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Nutrition » Diets » Lactose-Free Diet: Can Ditching Dairy Help You Slim Down?

Lactose-Free Diet: Can Ditching Dairy Help You Slim Down?

lactose free diet plan

What Is A Lactose-Free Diet?

Although the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word “diet” is weight loss, not all nutritional plans aim at that result. Some diets are designed to help you reach a desirable weight, while some are focused on improving or maintaining your health. A lactose-free diet belongs to the second category, since it is necessary for people who have trouble digesting lactose.

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Those who suffer from this medical condition cannot properly process lactose – a sugar found in milk and dairy products. This happens because their digestive system produces not enough enzyme lactase (8). If a lactose intolerant person consumes foods that contain lactose, they may experience such unpleasant symptoms as bloating, diarrhea, nausea, stomach cramps and sometimes vomiting (6). Since consumption of lactose leads to such reactions, the lactose-free diet was designed to prevent these symptoms. That is why it is only logical that a lactose-free diet bans the consumption of foods that contain lactose. 

Although there are different types of this nutritional plan, among which lactose-free keto diet, lactose-free vegetarian and lactose-free vegan diets, the main subject of this article is a basic lactose-free diet. If you are interested in this dietary plan, and think of going on a lactose-free diet for weight loss, read on to find out the answers to such questions as “What are the lactose-free diet guidelines?”, “What not to eat or drink on lactose-free diet?”, and “What are the lactose-free diet benefits?”.

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Lactose-Free Diet Guidelines 

The main and sole strict rule of a lactose-free diet is to avoid lactose-containing foods at any cost. Lactose intolerance is a medical condition, so if you fear that you might be lactose intolerant, please, consult with a doctor before making any decisions regarding your health, nutrition, or any other aspect of your life that might be affected by that. If you have no signs of lactose intolerance, and just want to try the lactose-free diet for weight loss, make sure to discuss your nutritional choices with a specialist first.

Although the main source of lactose in a regular diet is milk and dairy, it can also be found in some other foods. Since this dietary plan focuses more on what not to consume, rather than on what to consume, first, let’s take a look at the list of foods that contain lactose.

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What Not to Eat or Drink On a Lactose-Free Diet?

Here are some food categories that include products which contain lactose, and thus should be avoided by those who follow a lactose-free diet (3, 7, 9, 10):

  • Dairy

Milk, buttermilk, cheese spreads and cheese foods, cream, cottage and ricotta cheese, some other cheeses (aged cheese usually contains less lactose, while its levels in soft and processed cheeses are higher), ice cream, evaporated and condensed milk, sour cream, yogurt, kefir, malted milk, hot chocolate mixes, whey.

  • Grains and starches

Frozen potato foods with milk or lactose, dry cereal with milk, instant mashed potato mixes, baked goods made with milk (breads, muffins, biscuits, rolls, etc.), pancakes or waffles made with milk products.

  • Fats

Cream cheese, margarine with milk or cream, party dips, sometimes butter. Butter is very low in lactose and is usually well tolerated even by those with lactose intolerance. Only those who are highly sensitive to lactose may need to avoid butter.

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  • Fruits and vegetables

Fruits or vegetables processed with lactose, vegetables coated in batter, creamed vegetables, fruit smoothies made with yogurt or milk.

  • Meats, fish, poultry, eggs, etc.

Meats in cream sauces, omelets or souffle with milk, processed meats with milk or lactose, breaded or batter-dipped meat, fish, or poultry.

  • Soups, sauces, and seasoning

Cream soups, whipped cream, white sauces and gravies, soup mixes with milk products, chowders.

  • Desserts and sweets

Cream or cheese-filled pastries, fudge, coated candies and chocolates, pudding and custard, toffee, butterscotch or caramels, any cookies, cakes, pies, pastries, desserts with milk.

  • Food ingredients

Milk powder, protein and solids, nonfat dry milk, whey, whey solids, or protein.

To ensure that you won’t consume any food that contains lactose, always check the labels.

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What you can eat or drink on a lactose-free diet?

It should be clear by now, that this nutritional plan allows you to consume any type of food, as long as it is lactose-free. Here are some examples of such foods from the above-listed categories (9, 10):

  • Dairy

Lactose-free milk, non-dairy creamers, non-dairy whipped topping, almond, rice or soy milk, soy yogurt or soy cheese, almond milk or cheese, soy-based sour cream.

  • Grains and starches

Potatoes, rice, barley, pasta, noodles, macaroni, breads made without milk, saltines and whole grain crackers, cereals made without milk.

  • Fats

Vegetable, nut and seed oils, shortenings, margarine without butter or milk, for most people butter is well tolerated, but it depends on the individual.

  • Fruits and vegetables

Any fresh fruits and vegetables, fruit and vegetable juices, cooked or baked fruits and vegetables without milk products.

  • Meats, fish, poultry, eggs, etc.

Any fresh cooked plain meats, fish, poultry and eggs, peanut butter, nuts and seeds, soy cheeses, cooked dried peas and beans.

  • Soups, sauces, and seasonings

Vegetable, meat, or fish soups without milk, broth, bouillon, consommé, gravies made with water, plain herbs, and spices.

  • Sweets and desserts

Dairy-free frozen desserts, frozen pureed fruit bars, fruit ices and sorbets, jellies, jams, preserves, gelatin desserts without dairy, honey, sugar, syrups, lactose-free pies, cakes, and other baked goods.

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Dairy Alternatives To Consume While Following A Lactose-Free Diet

When talking about the lactose-free diet, sometimes people ask such questions as “What can I eat on a lactose and gluten-free diet?”, or “What protein can I eat on a lactose-free diet?”. As you may already know, dairy is a great source of various vital nutrients. Following a diet that completely bans all dairy products may lead to nutrient deficiencies that in turn causes a slew of health problems.

That is why, if you want to go lactose-free, you should carefully plan your meals, so that you would receive all the essential components which are present in dairy, without consuming lactose. Luckily, there are numerous dairy alternatives and foods that contain the same components, so here are some of the foods that can help you maintain a healthy nutritional balance:

  • Protein

Proteins are building blocks of your body. They are necessary for the proper functioning of your system and can greatly aid in weight loss, prolonging the feeling of fullness and preserving lean muscle mass (13). Although dairy is rich in protein, it is not the main source of this nutrient in a regular diet. Some of the main high-protein foods are meats, fish, eggs, beans, and legumes. Great vegetarian options include tofu, legumes, and whole grains.

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  • Calcium

Calcium is essential for your bone health, muscle contraction regulation, and blood clotting. Since dairy is one of the main sources of that mineral in a regular diet, you may need to find more lactose-free sources of this micronutrient, when following this nutritional plan. Alternative calcium sources include leafy greens (kale, spinach, cabbage, broccoli, okra), soya beans, tofu, nuts, salmon, sardines, almonds, shellfish, calcium-fortified orange juice, and dried beans (3, 9).

  • Vitamin D

Another essential micronutrient found in dairy is vitamin D. It promotes healthy bones, reinforces the immune system, boosts brain health, stabilizes the nervous system, helps in insulin regulation and diabetes management, and supports the proper functioning of lung and cardiovascular systems (12). You can obtain vitamin D from exposure to natural sunlight, and consumption of fatty fish, eggs, fish liver oils, and fortified products (8). 

Lactose-Free Diet Benefits

Besides the obvious reduction of unpleasant symptoms in lactose-intolerant people, there are a couple of other lactose-free diet benefits. Since the main rule of this diet is to avoid the consumption of lactose, which is found in dairy products, its benefits are the same as those of a dairy-free diet. So, without further ado, here are the main benefits of ditching dairy for your health (1):

  • Avoid hormones and steroids

Sometimes the reason why people decide to start a dairy-free diet is to avoid the steroids or hormones, which may be present in milk. A 2015 review found that even a small number of hormones and steroids in milk may cause undesirable effects on the body. The authors, however, mentioned that more research is needed (4).

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  • Lower risk of cancer

A 2017 review states that vegans, who avoid consuming animal products, among which is dairy, had a lower risk of cancer (11). However, this may not be linked directly to dairy, since they also avoid fish, meat, eggs, etc.

  • Reduce acne

Although there is not sufficient concrete evidence that going dairy-free will clear up your acne, some research shows that it may reduce the negative impact of dairy on the state of your skin (2).

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Lactose-Free Diet For Weight Loss

The concept of a lactose-free diet for weight loss gains more popularity with each day. But is this nutritional plan really that effective at helping you shed pounds? Despite some claims of lactose-free diet followers, ditching dairy does not necessarily mean that you will start losing weight. Although in some cases this nutritional plan leads to weight loss, it is not its main purpose and happens only because by eliminating dairy you cut a lot of fats and calories.

As you may already know, dairy is relatively rich in fats, and fats in turn are the richest in calories compared to other nutrients (5). However, it is not the limitation of dairy itself that leads to weight loss, but the way in which it was consumed. If you reduce the consumption of dairy products by avoiding pizza, mac and cheese, and grilled cheese sandwiches, and substitute it with healthy low-calorie nutrient-dense food, you may create a caloric deficit, which will make you lose weight.

But if you substitute dairy with fattening foods rich in empty calories, you shouldn’t expect the desired result. In other words, if you want to safely lose weight with the help of a lactose-free diet, you still need to pay attention to your caloric intake and plan your meals in such a way that they will provide you with the proper amount of all vital nutrients that were otherwise consumed with dairy.

lactose free diet guidelines
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Lactose-Free Diet Plan Sample

If you are searching for how to start a lactose-free diet, then today is your lucky day. Here is a 1-day lactose-free diet menu sample for you to understand how to plan your meals:

Breakfast: 2 boiled eggs, 2 slices whole-grain bread, 1 tablespoon peanut butter, a cup of unsweetened herbal tea

Calories: 444, carbs: 32g, fats: 26.8g, protein: 25.1g

Lunch: 4 oz salmon, 1 cup brown rice, 1 cup broccoli 

Calories: 419, carbs: 47.7g, fats: 8.6g, protein: 28.5g

Snack: 10 almonds, 1 cup grapes

Calories: 131, carbs: 18.4g, fats: 6.3g, protein: 3.1g

Dinner: 4 oz grilled chicken, 1 cup sweet potato, 1 cup green beans, ½ tablespoon olive oil spread, 1 cup kale, 1 medium apple

Calories: 512, carbs: 87g, fats: 5.8g, protein: 32.7g

Total calories: 1506, carbs: 185.1g, fats: 47.5g, protein: 89.4g

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Conclusion

A lactose-free diet is based on the sole principle of avoiding foods that contain lactose. This nutritional plan is usually followed by people who suffer from lactose intolerance, but it also started gaining popularity as a weight-loss tool. Although ditching dairy may help you shed a couple of pounds, it may not be the best way to lose weight, since it requires a lot of planning and attention. If your goal is to healthily slim down, then the best way is to follow a balanced diet that would create a caloric deficit, and perform regular exercise, which would add to your energy expenditure. Remember, that before starting to follow any new diet, it is vital that you check with your doctor.

Apart from following a proper diet, physical exercise is also essential for your body and health. Take up a challenge and try this 20-min Full Body Workout At Home to get a snatched body.

DISCLAIMER:

This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

SOURCES:

  1. Dairy alternatives: How to replace milk, cheese, butter, and more (2018, medicalnewstoday.com)
  2. Dairy and acne: What is the relationship? (2020, medicalnewstoday.com)
  3. Eating, Diet, & Nutrition for Lactose Intolerance (2018, niddk.nih.gov)
  4. Hormones in Dairy Foods and Their Impact on Public Health – A Narrative Review Article (2015, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  5. How many calories are in one gram of fat, carbohydrate, or protein? (n.d., nal.usda.gov)
  6. Lactose intolerance (2020, mayoclinic.org)
  7. Lactose intolerance Treatment (2019, nhs.uk)
  8. Lactose intolerance: What you need to know (2018, medicalnewstoday.com)
  9. Lactose-Controlled Food Lists (n.d., ohsu.edu)
  10. Lactose-Free Diet (n.d., urmc.rochester.edu)
  11. Vegetarian, vegan diets and multiple health outcomes: A systematic review with meta-analysis of observational studies (2017, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  12. What are the health benefits of vitamin D? (2019, medicalnewstoday.com)
  13. What foods are high in protein? (2020, medicalnewstoday.com)
Nikki Midland

Nikki Midland

Nikki is an experienced writer who specializes in nutrition, weight management and overall health. Due to her personal struggles with weight in the past, she has also developed a keen interest in fitness and exercising. Nikki believes that since she started doing sports, not only her body, her whole life has drastically changed for the better. Nikki has a great passion for helping people achieve their weight loss goals. She stands firm in her belief that tackling challenges is the only way to become a better version of yourself that is why she urges her readers to never give up.

Kristen Fleming

Kristen Fleming

I am a U.S. educated and trained Registered Dietitian (MS, RD, CNSC) with clinical and international development experience. I have experience conducting systematic reviews and evaluating the scientific literature both as a graduate student and later to inform my own evidence-based practice as an RD. I am currently based in Lusaka, Zambia after my Peace Corps service was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic and looking for some meaningful work to do as I figure out next steps. This would be my first freelance project, but I am a diligent worker and quite used to independent and self-motivated work.

Kristen Fleming, MS, RD, CNSC

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