No Dairy, No Problem

By Carla Schuit   – Registered Dietitian

About 65% of the adult population has some difficulty digesting lactose, the protein in milk, after infancy. It is thought that as we age our dependency on milk for nutrition decreases. Our diets vary more and the bodies lactase production (the enzyme that breaks down lactose) decreases. This makes it harder for our bodies to digest lactose creating undesirable side effects such as bloating, nausea and vomiting or diarrhea.

It was originally thought that the best treatment for lactose intolerance was complete dairy avoidance. More recently scientists have discovered that keeping some dairy like yogurt and hard cheeses in your diet can maintain some lactose production and be digested with no issues. This is often recommended to provide a good source of protein, calcium, choline, phosphorus and potassium in ones diet. But remember all bodies are different and some may have more or less issues keeping these foods in their diet. If you are one that cannot consume any dairy increasing food such as dark leafy greens and canned fish with bones will provide the missing nutrition in milk. Below are nutrients found in mlk or other dairy that you will need to find in other sources.

  • Calcium-spinach (or any dark leafy green), canned salmon or sardines with bones, raw broccoli, tuna and almonds. For choline
  • Choline- nuts, seeds, legumes, eggs (with yolk), liver and cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, bok choy and broccoli.
  • Protein- nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, legumes and animal meats such as chicken, beef, pork and fish.
  • Vit D- cod liver oil, tuna-canned, sardines-canned, liver and eggs.

By having a spinach salad with tuna and hard boiled eggs for lunch, almonds for a snack and a chicken breast with lentils and kale for dinner will provide multiple sources of all the nutrients in milk that your body needs.

Often times milk alternatives are fortified with these nutrients as well. However, be cautious with milk alternatives such as soy milk or almond milk. Often they have added sugars so always buy unsweetened and read the ingredients. Make sure that the featured ingredient, ex. almond milk, is the first ingredient. Milk alternatives have been in the news lately for not containing what they claim too. Reading labels carefully will ensure you are buying what you expect.

Watch out for hidden lactose! Look at your supplements and processed snacks for ingredients such as whey, casein, curds, milk by products, dry milk solids and non-fat dry milk powder. Milk is a common allergen food packages have to declare it if it is contained in the product so again, pay close attention to the ingredients.