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Nyman: Fall in love with dairy again

Valentine’s Day and American Heart Month may be on your mind this February, but Lactose Intolerance Month is also on the calendar. Do you love the taste of dairy foods, but occasionally feel discomfort after eating them?

Lactose intolerance is a type of food sensitivity, not an allergy or disease. The condition arises from not having enough lactase or the enzyme that digests lactose, which is the natural sugar in milk and dairy foods.

Health experts note that because dairy foods provide many nutrients needed for a healthy diet, you should not give up dairy all together. For those with lactose intolerance, there are variety of ways to enjoy the recommended three servings of dairy every day without the discomfort.

Mix It In

Start with a small amount of milk daily and increase gradually until you find the amount that works with your tolerance level. Solid foods help slow digestion and allow the body more time to process lactose. Drink milk with meals, blend it with frozen fruit in a smoothie or add it to hot or cold cereal for a protein-packed breakfast.

Layer It On

Natural cheeses contain minimal amounts — less than 1 gram — of lactose, due to the steps in cheese- making process, along with natural aging. Top sandwiches or whole grain crackers with slices of cheddar, colby, Monterey Jack, Gouda, provolone, or Swiss. Cheese pairs well with all food groups, and a 1 1/2-ounce serving provides 30% of your daily calcium needs.

Spoon It Up

While yogurt contains lactose, it also has live and active cultures. This unique feature helps break down the lactose; making it easier to tolerate. Greek yogurt contains less lactose than traditional yogurt, due to the straining process used to create a thick texture.

It also contains live and active cultures, helping to digest lactose. Try topping either type of yogurt with fresh fruit and a handful of granola for a tasty breakfast, snack or dessert.

Try It Out

Lactose-free products such as milk, yogurt and ice cream are available in many local retail stores. These products contain the same nutrients found in conventional dairy products, like calcium, potassium and vitamin D, and have a great flavor — all without the lactose. Substitute lactose-free products in favorite recipes and at the dinner table.

Also, keep in mind that over-the-counter lactase supplements can be taken before enjoying dairy foods to eliminate the symptoms of lactose intolerance. Be sure to speak with a physician regarding any questions or for a specific diagnosis of lactose intolerance.

To download a tip sheet on Lactose Intolerance, head over to the resources section at www.stldairycouncil.org.

Cinnamon Roll Smoothie

Mix up this tasty smoothie for a quick and filling breakfast that everyone in your family will enjoy.

Servings: 2


1 cup low-fat milk, lactose free

1/2 cup yogurt, lactose free

1/4 cup old fashioned oats

1/2 tablespoon brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1 frozen banana (or fresh banana, but add in 3 to 4 ice cubes)


Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

Nutrition Information: 240 calories. 4 grams fat, 9 grams protein, 20% DV Calcium.

Creamy Tomato-Basil Soup

Pair this soup with a grilled cheese sandwich for a meal that will leave you feeling warm and comfortable on a cold winter’s night.

Servings: 2


1 medium onion, chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 (16-ounce) can of tomatoes (drained)

1pinch ground red pepper

1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried basil

2 cups milk, lactose-free

Salt to taste

Fresh basil leaves for garnish, optional


In a medium saucepan, cook onion in olive oil over medium heat, stirring frequently until golden brown or about 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute longer. Add tomatoes and cook uncovered over medium heat for 10 minutes. Spoon 3/4 of mixture into food processor or blender container; puree until smooth.

Return puree to saucepan. Add red pepper, basil and milk to the soup. Heat until hot but do not boil. Season to taste with salt. Divide soup into two bowls and serve. Garnish with fresh basil leaves, if desired.

Nutrition Information — Made with fat free milk: 220 calories, 8 grams fat, 30% DV calcium.

Monica Nyman is a registered dietitian and senior educator with St Louis District Dairy Council.

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