Low lactose diet (1209)

Key points below

(Lactose controlled diet)

What is lactose?

Lactose is a sugar found in dairy products. The doctor or dietitian would like your child to have a diet low in lactose.

What is lactose intolerance?

People who are lactose intolerant are not able to digest lactose easily. Symptoms may include:

Limiting or avoiding milk and dairy products may help symptoms in about 3 to 5 days. Lactose intolerance may be permanent. If caused by illness, surgery or infection, it could be temporary.

Food group Recommended foods
Lactose-Free Milk and Non-Dairy Foods

Lactose-free milk; almond, rice or soy milk, soy yogurt or soy cheese; almond milk cheese; soy-based sour cream; lactose free nutritional supplements such as Pediasure®..

Low-Lactose Dairy Foods Some children may tolerate foods that are low in lactose (less than 1 gram per serving). Some options to try include: aged cheeses such as Swiss, Cheddar or Parmesan, yogurt with active cultures, cream cheese, cottage cheese and ricotta cheese.
Grains, Protein, Fruits and Vegetables All except those prepared with milk or milk products.
Desserts and sweets Fruit ice, Popsicles®, gelatin, soy ice cream, rice ice cream, lactose-free tofu desserts, jam, jelly, marshmallows, molasses, unsweetened cocoa.
Fats and Oils Vegetable or nut oils and milk-free margarine. Butter may be tolerated.
Other Spices and herbs

What about supplements?

Lactase: A lactase supplement may help to digest lactose. It comes in liquid or a tablet form. The liquid drops should be added to milk 24 hours before your child drinks the milk. Lactaid® tablets are taken just before eating a meal or snack that has milk products in it.  

Calcium: When children do not get milk and dairy products, they will need calcium from other foods. Some examples of calcium-fortified foods include:

Look for calcium on the Nutrition Facts label. The mg of calcium per serving is listed. The % Daily Value is based on 1,300 mg calcium per day. A food with 20% Daily Value or more is considered as a high calcium food. Some children who are lactose intolerant may need a calcium or vitamin supplement. Talk with the doctor or dietitian about your child’s needs.

Calcium needs:

Age Daily calcium needed*
0 to 6 months     200 mg
 6 to 12 months   260 mg
 1 to 3 years    700 mg
 4 to 8 years   1000 mg
 9 to 18 years  1300 mg

*Based on 2011 Dietary Reference intakes 


Call your child’s doctor, nurse, or clinic if you have any questions or concerns or if your child has special health care needs that were not covered by this information. This sheet was created to help you care for your child or family member. It does not take the place of medical care. Talk with your healthcare provider for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up.