Food With Lactose Chart


Are you cooking for someone who is lactose intolerant? Food With Lactose Chart Interested in adding more dairy-free recipes to your weekly meal plan? This chart contains helpful tips, common substitutions and hidden sources that contain lactose.


Food With Lactose Chart

Most dairy products contain lactose, but some contain more than others. The following foods contain the highest levels of lactose. However, keep in mind that other products may also contain these foods as ingredients and should also be avoided if you are lactose intolerant.   

1. Milk

Milk contains the most lactose out of all the dairy products. Whole milk contains about 13 grams of lactose per 1-cup serving, while skim milk can contain between 12 and 13 grams. Milk is also an ingredient in many other foods like margarine, shortening, baked goods, salad dressing, creamers, and more.  

2. Cheese

Cheese also contains a high amount of lactose. Hard cheeses such as parmesan, Swiss, and cheddar may be easier to digest because most of the lactose is eliminated while the cheese is being made.

3. Cream

Products made from cream — like ice cream, cream cheese, custard, or butter — should be avoided due to the high levels of lactose.

4. Yogurt

In addition to some kinds of cheeses, some people with lactose intolerance may be able to eat yogurt in moderation, as the lactose has been partly broken down. 

5. Milk Chocolate

While milk chocolate contains less lactose than milk or cream, it still contains dairy in high amounts. Always check the label and eat in moderation.

Lactose-Free Alternatives

Lactose intolerance can make consuming dairy difficult. However, lactase enzyme tablets are available to help break down lactose, allowing people to eat more dairy products. 

In addition to these over-the-counter enzyme tablets, you can also try a low-lactose or completely lactose-free diet. Here are some alternatives that may be easier to digest: 

FoodsLow in Lactose 

The following foods and drinks are considered low lactose, which means they still contain lactose, but in smaller amounts. Different people may react differently to these foods, so it’s important to eat in moderation until you know how your body will react. 

  • Dark chocolate
  • Aged cheese
  • Cottage cheese
  • Probiotic yogurt

Lactose-Free Foods

These lactose-free alternatives can allow you to consume typical dairy products — like milk, cheese, and ice cream—without the side effects. 

  • Lactose free milk
  • Milk alternatives (soy, almond, oat)
  • Sherbet ice cream
  • Non-dairy creamers
  • Margarine 

Why You Should Avoid Lactose

For those with no sensitivity to lactose, dairy is a highly nutritious source of protein, calcium, and other vitamins like A and D. Including dairy in your diet can support your bone health and reduce the risk of obesity.

However, those with lactose intolerance —  whether mild or severe — should consider a low lactose or lactose – free diet to reduce symptoms. 

Lactose intolerance is caused by a decrease in lactase production, which makes it difficult for the lactose to become properly absorbed. Difficulty digesting lactose affects different populations in varying ways.

Studies estimate that it affects 5-17 %of Europeans, 44 % of Americans, and 60-80 % of Africans and Asians.  

For those sensitive to lactose, dairy products can cause severe digestive problems, including: 

  • Bloating
  • Nausea 
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Gas
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation

The severity of the symptoms depends on the level of lactose intolerance, as well as how much dairy was consumed.

Even for those with no sensitivity to dairy, cutting down on dairy can offer certain health benefits.”

It can also increase the risk of developing inflammatory bowel disease, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.



The amount of lactose in dairy foods varies between products, ranging from 15g in a cup of milk to virtually zero in hard or mature cheeses.

Most dairy foods contain the natural sugar lactose, however some dairy foods contain very little or no lactose. Hard cheeses, such as cheddar and Parmesan, as well as matured cheeses such as brie, camembert and feta contain virtually no lactose because of the way they are made. Yoghurt contains good bacteria, which helps break down the lactose. The table below shows the lactose content of some common dairy foods.

Dairy FoodLactose Content (g)
Parmesan cheese, 40g0.0
Cheddar cheese, 40g0.04
Swiss style cheese, 40g0.04
Camembert, 40g0.04
Cream cheese, 22g0.55
Cream, 20g (1 Tbsp)0.6
Ice cream, 50g1.65
Ricotta cheese, 120g2.4
Yogurt (natural), 200g10.0*
Regular milk, 250ml15.75

*The lactose content in yogurt decreases each day, even while it sits in the fridge, because the natural bacteria present in yoghurt use up the lactose for energy.

If you have been diagnosed with lactose intolerance, there is no need to cut out all dairy foods from your diet, but rather adjust your lactose intake according to your own tolerance levels. In addition to hard and mature cheeses as well as yoghurt, the Australian Dietary Guidelines suggest that up to 250ml of milk (1 cup) may be well tolerated if broken up throughout the day and consumed with other foods.  You can also try building up your tolerance by starting with small amounts of milk and gradually increasing your intake.

If you suspect you might be intolerant to lactose, it’s important to speak with an Accredited Practising Dietitian or experienced health professional before making dietary changes. Dairy foods are one of the five recommended food groups and contain important nutrients and have a range of proven health benefits.

5 Dairy Foods That Are Naturally Low in Lactose

People with lactose intolerance often avoid eating dairy products in an attempt to avoid unwanted, uncomfortable, or embarrassing side effects.

However, not all dairy foods are high in lactose. Depending on the severity of your lactose intolerance, you may be able to consume some low lactose foods.

What is lactose intolerance?

Lactose intolerance is a very common digestive problem. In fact, it affects around 65%Trusted Source of the world’s population. Interestingly, it’s most prevalent in Asia and South America, but much less common in parts of the Western world, including North America, Europe, and Australia.

Those who have it don’t have enough of an enzyme called lactase, found in the gut. Lactase is needed to break down lactose, the main sugar found in milk.

Without lactase, lactose can pass through the gut undigested and cause unpleasant symptomsTrusted Source, including:

  • nausea
  • pain
  • gas
  • bloating
  • diarrhea

Fear of developing these symptoms can lead people with this condition to avoid foods that contain lactose, such as dairy products. However, this isn’t always necessary, as not all dairy foods contain enough lactose to cause problems for people with an intolerance.

In fact, it’s thought that many people with an intolerance can eat up to 12 grams of lactoseTrusted Source a day without experiencing any symptoms. To put that in perspective, 12 grams is the amount found in 1 cup (230 ml) of milk.

Lactose intolerance effects everyone differently. For some people 12 grams may still be too much. It’s important to be aware of your own symptoms and how much lactose you can handle.

Also, remember that the 12 gram estimate is for the whole day. So if you have a glass of milk, then butter on your bread and cream in your coffee, you will be over the 12 grams, despite choosing low lactose options.

Certain dairy foods are naturally low in lactose. Below are 5 of them.

1. Low lactose butter

Butter is a high fat dairy product that’s made by churning cream or milk to separate its solid fat and liquid components.

The final product is around 80% fat, as the liquid part of milk, which contains all the lactose, is removed during processing.

This means that the lactose content of butter is really low. In fact, 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of butter contains only 0.1 grams of lactose.

Levels this low are unlikely to cause problems, even if you have an intolerance.

Butter made from fermented milk products and clarified butter products, such as ghee, contain even less lactose than regular butter.

So, unless you have another reason to avoid butter or need to use a large quantity, ditch the dairy-free spread.


Butter is a high fat dairy product that contains only trace amounts of lactose. This means it’s usually fine to include in your diet if you have lactose intolerance.

2. Hard cheese

Cheese is made by adding bacteria or acid to milk and then separating the cheese curds that form from the whey.

Given that the lactose in milk is found in the whey, a lot of it is removed when cheese is being made.

However, the amount found in cheese can vary, and cheeses with the lowest amounts are the ones that have been aged the longest.

This is because the bacteria in cheese are able to break down some of the remaining lactose, lowering its content. The longer a cheese is agedTrusted Source, the more lactose the bacteria present is able to get rid of.

This means that aged, hard cheeses are often very low in lactose. For example, 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of cheddar cheese contains only trace amounts of it.

Cheeses that are low in lactose include Parmesan, Swiss, and cheddar. Moderate portions of these cheeses can often be tolerated by people with lactose intolerance.

Cheeses like pecorinos, made from sheep’s milk, are also naturally lower in lactose, as sheep’s milk has lower concentrations of lactose than cow’s milk.

Cheeses that tend to be higher in lactose include cheese spreads, soft cheeses like Brie or Camembert, cottage cheese, and mozzarella.

Even some higher lactose cheeses might not cause symptoms in small portions.


The amount of lactose can vary between different types of cheese. In general, cheeses that have been aged longer, such as cheddar, Parmesan, and Swiss, have low levels of lactose.

3. Probiotic yogurt

People with lactose intolerance often find yogurt much easier to digest than milk.

This is because most yogurts contain live bacteria that can help break down lactose, so your body has less to process on its own.

For example, one of the studies included in a 2014 review Trusted Sourceof papers on lactose digestion suggested that when eating yogurt, lactose intolerant people’s digestive tracts retained 60% less undigested lactose when eating yogurt than when consuming the same amount of milk.

According to the same studyTrusted Source, yogurt also causes fewer symptoms, with only 20% of people reporting digestive distress after eating the yogurt, compared with 80% who struggled after drinking the milk.

It’s best to look for yogurts labeled “probiotic,” which means they contain live cultures of helpful bacteria. Yogurts that have been pasteurized, a process that kills the bacteria, may not be as well tolerated.

Additionally, full-fat and strained yogurts, like Greek and Greek-style yogurt, could be an even better choice for people with lactose intolerance.

This is because full-fat yogurts contain more fat and less lactose-laden whey than low-fat yogurts.

Greek and Greek-style yogurts are strained during processing. This removes even more of the whey, making them naturally much lower in lactose.


Lactose intolerant people often find yogurt easier to digest than milk. The best yogurt for people with lactose intolerance is a full-fat, probiotic yogurt that contains live bacterial cultures.

4. Low-lactose protein powders

Choosing a protein powder can be tricky for those who are lactose intolerant. Protein powders are usually made from the proteins in milk whey, which is the lactose-containing liquid part of milk.

However, the amount of lactose found in whey protein powders can vary, depending on how the whey is processed.

There are three main types of whey protein powder:

  • Whey concentrate: This contains up to 85% protein and a small amount of lactose.
  • Whey isolate: This contains a higher concentration of protein and less lactose than whey protein concentrate.
  • Whey hydrolysate: This contains a similar amount of lactose as whey concentrate, but some of the proteins in this powder have already been partially broken down.

The best choice for lactose sensitive individuals is whey isolate, which contains the lowest levels of lactose.

Nevertheless, the lactose content can vary considerably between brands, and most people have to experiment to see which protein powder brand works best for them.


Dairy protein powders have already had some lactose removed. However, some types, such as whey isolates, have less lactose than others and may be a better choice for people who are lactose intolerant.

5. Kefir

Kefir is a fermented beverage that’s traditionally made by adding “kefir grains” to animal milk.

Like yogurt, kefir grains contain live cultures of bacteriaTrusted Source that help break down and digest the lactose in milk.

This means kefir may be better tolerated by people with lactose intolerance, when consumed in moderate quantities.

In fact, an older 2003 studyTrusted Source found that, compared with milk, fermented dairy products like yogurt or kefir could reduce symptoms of intolerance by 54–71%.


Kefir is a fermented milk beverage. Like yogurt, the bacteria in kefir break down lactose, making it more digestible.

Other low lactose options

Brands that make popular dairy products will often offer low lactose alternatives, created by mixing lactase directly into the product in order to break down the lactose before you’ve even taken a bite.

Brands with entire lines of products that are lactose-free include Lactaid and Green Valley Creamery.

Plant-based dairy alternatives marketed to vegans are also great lactose-free options.


Contrary to popular belief, it’s not necessary for people with lactose intolerance to avoid all dairy products.

In fact, some dairy products — such as the ones discussed in this article — are naturally low in lactose.

In moderate and controlled amounts, they’re usually well tolerated. Some people may find that some of the foods listed above are harder on their digestive systems than others.

Also, remember to be mindful of portion sizes, and that more than one low-lactose food eaten together may add up to more lactose than your system can tolerate.

Through trial and error, as well as moderation, you can create a list of low lactose foods that are best for you.

Lactose-Free Diet: Foods to Eat and Avoid

The lactose-free diet is a common eating pattern that eliminates or restricts lactose, a type of sugar in milk.

Although most people are aware that milk and dairy products typically contain lactose, there are many other hidden sources of this sugar in the food supply.

In fact, many baked goods, candies, cake mixes, and cold cuts contain lactose as well.

This article takes a closer look at which foods you should eat and avoid as part of a lactose-free diet.

Woman eating lactose-free yogurt

Who should follow a lactose-free diet

Lactose is a type of simple sugar found naturally in milk and milk products. It’s typically broken down by lactase, an enzyme in the small intestine.

However, many people are unable to produce lactase, which results in an inability to digest the lactose in milk.

In fact, it’s estimated that approximately 65% of the world’s population is lactose intolerant, meaning that they’re unable to digest lactose .

For those with lactose intolerance, consuming products that contain lactose can trigger adverse side effects like stomach pain, bloating, and diarrhea .

Fortunately, following a lactose-free diet can minimize symptoms for those with this condition.

Some people may also adopt a lactose-free diet to decrease their consumption of milk products, which they may desire to do for personal, religious, or health reasons, as well as environmental or ethical concerns .

Others may choose to eliminate lactose as part of a dairy-free diet, which is recommended for those with an allergy to the proteins in milk, including casein or whey .


Those with lactose intolerance may choose to adopt a lactose-free diet to alleviate symptoms. Some people may also choose to follow a lactose-free diet to decrease their consumption of dairy products.

Foods to eat

Many foods can be enjoyed as part of a healthy, lactose-free diet, including:

  • Fruits: apples, oranges, berries, peaches, plums, grapes, pineapples, mangoes
  • Vegetables: onions, garlic, broccoli, kale, spinach, arugula, collard greens, zucchini, carrots
  • Meat: beef, lamb, pork, veal
  • Poultry: chicken, turkey, goose, duck
  • Seafood: tuna, mackerel, salmon, anchovies, lobster, sardines, clams
  • Eggs: egg yolks and egg whites
  • Soy foods: tofu, tempeh, natto, miso
  • Legumes: black beans, kidney beans, lentils, pinto beans, chickpeas
  • Whole grains: barley, buckwheat, quinoa, couscous, wheat, farro, oats
  • Nuts: almonds, walnuts, pistachios, cashews, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts
  • Seeds: chia seeds, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds
  • Milk alternatives: lactose-free milk, rice milk, almond milk, oat milk, coconut milk, cashew milk, hemp milk
  • Lactose-free yogurts: coconut yogurt, almond milk yogurt, soy yogurt, cashew yogurt
  • Healthy fats: avocados, olive oil, sesame oil, coconut oil
  • Herbs and spices: turmeric, oregano, rosemary, basil, dill, mint
  • Beverages: water, tea, brewed coffee, coconut water, juice

Keep in mind that lactose-free products made from milk should be avoided by those with a dairy allergy, as they may contain milk proteins like casein or whey.


Many healthy foods can easily fit into a lactose-free diet, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes.

Foods to avoid

Lactose is found primarily in milk products, including yogurt, cheese, and butter. However, it’s also found in a variety of other prepared foods.

Dairy products

Certain dairy products contain low amounts of lactose and can be tolerated by many with lactose intolerance.

Meanwhile, certain types of yogurt contain beneficial bacteria that can assist with the digestion of lactose .

Although these foods may be well tolerated by those with mild lactose intolerance, people with a milk allergy or those avoiding lactose for other reasons may still want to eliminate these ingredients from their diet.

Here are some dairy products that you may want to avoid as part of a lactose-free diet:

  • milk — all types of cow’s milk, goat’s milk, and buffalo milk
  • cheese — especially soft cheeses, such as cream cheese, cottage cheese, mozzarella, and ricotta
  • butter
  • yogurt
  • ice cream, frozen yogurt, and dairy-based sherbet
  • buttermilk
  • sour cream
  • whipped cream

Prepared foods

In addition to being present in dairy products, lactose can be found in many other prepared food products.

Checking the label for added dairy may help identify whether a product contains lactose.

Here are a few foods that may contain lactose:

  • convenience meals
  • instant potato mixes
  • cream-based or cheesy sauces, soups, and gravies
  • bread, tortillas, crackers, and biscuits
  • baked goods and desserts
  • creamed vegetables
  • candies, including chocolates and confectioneries
  • waffle, pancake, muffin, and cake mixes
  • breakfast cereals
  • processed meats, including hot dogs, bacon, sausage, and cold cuts
  • instant coffee
  • salad dressings
  • flavored potato chips


Lactose is commonly found in dairy products, including milk, cheese, and butter. It may also be present in many prepared foods, such as baked goods, cream-based sauces, and processed meats.

How to identify lactose in foods

If you’re unsure whether a specific food contains lactose, checking the label can be very useful.

Look for added milk or dairy products, which may be listed as milk solids, whey, or milk sugar.

Other ingredients that indicate a product may contain lactose include:

  • butter
  • buttermilk
  • cheese
  • condensed milk
  • cream
  • curds
  • evaporated milk
  • goat’s milk
  • lactose
  • malted milk
  • milk
  • milk byproducts
  • milk casein
  • milk powder
  • milk sugar
  • powdered milk
  • sour cream
  • whey
  • whey protein concentrate

Keep in mind that, despite having a similar name, ingredients like lactate, lactic acid, and lactalbumin are unrelated to lactose.

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