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Delicious-and Dairy Free

Lactose intolerant or milk sensitive? Discover the difference and learn how to avoid dairy

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If you aren’t eating dairy foods, you may need to supplement with calcium. Good nondairy food sources of calcium include fresh carrot juice, canned sardines, and blackstrap molasses.

If dairy foods bother you, that’s not surprising. Cow’s milk products are common problem foods for gluten-sensitive people for two different reasons: lactose intolerance; and cow’s milk allergy.

Lactose intolerance is a condition in which the body is deficient in lactase, the enzyme necessary to digest lactose milk sugar. It can develop because of the small intestine damage that occurs in celiac disease. When lactose isn’t broken down, it passes into the large intestine, causing gas, diarrhea, and other gastrointestinal symptoms. Once some celiacs remove gluten from their diet, the intestinal lining heals and they may produce lactase again and be able to eat milk products without suffering gastrointestinal symptoms.

However, one of the most frequent mistakes that people diagnosed with celiac disease or gluten intolerance make is assuming that a problem ingesting dairy products is due to lactose intolerance. “Unfortunately, a great many people who suffer problems when they ingest dairy products have an immune reaction to dairy and not an enzyme deficiency. This is a dairy allergy, not lactose intolerance,” says Stephen Wangen, ND, founder of the Irritable Bowel Syndrome Treatment Center in Seattle. If you have an allergy to cow’s milk, eating dairy products-even if they are lactose-free or if you take Lactaid digestive enzyme-will continue to cause health problems. The health problems may be digestive in nature or may be nondigestive, such as nasal congestion or earaches. The only way to relieve the symptoms is to avoid cow’s milk products altogether. If you need to avoid dairy, try these tips:

Be careful with the milk substitutes you use. Some nondairy blackstrap molasses beverages that are labeled gluten free, such as Rice Dream beverage, use a barley enzyme in processing and might contain residual amounts of gluten. Others, such as soymilk and Almond Breeze almond milk, contain soy, another common allergen. Many different nondairy beverages contain evaporated cane juice, or sugar, which can provoke gas and digestive bloating in many people, especially people with yeast overgrowth. If you switch from milk to a commercial nondairy beverage and still don’t feel well, try eliminating the drink from your diet for a few weeks and see if your symptoms abate.

Try coconut milk or homemade nut milk. Generally speaking, the milk alternatives with the fewest ingredients are the best tolerated. Lite or regular coconut milk works well as a milk or cream substitute in many recipes, for topping cereal or fruit, and for mixing into coffee or tea. If you’re a bit more ambitious, make homemade nut milk with almonds or other nuts such as cashews or Brazil nuts.

Use olive oil, macadamia nut oil, or coconut butter. Choose alternatives to butter that are appropriate for the dish. In Italian sautés and rice pasta dishes, organic extra virgin olive oil subs nicely. On fish and vegetables or in stir-fries, organic expeller-pressed macadamia nut oil is a flavorful, gourmet choice. And when baking, try coconut butter in place of butter.

Dairy-Free Brown Rice Pudding Serves 4

Here’s an easy-to-make recipe for rice pudding made with brown rice and no milk or eggs. Reprinted from Going Against the Grain Group, 2010, by Melissa Diane Smith.

11/2 cups organic coconut milk

31/2 Tbs. honey

1 Tbs. arrowroot powder

2 cups cooked organic short-grain brown rice

3 Tbs. organic raisins

2 tsp. gluten-free vanilla extract or vanilla flavor

Ground cinnamon for sprinkling

  1. Heat coconut milk and honey in saucepan over medium heat until mixture starts to bubble. Whisk in arrowroot. Add rice and raisins, and simmer 3 minutes, stirring constantly.
  2. Remove from heat, and stir in vanilla. Spoon or pour mixture into small bowls or ramekins, and sprinkle top of each bowl liberally with cinnamon. Cover bowls, and refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.