Low FODMAP Dairy vs. Lactose: What are the Differences?

The Low FODMAP diet is not a dairy-free diet. It does, however, limit lactose.

Confused? You are not alone. Most of us envision a glass of milk or a hunk of cheddar and think these represent dairy as well as lactose - and they do - but these foods have some very important differences when it comes to FODMAPs.

First of all, dairy is defined as mammal’s milk. So, in theory this would include camel’s milk, but last time we checked, that wasn’t readily available. For most of us this means products made from cow, sheep or goat’s milk, and that is what this article is referencing when we say “FODMAP dairy”. 

Cheese, ice cream, custards, pudding, yogurt, cottage cheese as well as milk itself can be made from any of these dairy milks (cow, goat, sheep) - and this is where it gets tricky. Some of these items can be enjoyed while on the Low FODMAP diet, but some should be left aside.

(Note that this article is about traditional dairy and not alternative dairy products like almond milk, rice milk or the like.)

Low FODMAP Dairy

Let’s get to the good news first. Here is a partial list of the most popular Low FODMAP dairy items that you can enjoy. And yes, hard low FODMAP cheese are makes the list because believe it or not, they are Low in lactose, which makes them Low FODMAP!

Our lists do not contain exact amounts. We encourage you to use your Monash University Low FODMAP Smartphone App to check for serving sizes.

Say YES!

  • Brie, Camembert, Cheddar, Colby, Goat cheese, Havarti, Mozzarella, Pecorino, Swiss and Parmesan cheeses
  • Feta cheese
  • Quark
  • Lactose-free milk in whole, 2%, 1% or skim
  • Lactose-free yogurt
  • Lactose-free cottage cheese
  • Lactose-free cream cheese
  • Lactose-free sour cream
  • Small amounts of haloumi cheese
  • Small amounts of heavy cream
  • Small amounts of whipped cream
  • Small amounts of traditional cottage cheese
  • Small amounts of traditional ricotta

Nope. Leave On The Shelf!

If you pass the lactose challenge, then you will be able to add some or all of these back into your low FODMAP diet. But steer clear during the Elimination Phase or if lactose is an issue.

  • Ice cream made with regular cow’s milk and cream
  • Traditional sour cream or cream cheese
  • Cow’s milk in whole, 2%, 1% or skim
  • Buttermilk
  • Custards and puddings made with regular cow’s milk and cream

Tips & Tricks for Success

There are two main takeaways here. Firstly, it will be immensely helpful for you to memorize a few facts:

  1. In general, hard cheeses are Low FODMAP, while other dairy products made from cow’s milk (ice cream, cream cheese, yogurt, sour cream etc.) are high FODMAP, unless you find specific substitutes like FODMAP yogurt. 
  1. Secondly, serving sizes count!

Memorize these facts and dining out and making decisions on the fly will be easier.

For instance, 2 Australian tablespoons of ricotta totaling 40 g is allowable, but more would bring you into high FODMAP territory.

As always, we suggest you keep your Monash University Smartphone App handy, which will help keep you on track for serving size amounts as well as updates on new foods that are tested for FODMAPs - including those in the dairy realm.

Lactose-free ice cream for dessert, anyone?

So, what are you waiting for?

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