Millions of Americans avoid pouring regular milk over their cereal or into their coffee because they worry about lactose intolerance symptoms. These people can’t digest lactose, the sugar naturally found in milk.
Some people with lactose intolerance can enjoy minimal servings of dairy products that contain very small amounts of lactose, such as cheese, yogurt, and butter.
Because milk is the leading food source of calcium and vitamin D, if you eliminate dairy products from your diet, it makes it difficult to get enough of those nutrients that are so important for bone health. Dairy products are naturally high in calcium and other essential nutrients and many dairy products are fortified with vitamin D.
Lactose-free cow's milk and dairy products with added lactase are good alternatives as they provide the same nutrients as regular milk.
Lactose-free cow’s milk is treated with an enzyme known as lactase, which ensures that milk sugars are broken down into simpler sugars. Lactose-free cow’s milk is comparable to regular cow’s milk because it is protein-rich and has a similar nutritional profile overall. The number of calories in lactose-free milk depends on the percentage of fat in the milk.
Most people can’t taste the difference between lactose-free cow’s and regular cow’s milk, making it a popular beverage choice. Like regular cow’s milk, lactase-free cow’s milk is available in conventional and organic varieties. Concerned about getting enough calcium? Lactose-free cow's milk has the same amount of calcium as regular milk.
Lactose-Free 1% Low-Fat Milk. Per cup, lactose-free 1% low fat milk contributes 8 grams of high-quality protein, 0 grams fiber, 2.5 grams fat (1.5 grams saturated fat), 13 grams carbohydrate, 370 milligrams potassium, 300 milligrams calcium, 27 milligrams magnesium, and 0.9 micrograms B12 and is usually fortified with vitamins A and D.
In addition to lactose-free cow's milk or dairy products, there are other lactose-free breakfast options that can help you get the nutrients you’d normally get from dairy. For example, when traditional milk can’t be a part of your diet, there are lactose-free alternative beverages known as “milks” -- soy, almond, rice, and oat -- that you can try with breakfast or in your breakfast recipes. Soy milk has the largest amount of protein and is more nutrient-rich than other alternatives. Read nutrition labels to make sure you’re getting the nutrients you need.
Soy Milk (usually made with filtered water, whole soybeans, and evaporated cane juice). Soy milk contributes about 8 grams of high-quality protein, 1.5 grams fiber, 3.5 grams fat (0.2 grams omega-3 fatty acids), 11 grams carbohydrate, 290 milligrams potassium, 61 milligrams calcium (sometimes fortified with more calcium), 61 milligrams magnesium, and is usually fortified with vitamin D, B12, calcium, and riboflavin.
Almond Milk (usually made with purified water, evaporated cane juice, and almonds). Almond milk contributes about 1 gram protein, 1 gram fiber, 2.5 grams fat, 8 grams carbohydrate, 180 milligrams potassium, and is fortified with calcium, and vitamins D, A, and E.
Rice Milk (usually made with filtered water, organic brown rice, safflower/ canola oil, and sea salt). Rice milk contributes about 1 gram protein, 0 grams fiber, 2 grams fat, and is fortified with calcium and vitamin D.
Oat Milk (usually made with hulled oat fragments, filtered water, and other grains and beans). Oat milk contributes about 4 grams of protein, 2 grams fiber, 2.5 grams fat, and 21 grams carbohydrates, and is usually fortified with vitamins A and D, calcium, and riboflavin.
Lactose-Free Breakfast Ideas
Here are some tasty ways to enjoy a nutritious and delicious breakfast.
Soy Smoothie: Make a smoothie blending frozen fruit, a banana, soy or almond milk, and/or soy yogurt. Because soy is naturally rich in protein, magnesium, and calcium, it can be part of a nutritious breakfast.
Cheese Alternatives: Top your breakfast eggs or omelet with shredded or sliced soy cheese or lactose-free dairy cheese. Soy cheese containing casein, a milk protein, seems to melt better. Flavors include mozzarella, cheddar, and Jack, depending upon the brand.
Breakfast Parfait: Make a yogurt parfait using soy yogurt or lactose-free yogurt, fresh or frozen fruit, and nuts or granola sprinkled on top. A great nutritional substitute for milk or dairy, some soy yogurts are fortified with calcium and vitamin D, and each 6-ounce serving has about 4 grams of protein.
Make Hot Cereal Creamy: Replace traditional milk with lactose-free cow’s milk, soy milk, or almond and rice milk when you’re making oatmeal and other hot cereals. Plain or vanilla-flavored soy both work well.
Cold Soy Milk Over Cereal: Because cold breakfast cereals tend to have some sugar added, pouring plain soy milk (or plain almond and rice milk) over cereal is a great nondairy choice for a quick breakfast. Or try lactose-free cow’s milk.
Soy Latte Option: In most coffee chains and cafes, you can order your morning latte or coffee drink with soy instead of milk.
Nondairy Baking: Soy, almond, and rice milk work well in baking instead of cow's milk. If you are using rice milk, however, you may need to add a little less than the recipe calls for due to its thinner consistency.
Lactose-Free Eggs: Make scrambled eggs by whisking a tablespoon of plain soy or almond milk or lactose-free cow’s milk with each egg. Use a nonstick frying pan to minimize the need for cooking fat, but if you need to coat the pan, use a little canola oil or olive oil instead of butter.
Lactose-Free French Toast: Make cinnamon-roll French toast by dipping whole wheat bread into a mixture of vanilla soy milk (or vanilla almond milk) and eggs with a sprinkle of ground cinnamon. Another option is lactose-free cow’s milk with a splash of vanilla extract.
Nontraditional Quiche: Whip up a lactose-free quiche with plain soy or almond milk or lactose-free cow’s milk instead of regular milk or cream, soy or lactose-free cheese instead of regular cheese, and a crust made with canola or olive oil instead of butter.
No-Butter Biscuits: Make lactose-free breakfast biscuits using canola oil, olive oil, or trans-free shortening instead of butter and lactose-free cow’s, soy, or almond milk instead of buttermilk or cream.
Vegetables for Breakfast: Dark leafy green vegetables like kale and collard greens contribute many of the nutrients we get in dairy. So when you are making an egg-based breakfast, throw some of those veggies into the dish.
How to Drink Milk: You may be able to drink no more than 1 cup of low-fat or skim milk with breakfast and still remain symptom free. You can also try using over-the-counter lactase enzyme replacement pills in order to help you tolerate dairy products. Lactose-free cow’s milk has the same nutritional benefits as regular cow’s milk.
Know Which Foods Contain Lactose: Some of the main foods that contain lactose include:
- Milk and milk-based beverages
- Foods and sauces made with milk
- Cream soups
- Sour cream
- Puddings and custards (made with milk)
- Creamer and whipping cream
- Ice cream, ice milk, and sherbet
- Yogurt (small amounts because the bacteria help digest some of the lactose)
- Cheese (small amounts)
- Butter (trace amounts)
Be Aware of Foods That May Contain Lactose: Check the ingredient label for milk-based ingredients such as milk, whey, casein, lactose, butter, cheese, curds, nonfat dry milk, and dry milk solids or powder. Other foods that may contain lactose include:
- Breakfast drinks
- Bread and bread products
- Mixes for pancakes, biscuits, and cookies
- Some cakes, brownies, and cookies
- Some processed breakfast cereals (check the labels)
- Instant soup
- Instant noodle and potato mixes
- Bottled salad dressings
- Bottled sauces
- Milk chocolate and products made with milk chocolate
- Lunch meats (except for kosher ones)