Flexibility is Key When Managing Lactose Intolerance

February 23, 2016

With the recent release of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), we are reminded to help people build flexible, healthy eating styles that nourish them physically, while also nourishing cultural and personal connections. Flexibility is an important concept, whether you are building meal plans for a vegetarian, a picky eater or a person with lactose intolerance. There’s no doubt about it -- managing a food sensitivity can be challenging. Since February is Lactose Intolerance Awareness Month, what better time to recognize that one size does not fit all and provide some tips and resources to help meet people’s needs.

Managing lactose intolerance starts with recognizing it impacts each person differently; however, people with lactose intolerance still need the same nutrients as those who are able to digest lactose. That includes nutrients that can be provided by cow’s milk, such as calcium, protein, potassium, phosphorus, vitamins A and D, B12, riboflavin and niacin via niacin equivalents. Reducing consumption of dairy foods due to concerns about lactose intolerance can result in a lower consumption of nutrients found in milk, potentially with unintended health consequences, so it’s important that people who need them have solutions.

The great news is that there are many solutions that can be tailored to help people with lactose intolerance include dairy foods in daily meal plans. With a little encouragement, you can help them find what works best for them:

  • Try It: Try lactose-free milk and other lactose-free dairy products. They are real milk products and provide the same nutrients but without the lactose.
  • Sip It: Start drinking a small amount (1/2 cup or less) of milk every day with meals. Over the next few days or weeks, gradually increase the amount as tolerated until you can drink an 8-ounce serving.
  • Slice/Shred It: During cheese making, most of the lactose is removed from natural cheeses, such as Cheddar, Colby, Monterey Jack, mozzarella and Swiss. Use a slice on sandwiches or shred a serving of these cheeses on your veggies, pasta or salad.
  • Spoon It: Try eating some yogurt with meals or as a snack. The live and active cultures in yogurt help digest lactose.
  • Make It Easy: Look for lactase enzyme tablets the next time you’re at your local drugstore. Take them at the beginning of your meal; they can help digest lactose easily when dining with friends or at a restaurant.

You might start your counseling session by giving clients the LI Fact or Fiction Quiz to clear up any misconceptions they might have about lactose intolerance. Then use and share information and resources from Lactose Intolerance 101 and National Dairy Council.

Here are some lactose intolerance-friendly recipes created by culinary experts to try yourself and share. They are sure to whet appetites and provide reassurance that having lactose intolerance often doesn’t have to mean eliminating the dairy foods they know and love!