so it can be difficult to find meals that adhere to a lactose-free diet. But don’t worry, there are some great meal planning ideas you can use to make sure that you’re getting all your nutritional needs while avoiding lactose.

Shop Smarter

When purchasing groceries, read labels carefully and avoid ingredients like whey, casein, curds and milk solids. You may also want to check the packaging of your pre-made meals; many seemingly lactose-free dishes contain trace amounts of dairy products. If you’re unsure about an item, be sure to ask your grocer or check the manufacturer’s website for more information.

Seasonal Variety

Seasonal fruits and vegetables are packed with nutrition and can add delicious flavor to meals without the added lactose. Root vegetables like potatoes, carrots and yams, as well as leafy greens like spinach and kale are healthy and affordable options that pair nicely with plant proteins like nuts, beans and tofu.

Experiment with Recipes

There are tons of delicious recipes online specifically designed for those who cannot have lactose in their diets. Try out different recipes until you find something you really enjoy eating. This will help keep mealtime exciting so that you don’t get bored with what’s on the menu!

By making smarter shopping decisions, experimenting with recipes and taking advantage of seasonal produce, people on a lactose-free diet can maintain their nutrition while still enjoying tasty meals!

Lactose-Free Diet Recipes to Try

If you’re looking for inspiration and recipes to try when you start a lactose-free diet, look no further! There are so many delicious and healthy options to choose from. Here are just a few that you could incorporate into your lactose-free routine:

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Flavorful Soups

Soups and stews are great options for those on lactose-free diets, as they are usually dairy-free. Try a flavorful vegetable soup with root vegetables like carrots, potatoes, and parsnips. Or for something heartier, opt for a lentil or bean soup made with broth and herbs.

Meat Dishes

Meat dishes can be adapted to be lactose-free by substituting the dairy with non-dairy alternatives. Try an easy chicken stirfy with veggies and tomato sauce for a nutritious meal that’s sure to please! If you’re feeling adventurous, try making your own lactose-free version of lasagna—it might take longer to make than the traditional version but will still taste delicious!

Veggie Dishes

Vegetables are a great way to get fiber and vitamins while on a lactose-free diet. Try roasting some cauliflower or Brussels sprouts in the oven with some herbs and spices to make an easy side dish. You can also make vegetable stirfrys or tacos – just remember to skip the cheese or replace it with non-dairy substitutes like nut cheeses or tofu. And don’t forget about salads: mix up some spinach, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and top with olive oil for an easy yet nutritious lunch option.

Remember these recipes when transitioning into your new


While a lactose-free diet can be a great way to manage your symptoms if you’re lactose intolerant, it’s important to make sure you’re still getting all of the nutrients you need. You may need to look for alternative sources of calcium, proteins, and other nutrients found in dairy products to ensure you’re getting all the vitamins and minerals your body needs. It’s also important to watch your portion sizes and the amount of sugar you’re consuming, as a lot of lactose-free food can be higher in sugar than their dairy-containing counterparts.

Ultimately, a lactose-free diet can be a great way to reduce your symptoms and help you feel better, but it’s best to have an open and honest conversation with your doctor or healthcare provider so you can find the best dietary plan for your needs. With the right meal planning, you can enjoy your favorite foods without feeling like you’re missing

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