If you have lactose intolerance, you are not able to digest lactose. Lactose is a natural sugar found mainly in milk and milk products. You may need to avoid all foods and beverages that contain lactose. A lactose-free diet can help you do this.

  • Do not consume foods, beverages, vitamins, minerals, or medicines with lactose. Read ingredients lists carefully.
  • Look for the words “lactose-free” on labels.
  • Use lactase enzyme drops or tablets as directed by your health care provider.
  • Use lactose-free milk or a milk alternative, such as soy milk, for drinking and cooking.
  • Make sure you get enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet. A lactose-free eating plan can be lacking in these important nutrients.
  • Take calcium and vitamin D supplements as directed by your health care provider. Talk to your provider about supplements if you are not able to get enough calcium and vitamin D from food.

Lactose is found in:

  • Milk and foods made from milk.
  • Yogurt.
  • Cheese.
  • Butter.
  • Margarine.
  • Sour cream.
  • Cream.
  • Whipped toppings and non-dairy creamers.
  • Ice cream and other milk-based desserts.

Lactose is also found in foods or products made with milk or milk ingredients. To find out whether a food contains milk or a milk ingredient, look at the ingredients list. Avoid foods with the statement “May contain milk” and foods that contain:

  • Butter.
  • Cream.
  • Milk.
  • Milk solids.
  • Milk powder.
  • Whey.
  • Curd.
  • Caseinate.
  • Lactose.
  • Lactalbumin.
  • Lactoglobulin.
  • Lactose-free milk.
  • Soy milk with added calcium and vitamin D.
  • Almond, coconut, or rice milk with added calcium and vitamin D. Note that these are low in protein.
  • Soy products, such as soy yogurt, soy cheese, soy ice cream, and soy-based sour cream.


Breads and rolls made without milk, such as French, Vienna, or Italian bread, bagels, pita, and matzo. Corn tortillas, corn meal, grits, and polenta. Crackers without lactose or milk solids, such as soda crackers and graham crackers. Cooked or dry cereals without lactose or milk solids. Pasta, quinoa, couscous, barley, oats, bulgur, farro, rice, wild rice, or other grains prepared without milk or lactose. Plain popcorn.


Fresh, frozen, and canned vegetables without cheese, cream, or butter sauces.


All fresh, canned, frozen, or dried fruits that are not processed with lactose.

Meats and Other Protein Sources

Plain beef, chicken, fish, turkey, lamb, veal, pork, wild game, or ham. Kosher-prepared meat products. Strained or junior meats that do not contain milk. Eggs. Soy meat substitutes. Beans, lentils, and hummus. Tofu. Nuts and seeds. Peanut or other nut butters without lactose. Soups, casseroles, and mixed dishes without cheese, cream, or milk.


Lactose-free milk. Soy, rice, or almond milk with added calcium and vitamin D. Soy cheese and yogurt.


Carbonated drinks. Tea. Coffee, freeze-dried coffee, and some instant coffees. Fruit and vegetable juices.


Soy sauce. Carob powder. Olives. Gravy made with water. Baker’s cocoa. Pickles. Pure seasonings and spices. Ketchup. Mustard. Bouillon. Broth.

Sweets and Desserts

Water and fruit ices. Gelatin. Cookies, pies, or cakes made from allowed ingredients, such as angel food cake. Pudding made with water or a milk substitute. Lactose-free tofu desserts. Soy, coconut milk, or rice-milk-based frozen desserts. Sugar. Honey. Jam, jelly, and marmalade. Molasses. Pure sugar candy. Dark chocolate without milk. Marshmallows.

Fats and Oils

Margarines and salad dressings that do not contain milk. Bacon. Vegetable oils. Shortening. Mayonnaise. Soy or coconut-based cream.

The items listed above may not be a complete list of recommended foods or beverages. Contact your dietitian for more options.

Calcium is found in many foods that contain lactose and is important for bone health. The amount of calcium you need depends on your age:

  • Adults younger than 50 years: 1000 mg of calcium a day.
  • Adults older than 50 years: 1200 mg of calcium a day.

If you are not getting enough calcium, other calcium sources include:

  • Orange juice with calcium added. There are 300–350 mg of calcium in 1 cup of orange juice.
  • Sardines with edible bones. There are 325 mg of calcium in 3 oz of sardines.
  • Calcium-fortified soy milk. There are 300–400 mg of calcium in 1 cup of calcium-fortified soy milk.
  • Calcium-fortified rice or almond milk. There are 300 mg of calcium in 1 cup of calcium-fortified rice or almond milk.
  • Canned salmon with edible bones. There are 180 mg of calcium in 3 oz of canned salmon with edible bones.
  • Calcium-fortified breakfast cereals. There are 100–1000 mg of calcium in calcium-fortified breakfast cereals.
  • Tofu set with calcium sulphate. There are 250 mg of calcium in ½ cup of tofu set with calcium sulphate.
  • Spinach, cooked. There are 145 mg of calcium in ½ cup of cooked spinach.
  • Edamame, cooked. There are 130 mg of calcium in ½ cup of cooked edamame.
  • Collard greens, cooked. There are 125 mg of calcium in ½ cup of cooked collard greens.
  • Kale, frozen or cooked. There are 90 mg of calcium in ½ cup of cooked or frozen kale.
  • There are 95 mg of calcium in ¼ cup of almonds.
  • Broccoli, cooked. There are 60 mg of calcium in 1 cup of cooked broccoli.

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