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Find Substitutes

You may find you can't tolerate any amount of some foods. That's a good time to try lactose-free or reduced-lactose foods.

For instance, if milk doesn't agree with you, try lactose-free milk or a dairy-free drink, such as almond, rice, or soy milk. If you have problems digesting cheese, try one with less lactose.

  • Nonfat dry milk powder, 1 cup: 62 grams lactose
  • Sweetened condensed milk, 1 cup: 40 grams lactose
  • Evaporated milk, 1 cup: 24 grams lactose
  • Milk, 1 cup: 10-12 grams lactose
  • Ice milk, 1/2 cup: 9 grams lactose
  • Ice cream, 1/2 cup: 6 grams lactose
  • Yogurt, 1 cup: 5 grams lactose
  • Cottage cheese, 1/2 cup: 2-3 grams lactose
  • Blue cheese, 1 oz.: 2 grams lactose
  • Sherbet, orange, 1/2 cup: 2 grams lactose
  • American, Swiss, or Parmesan cheese, 1 oz.: 1 gram lactose
  • Cheddar cheese, 1 oz.: 0 grams lactose

Be Aware of Calcium Needs

People who are lactose intolerant tend to cut out dairy foods. If you do that, you can shortchange yourself on calcium. You need calcium for healthy teeth and bones, and vitamin D to help your body use calcium. "People who are lactose intolerant are at higher risk for osteoporosis," or thinning bones, Saito-Loftus says.

If you have lactose intolerance, you don’t have to miss out on the bone-building benefits of calcium and vitamin D. Some lactose-free foods are fortified with these nutrients, such as lactose-free milk and cottage cheese. Some nondairy milks -- almond, oat, rice, and soy -- are also enriched with calcium and vitamin D.

Look at the label, and try to get at least as much calcium and vitamin D as you would get from regular cow’s milk. Calcium and vitamin D supplements can help you fill in any gaps to ensure you "bone up" on these vital nutrients.   

Also, add these foods to your diet for an added boost of calcium (without the lactose):

  • Bok choy and Chinese cabbage
  • Broccoli
  • Collards
  • Greens: collard, kale, mustard, or turnip
  • Orange juice that is fortified with calcium
  • Salmon or sardines with bones, canned
  • Soybeans
  • Tofu, calcium set

Vitamin D-rich foods include:

  • Eggs
  • Orange juice that is fortified
  • Swordfish or salmon, cooked
  • Tuna fish or sardines, canned
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