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8 Lactose-Free Food Swaps Anyone with an Intolerance Needs to Know

Being lactose intolerant isn't fun, but it's not impossible. There are a variety of lactose-free foods out there to spice up your dairy-free diet.

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Lactose intolerance, health problem with dairy food products concept. Woman holding glass of milk having bad stomach ache.; Shutterstock ID 1027253146; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOHElvira Koneva/Shutterstock

When you’re lactose intolerant, you need to be particular when it comes to food. Sure, lactose is found in milk and other dairy products, but did you know it’s hiding in more surprising foods, too? Steer clear of breads and other baked goods (they often contain butter or milk), processed foods (including instant potatoes, breakfast cereals and margarine) and meal replacement items (like smoothies, protein bars and protein powders), among other foods. Be careful of these foods that you might think are dairy-free.

If you’re unsure, just check the label. If an item’s ingredient label contains the words milk, lactose, whey, curds, dry milk solids, nonfat dry milk powder, or milk by-products, that means it’s not a lactose-free food.

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Coconut Milk for Cow’s Milk


Coconut milk contains filtered water and coconut cream, which is made from the coconut’s flesh. Fortunately, coconut isn’t actually a nut, so people who suffer from nut allergies should be able to consume coconut milk safely, too. If you just can’t get your taste buds around the flavor, check out our other favorite non-dairy milk alternatives.

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Serving of Yogurt with Whole Fresh Blueberries and Oatmeal on Old Rustic Wooden Table. Closeup Detail.; Shutterstock ID 298272557 Vegetarian Almonds Yogurt with Almonds Milk; Shutterstock ID 1111715231; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOH almond; almonds; alternative; background; beverage; breakfast; calcium; closeup; cream; dairy; dessert; diet; drink; eating; food; fresh; glass; gourmet; health; healthy; ingredient; liquid; meal; medicine; milk; morning; natural; nut; nutrition; nuts; organic; product; protein; shake; smooth; smoothie; snack; soy; sweet; vegan; vegetarian; white; wooden; yogurtKayo/Shutterstock, Alphonsine Sabine/Shutterstock

Almond Milk Yogurt for Traditional Yogurt


Although yogurt contains less lactose than milk, there’s still a chance it could upset your stomach. Thankfully, there are a variety of dairy-free yogurts to choose from. Good Plants yogurt, for example, is a low-calorie, almond milk-based yogurt. The best part? It’s only 100 calories per serving and it comes in four flavors: vanilla, coconut, strawberry and lemon meringue. Whatever type of yogurt you choose, the probiotics will do you good.

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homemade organic coconut greek yogurt in wooden bowl; Shutterstock ID 791083180; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOH Whipped cream with peppermint leafs in ceramic cup ; Shutterstock ID 633226634; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOHSewCream/Shutterstock, Naviya/Shutterstock

Whipped Coconut Cream for Whipped Cream


Whipped cream is an iconic dessert topping. It’s the perfect addition to a slice of angel food cake, brownies, strawberries—you name it! Having a dairy or nut allergy, however, can ruin the fun. Coconut milk provides a healthy (and delicious) alternative. Bonus: It’s super easy to make! All you’ll need to make homemade whipped coconut cream is a chilled mixing bowl, chilled beaters, a can of coconut cream, ½ cup powdered sugar and 1 tsp. vanilla extract. Just beat all of the ingredients together until light and fluffy.

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Spencer, Wisconsin, May, 30, 2017 Bottle of Newman's Own Italian Dressing Newman's Own is a food company founded by Paul Newman founded in 1982; Shutterstock ID 650002903; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOHdcwcreations/Shutterstock, Elena Veselova/Shutterstock

Homemade Salad Dressing for Store-Bought


Sure, there are plenty of lactose-free salad dressings out there, but if you have the time, making your own dressing has delicious rewards. Take this citrus vinaigrette, for example. Grab the five ingredients and a mason jar, and you’ve got yourself a quick and easy salad dressing that’s lactose free.

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Plant-Based Butter for Traditional Butter

Adopting a lactose-free or plant-based diet doesn’t mean you have to give up your butter-drenched waffles. There are plenty of vegan alternatives and some taste even better than the real thing! Earth Balance (the OG of vegan butter), Pure Blends and Miyoko’s, among others, make a margarine-like spread that’s ridiculously close to traditional butter. Many margarines contain dairy products, however, so keep an eye on labels if you go that route.

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Cut round cheese wheels on a cutting board; Shutterstock ID 1082535398; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOH Vegan variety of cheeses; no dairy products; Shutterstock ID 443055682; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOHBokeh Art Photo/Shutterstock, ocphoto/Shutterstock

Plant-Based Cheese for Traditional Cheese

According to Steve Carper, lactose intolerance expert and the author of Milk Is Not for Every Body: Living With Lactose Intolerance, there are at least nine cheeses (Muenster, Camembert, brie and cheddar, just to name a few) that contain just 2 to 3% lactose. This means, if eaten in small increments, you can probably get away from dinner without feeling uncomfortable. You could also opt for a lactose-free cheese, like Rougette Bonfire Grilling Cheese. It adds melty goodness to an appetizer platter or panini.

For those of you who’d rather not risk it, GoVeggie makes an amazing cheese alternative. (I can attest to this!) GoVeggie has singles, shreds, cream cheese and blocks. Need a little inspiration to try something new? Check out this tasty vegan eggplant Parmesan recipe.

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Natural yogurt; Shutterstock ID 568077193; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOH Sour cream in bowl . On a rustic background.; Shutterstock ID 1336183736; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOHDONOT6_STUDIO/Shutterstock, OlesyaSH/Shutterstock

Lactose-Free Sour Cream for Traditional Sour Cream


Sour cream is the perfect finishing touch on nachos, tacos or a baked potato. It can also be used in baking. If you’re lactose-intolerant, sour cream hasn’t always an ideal topping option. Enter dairy-free brands like Tofutti and Green Valley, which offer options that are worth a try.

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close-up whipping the mixture of homemade mayonnaise with a blender in a plastic bowl. olive oil; Shutterstock ID 1477938080; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOH cream pouring into a bowl ready to whip up and layer; Shutterstock ID 1088041406; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOHyanik88/Shutterstock, TayaJohnston/Shutterstock

Soy Milk & Olive Oil for Heavy Cream


If you’re looking for a vegan alternative to heavy cream, blend soy milk with olive oil. It sounds kind of weird, but it works! The oil whips fat into the soy milk creating a pseudo heavy cream. Just combine 2/3 cup soy milk with 1/3 cup of olive oil—and voila! This swap is perfect for adding to mashed potatoes, scalloped potatoes and other savory dishes.

Tabitha Britt
Tabitha earned her master's degree in Creative Publishing and Critical Journalism from the The New School. She enjoys writing about food, fashion, and other lifestyle topics (especially potato-related news). In her spare time, she likes to check out hole-in-the-wall restaurants in Brooklyn, try out weird new foods, and drink a ridiculous amount of coffee.

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