I've had a few readers reach out with questions about lactose intolerant dairy options as they've seen my struggles handling Sidekick's lactose intolerance. It's been a confusing journey. We've been all over the board, ping-ponging from “I love milk” to “Paleo meal planning is awesome” to “More cheese, please!” This is simply the nature of having a family with varied tastes and sensitivities.

Nate petting cows

The National Dairy Council reached out and asked me to share my own opinions on these lactose intolerant dairy issues to my readers, and I agree that it needs clarification.

Let's start with the basics: every person's ability to break down the lactose in dairy varies based on how much lactase enzyme their stomach produces. This means that everyone on the planet is lactose intolerant to a certain degree (don't believe me? Try drinking a whole gallon of milk by yourself and tell me how your stomach feels tonight). The upside is that many people who are diagnosed as lactose intolerant can, in fact, enjoy dairy in moderation!

I miss cheese! Here's a guide to lactose intolerant dairy products - the ones that are best for people who don't typically respond well to dairy
My pal snapped this picture of a board at Chuck's Produce and I thought it was hysterical. Thanks Crystal!

Here's what we've learned by investigating our family's lactose intolerant dairy options

Tillamook vintage white cheddar

Age matters. As cheeses age, they harden and lose their lactose. The older the better! Mozzarella, Colby, Parmesan, Cheddar, Swiss and Monterey Jack are typically easiest to digest. Tillamook Vintage White is my favorite cheese on the planet, hands-down.

Fat matters. Some people respond better to low-fat or fat-free dairy items. Experiment with different fat contents, from skim to whole, to see what works best for you.

Scale it. Try incorporating small amounts of different types of dairy into your diet each day, and keeping a food journal to take note of how your body responds. Eventually, you'll see a pattern emerge in terms of what type and how much dairy you can handle.

Beemster lactose-free cheese

Opt for no-lactose dairy. Yes, there are quite a few lactose-free cheeses and milk options on the market.

Try dairy from grass-fed cows. Grass-fed dairy contains higher levels of onjugated linoleic acid than grain-fed dairy, which makes it easier to digest for some people.

What lactose intolerant dairy choices are your favorites?