There is lot to celebrate in February, from the Super Bowl to Valentine’s Day, but one observance you may not be aware of is Lactose Intolerance Awareness Month. Lactose intolerance is a condition that occurs when someone has difficulty digesting lactose, the natural sugar found in dairy products. The good news is it doesn’t mean you have to ditch dairy. In fact, there are plenty of strategies you can use to keep milk, yogurt and cheese in your life this month and all year round.
As a sports dietitian, I make sure the athletes I work with understand the importance of eating dairy foods. Dairy foods are loaded with nutrients that support an active lifestyle. Yogurt, milk, and cottage cheese, for example, contain essential vitamins and minerals including calcium, Vitamin D, and protein, which are important for maintaining strong bones and building lean muscle mass. If clients report avoiding dairy foods due to lactose intolerance, we work together to determine the severity of their symptoms and create a game plan so that they can comfortably incorporate dairy back into their diets.
Oftentimes, athletes with lactose intolerance find that they can tolerate dairy foods when consumed in smaller amounts distributed throughout the day. I also recommend Greek yogurt. Not only is it an excellent source of high-quality protein, but the straining process removes some of the lactose and, like all yogurt, it contains probiotics, which help digest lactose. Additionally, I encourage my clients to try the many lactose-free dairy products offered on the market. These items, such as lactose-free milk, contain the same essential nutrients as traditional dairy products, just without the lactose.
Combining dairy foods with other foods is another winning strategy to help alleviate lactose intolerance symptoms. Smoothies are a great way to put this strategy into practice, especially for athletes and individuals looking to boost their overall nutrient intake. This Super Power Smoothie combines colorful produce with protein and probiotic-packed Greek yogurt for a super delicious, nutrient-rich meal or snack.
For more delicious ways to keep dairy foods in your diet, check out the lactose-free recipes on The Dairy Alliance website.
Jill Merkel is a Registered Dietitian specializing in sports nutrition and women’s wellness. She is the owner of Nutrition for Endurance, a nutrition coaching and consulting company based in Nashville, TN. She works with clients and athletes of all ages and athletic abilities. In her free time, you’ll find her running, reading or traveling.