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Does Lactose Intolerance Mean You Can't Have Dairy?

Posted on Jun 11, 2014 by Maggie LaBarbera

With it being national Dairy month, I wanted to continue to discuss the importance of this food group.  Dairy is one of the five major food groups listed in My Plate and My Pyramid.

The reason this food group is so important is because it provides some very necessary nutrients that every body needs in order to maintain good health.  In particular, children need this food group because of it high amount of vitamin D and calcium.  You need both these nutrients.  vitamin D helps your body absorb the calcium.  This is one of the few foods that has both nutrients.

But what if you are lactose intolerant?  (like my son is!)  Does that mean you can't enjoy milk or dairy products?  There are now dairy products that are lactose free.  

But here are some other facts that you may not have been aware of:

not all milk products have the same amount of lactose.  Some people who cannot tolerate milk, can eat yogurt or hard cheeses.

Lactose Content of Common Foods*

*Note: These are estimates only; actual lactose content may vary by specific product, brand, or recipe.


Serving Size

Approximate Lactose Content (grams)


1 tbsp



1 ounce


·   Cheddar cheese, Swiss

1 ounce


·   Mozzarella

1 ounce


·   Bleu Cheese

1 ounce

<0.2 a

·   American cheese

1 slice


Cottage cheese, 2% milkfat

½ cup


Cream (light)

½ cup

<0.2 a

Cream cheese

1 ounce


Evaporated Milk

1 cup



½ cup


Ice cream

½ cup

Varies by brand and recipe


1 tbsp


Milk (nonfat, 1%, 2%, whole)

1 cup


Milk, Lactose-Free

1 cup


Nonfat Dry Milk Powder (unreconstituted)

1 cup


Sherbet, orange

½ cup


Sour Cream

2 tbsp



½ cup

Sorbet does not contain milk

Whipped Cream topping, pressurized

2 tbsp

<0.5 a

Yogurt, low fat

6 oz

5 – 12 ga,c  (note:  although yogurt contains

lactose, cultured yogurt is generally well tolerated by persons with lactose intolerance)


Unless otherwise noted, levels are per the USDA National Nutrient Database (SR-25): available at:
a Specific lactose Content not available in USDA National Nutrient database; amount listed is total sugar content
per USDA National Nutrient database referenced above
b Per Lactaid® website:
c Per direct communication with several major yogurt manufacturers

Nourish Thought for the Day:  

Include one dairy serving in each of your three meals for healthy bones and teeth.

Here is a great infographhic from the National Dairy Council that provides recommendations for lactose intolerant individuals.


More resources:

Learning The Difference Between Food Allergies And Food Intolerances







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