The lactose lowdown
Deal with dairy intolerance in a different country
by Annie Koval
The experts agree: dairy isn’t a deal breaker. Being lactose intolerant abroad means compromise, not substitution. AV dishes out tips from three registered dietitians—Julie Meyer, Victoria Shanta Retelny and Roberta Duyff—to help keep your plate full and your stomach calm.
Big advice for small discomfort:
- Yes to yogurt: Because of its live cultures, the body tolerates yogurt more easily. Take advantage of Europe’s variety of yogurt including the drink kefir, which has a broad range of nutrients and beneficial bacteria.
- Chew the cube: Hard, aged cheeses popular in Europe only have 0-1g of lactose compared to the average13g in a cup of milk.
- Slow your system: Eating more fiber-based foods such as fruits and whole grains during or after you consume dairy slows the rate of digestion. Since gelato is denser than ice cream, grab a spoon and dig in immediately after having that hunk of pasta rather than waiting a few hours.
- Mix up milk: Occasionally substitute fat free milk for whole milk when drinking your morning espresso or coffee. The extra fat slows the release of lactose in your body.
- Time the talk: Deeba Zivari, a recent grad of Wellesley in Wellesley, Mass., 22, cast herself as a “reckless eater” her semester abroad. Her main tip for your host family: prepare your speech. How will you explain lactose intolerance and what food specifically bothers you most to your family? The earlier you inform them the better.
- Hone in on home: From Gatorade to candy bars, familiar brand names can be found worldwide. When you’ve had too much surprise for one day, fill your stomach with something it remembers. Zivari recommends staying stocked. “Store protein bars and snacks in your closet so you know that you always have something on standby.” But be careful not to buy pricey foods to flaunt in your host family’s refrigerator.
- Focus on flexibility: Depending on where you are, your host family may be insulted if you cannot eat a certain dish. Remember that this is a give and take – you both will make compromises.
- Come hungry: Enough said.
Traveling to a place where you don’t speak the language? No problem.
Here’s how you say, “I can’t eat dairy.”
Spanish: No puedo comer la lactosa.
Itailian: Non posso mangiare la latteria.
French: Je ne peux pas manger la laiterie.
Portuguese: Eu não posso comer a leiteria.
German: Ich kann Molkerei nicht essen.