7 Ways to Start Adding Dairy Back into Your Diet

February 21, 2017

As a registered dietitian, I often hear “I have trouble digesting dairy. What are solutions that may help me?”

I love answering this question, because I have some solutions that may help! Put simply, lactose intolerance (LI) is a condition where the body does not adequately breakdown lactose, the sugar naturally in milk. LI is a very individual condition and many people often can tolerate varying amounts of lactose, which means there are solutions that can be tailored to meet people's needs. This is good news, because it likely can help many people enjoy the great taste that comes along with the nutrition in the recommended three daily servings of dairy foods. Why is this important?

Low-fat and fat-free milk provide nine essential nutrients and milk is the No. 1 food source of three of the nutrients of concern (calcium, vitamin D and potassium) in the diet of Americans. Avoiding dairy foods due to trouble digesting them, could mean not getting enough of these essential nutrients as well as missing out on the great taste dairy can bring to meals. Plus, healthy eating styles that include low-fat and fat -free dairy foods (i.e., milk, cheese and yogurt) have been linked to health benefits, such as with a decreased risk of Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

The acronym LACTOSE may help you start customizing dairy foods into an overall balanced meal plan:

  • Look for lactose-free milk. It is real cow’s milk with the lactose sugar already broken down so can help reduce unwanted gastrointestinal issues.
  • Add natural, hard cheeses to your meals and snacks. Natural, hard cheeses like Cheddar, Swiss, Colby Jack and Monterey contain minimal lactose and provide a great way to get in a serving of dairy.
  • Cook with it. Using dairy in recipes is a great way to get in essential nutrients. For example, you can sub yogurt for ingredients like mayonnaise or use lactose-free milk in baking, on hot cereals like oatmeal or in soups.
  • Top veggies with it. Sprinkling a serving of grated, low-fat natural, hard cheese on your veggies adds protein, calcium and a scrumptious taste.
  • Optimize your workout with dairy! Low-fat and fat-free dairy foods are a great source of high-quality protein, which may be beneficial after a workout. Mix lactose-free milk in a shake or make a parfait with yogurt, fruit and a dab of honey to replenish and rebuild!
  • Scoop up a serving of yogurt. Though it contains lactose, yogurt is also full of good bacteria (e.g., live and active cultures) which helps digest the lactose and can make it easier to tolerate.
  • Experiment with regular dairy foods. Introducing dairy slowly into your diet and gradually increasing the amount over time can help your body begin to tolerate it little by little.

Before eliminating dairy foods from your diet, visit your doctor so you can be properly tested for lactose intolerance. Lactose intolerance may not have to keep you from eating dairy and benefiting from all the nutrients it has to offer. The LACTOSE solutions may help you enjoy dairy again!

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