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Lactose Free Diet

What is it? A lactose free diet means eating foods that have no lactose. Lactose is a sugar that is a normal part of milk products. Some people do not break down lactose well. They may not have enough lactase, the enzyme that breaks lactose down in the body. Or, their body may make lactase that does not work properly. This may cause gas, bloating, cramping, or diarrhea when they eat or drink milk products. Following a lactose free diet may prevent these problems. Your caregiver or dietitian can help you decide if you need to be on a lactose free or low lactose diet instead.

Care: The lists below show you what foods are good choices because they contain no lactose.

  • Avoid all foods on the lactose containing food lists. The only time to try these foods is if you take lactase enzyme medicine with them. Ask your doctor or care giver about lactase pills or liquids. This medicine may break down enough of the lactose for you to digest some foods with small amounts of lactose. If you decide to take lactase medicine, start with only small servings of dairy foods. Increase your servings only if you digest them well.
  • Read labels on foods to see if they have milk products in them. Even foods like margarines, shortenings, non-dairy creamers, baked goods, and salad dressings can contain lactose. Food ingredients that may contain lactose are listed at the very end.
    • No Lactose: You may eat or drink these lactose free dairy foods any time.
      • Canned nutrition drinks made with soy instead of milk, such as Ensureâ„¢
      • Lactose free milk
      • Non-dairy creamers (read labels to be sure)
      • Rice milk drinks
      • Soymilks
    • Do not eat or drink the following dairy foods because they contain lactose.
      • Some cheeses - generally aged cheese contains less lactose, soft and processed cheeses contain higher levels of lactose
      • Buttermilk
      • Cheese spreads and cheese foods
      • Cottage and ricotta cheese
      • Cream
      • Evaporated & condensed milk
      • Hot chocolate mixes
      • Ice cream
      • Kefir cultured milk drink
      • Malted milk
      • Milk (Skim, 1%, 2%, whole)
      • Processed and natural cheeses
      • Reduced lactose milk
      • Sherbet
      • Sour cream
      • Sweet acidophilus or lactobacillus milk
      • Whey
      • Yogurt with or without live cultures
    • No Lactose: You may eat or these lactose free breads and starches any time.
      • Breads made without milk, such as Italian & French breads
      • Cereals made without milk
      • Pasta, noodles, macaroni
      • Potatoes, rice, barley, other cooked grains
      • Rice cakes without cheese topping
      • Saltines and whole grain crackers
    • Do not eat the following bread and starch foods because they contain lactose.
      • Dry cereal with milk
      • Frozen potato foods with milk or lactose
      • Instant mashed potato mixes
      • Prepared breads, muffins, biscuits, or rolls made with milk
      • Pancakes or waffles made with milk products
  • FATS
    • No Lactose: You may eat or drink these lactose free fats any time.
      • Margarine without butter or milk (check labels)
      • Non-dairy creamers (check labels)
      • Oils
      • Shortenings
      • Some salad dressings (check labels)
    • Do not eat or drink the following fats because they contain lactose.
      • Butter
      • Cream cheese
      • Margarines with butter or milk
      • Party dips
    • No Lactose: You may eat or drink these lactose free fruits and vegetables any time.
      • All fresh fruits & vegetables
      • Cooked or baked fruits & vegetables made without milk products
      • Fruit & vegetable juices
    • Do not eat or drink the following fruit and vegetable foods because they contain lactose.
      • Creamed vegetables
      • Fruit smoothies made with yogurt
      • Fruits or vegetables processed with lactose
      • Vegetables coated in batter
    • No Lactose: You may eat these lactose free meats and meat substitutes any time.
      • All fresh cooked, plain meats, fish, & poultry
      • Cooked dried peas & beans
      • Eggs cooked without milk
      • Peanut butter, nuts, & seeds
      • Soy cheeses
      • Soybean & tofu products
    • Do not eat the following meats and meat substitutes because they contain lactose.
      • Breaded or batter-dipped meat, fish, or poultry
      • Main dishes with cheese such as pizza, burritos, tacos, or casseroles
      • Meats in cream sauces
      • Omelets or souffles with milk
      • Processed meats with milk or lactose (hot dogs, cold cuts, deli meats)
    • No Lactose: You may eat or drink these lactose free soups, sauces, and seasonings any time.
      • Broth, bouillon, consommé
      • Gravies made with water
      • Plain herbs & spices
      • Vegetable or meat soups without milk
    • Do not eat the following soups, sauces, and seasonings because they contain lactose.
      • Chowders
      • Cream soups
      • Soup mixes with milk products
      • Whipped cream
      • White sauces & gravies
    • No Lactose: You may eat or drink these lactose free sweets and desserts any time.
      • Angel food cake
      • Dairy-free frozen desserts made with rice or soy
      • Frozen pureed fruit bars
      • Fruit ices & sorbets
      • Gelatin desserts without milk or whipped cream
      • Honey, sugar, syrups, molasses, & powdered sweeteners
      • Jellies, jams, preserves
      • Pies, cakes, other baked foods without milk
    • Do not eat or drink the following sweets & desserts because they contain lactose.
      • Cookies, cakes, pies, pastries, desserts with milk
      • Cream or cheese filled pastries
      • Fudge, coated candies, & chocolates
      • Pudding & custard
      • Sherbet, ice milk, ice cream
      • Toffee, butterscotch, or caramels
      • Whipped cream


  • Milk powder
  • Milk protein
  • Milk solids
  • Nonfat dry milk
  • Whey
  • Whey solids or protein

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. To help with this plan, you must learn about your dietary problems and how they can be treated. You can then discuss treatment options with your caregivers. Work with them to decide what care will be used to treat you. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jan 5, 2022.

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