Food With Lactose


If you’re like most people, you love food. You may even love it so much that you want to eat it all the time—and that’s fine! But if you’re lactose intolerant and want to continue eating your favorite foods, we’ve got some tips for how to do it.

First, we recommend checking out our list of common foods with lactose: This will help you identify what foods have lactose in them so that when you go grocery shopping or order takeout, you know what to look for.

Next, we recommend talking with your doctor about whether taking an over-the-counter supplement might be right for you. If your doctor says it is, he or she can help guide you through what works best for your body—whether that means supplementing with pills or just eating less dairy overall (which can still be helpful).

Finally, if none of these options work for you, we recommend reaching out to restaurants directly to see if they offer any dairy-free options. The more requests they get from customers like YOU (that’s right—YOU!), the more likely they are

Food With Lactose

Lactose is a disaccharide sugar made up of a combination of galactose and glucose. Lactose is found primarily in milk (dairy) foods.

At an early age almost everyone has the ability to digest lactose since it is an important source of energy from breastmilk. Later on in life, however, some people lose the ability to digest lactose and suffer from lactose intolerance. (1)

Symptoms of lactose intolerance include gas, diarrhea, and bloating. (1)

Foods high in lactose are those which contain milk. These include ice-cream, milk puddings, hot chocolate, eggnog, macaroni and cheese, yogurt, pancakes, milk chocolate, cottage cheese, and mashed potatoes. (2) Below are the top 10 foods highest in lactose.

List of Foods High in Lactose

Glass of milk

#1: Milk

Up to 5.2% Lactose

Lactose per 16oz Glass Lactose per 100g
25.4g (6 tsp) 5.2g (1.3 tsp)

#2: Soft Serve Ice-Cream Smoothie

Up to 6.2% Lactose

Lactose per 12oz Cup Lactose per 100g
21.7g (5 tsp) 6.2g (1.6 tsp)
  • 19g in a McDonald’s McFlurry with Oreos
  • 10.5g in a McDonald’s hot fudge sundae
Dulce De Leche

#3: Dulce De Leche

Up to 4.9% Lactose

Lactose per Cup Lactose per 100g
15g (3.7 tsp) 4.9g (1.2 tsp)
  • 10.2g per 10oz serving of rice pudding
  • 6.5g per 1/2 cup of egg custard
A cup of hot cocoa

#4: Hot Cocoa

Up to 4.6% Lactose

Lactose per Cup Lactose per 100g
11.6g (2.9 tsp) 4.6g (1.2 tsp)
  • 19.9g per cup of eggnog
  • 7.3g in an iced mocha
Mac and Cheese

#5: Macaroni and Cheese

Up to 4.1% Lactose

Lactose per Serving (6oz) Lactose per 100g
7.3g (1.8 tsp) 4.1g (1 tsp)
  • 4.7g per serving of Cracker Barrel Mac n’ Cheese
A cup of yogurt

#6: Low-Fat Greek Yogurt

Up to 2.9% Lactose

Lactose per 7oz Container Lactose per 100g
5.8g (1.5 tsp) 2.9g (0.7 tsp)

#7: Pancakes (Hot Cakes)

Up to 2.4% Lactose

Lactose per 3 Pancakes Lactose per 100g
5.3g (1.3 tsp) 2.4g (0.6 tsp)

The amount of lactose will depend on the amount of milk used in the recipe.

A kit kat bar

#8: Milk Chocolate (Kit-Kat Bar)

Up to 8.2% Lactose

Lactose per 1.5oz Bar Lactose per 100g
3.4g (0.9 tsp) 8.2g (2.1 tsp)
A bowl of cottage cheese

#9: Cottage Cheese

Up to 1.6% Lactose

Lactose per 1/4cup (4oz) Lactose per 100g
1.8g (0.4 tsp) 1.6g (0.4 tsp)

Most other cheeses only contain 0.5g of lactose per 1 oz slice. (1oz = 28g of cheese)

A bowl of mashed potatoes

#10: Mashed Potatoes (With Milk)

Up to 0.7% Lactose

Lactose per Cup Lactose per 100g
1.5g (0.4 tsp) 0.7g (0.2 tsp)

The amount of lactose will depend on the amount of milk used in the recipe.

high lactose cheese
Lactose is a sugar found primarily in milk and other dairy products. At an early age, bodies are able to break down and digest lactose from breastmilk using an enzyme called lactase. However, some people lose the ability to digest lactose over time.

Around 75% of the world’s population has some form of lactose intolerance. Some can digest low-lactose diets, while others experience digestive symptoms after eating any amount of dairy. These symptoms can lead to diarrhea, stomach pain, and more.

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.

Foods With Lactose

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

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