So You Have Lactose Intolerant Kids; Here Are Your Options

If your child is lactose intolerant, it may feel like life just got way too complicated! Before you get too frustrated, keep in mind that it’s is a fairly common problem, especially for children of color. It’s estimated that up to 90% of Asian or Native Americans can have lactose intolerance, as well as up to 80% of African Americans and Hispanics.

A child with lactose intolerance does not produce enough of the lipase enzyme, which is able to break down the lactose (milk sugar) in dairy products. The lactose finds its way into the intestines where it can cause problems like cramping, bloating, gas, and diarrhea.

If you’re seeing any of these symptoms, try out these dietary alternatives for your lactose intolerant child. These options will help your child to get the calcium, vitamin D, and other minerals they need for proper development and strong and healthy bones.

Lactase-Added Milk

It’s now possible to buy milk to which lactase, the necessary enzyme for breaking down lactose, has been added. This will help the body in digesting the milk properly, and is one of the easiest ways to allow kids to get their dairy without suffering. However, not all lactose intolerant kids react well to it; so it’s good to experiment and see if it works for your child.


Yogurt with its live, active cultures is another good alternative for some lactose intolerant kids. Even though yogurt is a dairy product, it’s very low in lactose since most of the milk sugars have already been broken down by the naturally present bacteria. The probiotic bacteria in yogurt is also a great way to help strengthen your child’s delicate digestive system. And yogurt is also a rich source of calcium and vitamin D.

Be aware however, that some children will tolerate yogurt better than others. If your child gets digestive problems after eating yogurt, then it’s time to try other alternatives.

Low-Lactose Cheeses

Not all cheeses are created equal. Lactose intolerant children can sometimes tolerate small amounts of aged cheese. These cheeses contain high amounts of bacteria which, like the bacteria in yogurt, is able to break down most of the lactose in the cheese itself. These low-lactose cheese include Parmesan, blue cheese, and Swiss. Be aware however, that sometimes children will still not tolerate even small amounts of lactose; if so, avoid these cheeses altogether.

Almond Milk

Almonds are loaded with protein, healthy fats, fiber, and nutrients like magnesium and vitamin E, making them a healthy choice, provided your child does not also suffer from a nut allergy as well. Products like almond milk and almond milk-based ice cream are great dairy-free alternatives for kids who cannot tolerate dairy products, and are well worth exploring.

Coconut Milk

Coconut milk is rich and creamy – and gloriously lactose-free! For kids who like the taste, it is a viable alternative to regular milk and is also made into products like coconut milk ice cream, which kids generally are pretty enthusiastic about. Keep in mind however, that it’s high in saturated fats and shouldn’t be used as your only dairy-free alternative.

Rice Milk

Rice milk and its products are virtually fat-free. Rice milk still has a rich and creamy texture and can be made into products as diverse as cheeses, butters, ice cream, or sour cream substitutes. These substitutes make it easier for you to prepare favorite recipes for your child. It’s also a great source of vitamin B12, which is very important for children as they develop.

Soy Milk

Soy products are incredibly versatile and are a great low-fat source of protein. Soy milk, soy-based butters, and soy-based cheeses all make it easier to create a normal menu at home and for school, though the texture is a little different than that of dairy-based counterparts.

However, some parents worry about the estrogen-like compounds found in soy and the effect this will have on a child’s development. 

Sherbets and Sorbets

Apart from ice creams made from milk substitutes, sherbets and sorbets are another great sweet frozen treat to consider. Made largely from fruit and water, these desserts provide the satisfaction of ice cream without any of the dairy. However, ready labels carefully to make sure manufacturers haven’t snuck any milk or cream products into their recipes.

Points to Consider

Apart from transitioning to dairy-free food options, there are a few extra steps to take to safely manage your child’s lactose intolerance:

Discuss your child’s condition with teachers and other school staff to make sure they are aware of the issue. You may find that it’s easier for your child to bring a packed lunch since so many cafeteria options have dairy products in them. Also make sure that other parents in your child’s class are aware of the problem so they do not bring dairy-products into the classroom for special occasions such as holiday or birthday parties. You will need an alternative to the ubiquitous pizza party!

Talk to the parents of your children’s friends so that they are aware of the lactose intolerance issue and avoid offering dairy products when your child is over at their house.

Discuss the possible need for supplements such as lactase, calcium, or vitamin D with your doctor to see if they would be appropriate for your child.

How do you manage your child’s lactose intolerance? Tell us in the comments below!

Tags : health   nutrition   

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