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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.

For example, butter contains only trace amounts and is unlikely to cause symptoms for those with lactose intolerance unless very high amounts are consumed. Notably, clarified butter contains almost no lactose (5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source).

Meanwhile, certain types of yogurt contain beneficial bacteria that can assist with the digestion of lactose (7Trusted Source).

Other dairy products that often contain low amounts of lactose include kefir, skyr, aged or hard cheeses, and heavy cream (5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source, 8Trusted Source).

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