Love your dairy, but can’t seem to stomach it? Don’t worry, you’re far from being alone. According to statistics released by the Victorian state government, up to 75 per cent of non-Caucasians in Australia are lactose intolerant and just five per cent of Caucasians.
So why are people of southern Mediterranean, Asian, African, Hispanic and Middle Eastern background more prone to developing the intolerance?
Well, that’s simple; traditionally their diets didn’t contain large amounts of dairy.
Lactose is a sugar, which can only be broken down into simple sugars – glucose and galactose – by an enzyme called lactase found in the small intestine.
When insufficient amounts of the enzyme are present, the body has a reduced ability to digest the milk sugars.
The severity of symptoms varies from person to person depending on how low their lactase levels are, and include bloating, gas, abdominal pain and diarrhoea, which can lead to inconvenient and embarrassing situations for those affected.
But just because you develop an intolerance doesn’t necessarily mean dairy is out of the question altogether.
In fact, the majority of people report a tolerance to most cheeses and even small quantities of milk and yoghurt.
However, when you first confirm your intolerance, it can be a good idea to remove food products that are high in lactose from your diet, and then slowly reintroduce them as symptoms start to ease off.
But if by doing so you find yourself excluding important sources of nutrients from your diet, such as calcium, be sure to introduce suitable replacements.
While calcium is important for bone and tooth health, it also plays a key role in muscle development, healthy blood pressure and glowing skin.
The daily recommended intake for men and women aged 19 and over is 1000 milligrams per day, and increases by 300 once women hit 50 and for men aged 70 plus.
But according to Osteoporosis Australia, “less than half of all Australian adults get their daily recommended intake of calcium”.
So if dairy isn’t
a friendly option, don’t fret, as there are a number of non-dairy foods rich in calcium, including bone broth, fish (with bones), dark and leafy greens, figs, beans, blackstrap molasses, almonds, sesame seeds and oysters.
Do keep in mind that for the body to best absorb calcium, you also need to be consuming adequate amounts of vitamin D and magnesium, hence why the calcium in fish is better absorbed thanks to the combination of vitamin D.


What does 1000mg of calcium look like?

Yoghurt (250g) = 415mg

Milk (1 cup non-fat) = 302mg

Sardines (85g with bones) = 324mg

Salmon (85g with bones) = 181mg

Spinach (1 cup, cooked) = 245mg

Collard greens (1 cup) = 266mg

Kale (1 cup) = 92mg

Blackstrap molasses (1tbs) = 137mg

Broccoli (2 cups, cooked) = 124mg

Brazil nuts (12) = 90mg

Almonds (23) = 75mg

Celery(2 cups, raw) = 81mg

Orange (1 medium) = 52mg

Flax seeds (2tbsp) = 52mg


Helpful tips:

– Try not to eliminate dairy products from your diet entirely, as they are an important source of nutrients. Slowly reintroduce them back into your diet in small quantities.
– Fetta, cheddar, Edam, Swiss, mozzarella and brie have a very low lactose content, so you can rest assured and enjoy in moderation.
– Butter, cream, cottage cheese and ricotta also contain low level of lactose.
– The bacteria in yoghurt feeds off the lactose, so each day the level of the sugar decreases.
– You can opt for lactose-free milk, or other alternatives such as soy or almond milk.
– If you continue drinking milk, make sure it is full-fat, giving the enzymes more time to break down the lactose.
– Low-fat milk products often contain skim milk powder, which results in a higher dose of lactose.
– Avoid the consumption of large amounts of lactose in one sitting.


And some alternatives:

Almond milk: a healthy, tasty and lactose-free alternative to cow’s milk (makes about 2 cups)


1 cup raw almonds, preferably organic
2 cups water, plus more for soaking
Sweeteners like honey, sugar, agave syrup, or maple syrup, to taste (optional)


1. Place almonds in a bowl and cover with about 2cm of water. They will plump as they absorb water. Let stand on the counter, covered with a cloth overnight, or refrigerate for up to 2 days. The longer the almonds soak, the creamier the almond milk.
2. Drain the almonds from their soaking water and rinse them thoroughly under cool running water. Almonds should feel a little squishy if you pinch them. (It’s best to discard the soaking water because it contains phytic acid, which inhibits the body’s ability to absorb nutrients.)
3. Place almonds in a blender, cover with 2 cups of water and blend at the highest speed for two minutes. Pulse the blender a few times to break up the almonds, then blend continuously for two minutes until the almonds are broken down into a very fine meal and the water is white and opaque. (If using a food processor, process for four minutes total, pausing to scrape down the sides halfway through.)
4. Line a strainer with either the opened nut bag or cheesecloth, and place over a measuring cup. Pour the almond mixture into the strainer. Press all the almond milk from the almond meal. Gather the nut bag or cheese cloth around the almond meal and twist close. Squeeze and press with clean hands to extract as much almond milk as possible – you should get about 2 cups.
5. Taste the almond milk, and if a sweeter drink is desired, add sweetener to taste.
6. Store the almond milk in sealed containers in the fridge for up to two days.
Recipe notes
Leftover almond meal can be added to oatmeal, smoothies, and muffins as it is. You can also spread it out on a baking sheet and bake it in a low oven until completely dry (2 to 3 hours). Dry almond meal can be kept frozen for several months and used in baked goods.


Vegan mini-chessecakes (Serves 12)



1 cup pitted dates (soaked in warm water for 10 minutes then drained)
1 cup walnuts or almonds, raw


1.5 cups cashews, raw and quick soaked
1 large lemon, juiced (scant 1/4 cup)
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp full fat coconut milk
1/2 cup agave nectar or maple syrup (or honey if not vegan)
Optional flavour add-ins:
2 tbsp salted natural peanut butter
1/4 cup wild blueberries (fresh or frozen)
3 tbsp bourbon caramel sauce


1. Add dates to food processor and blend until small bits remain and it forms into a ball. Remove and set aside.
2. Add nuts and process into a meal. Now add dates back in and blend until a loose dough forms – it should stick together when you squeeze a bit between your fingers. If it’s too dry, add a few more dates. If too wet, add more almond or walnut meal. (Optional: add a pinch of salt to taste.)
3. Lightly grease a standard, 12-slot muffin tin. Cut strips of parchment paper and lay them in the slots, creating little tabs to make removing them easier.
4. Scoop into tin, heaping 1 tbsp amounts of crust and press with fingers. To pack it down, use a small glass or the back of a spoon to compact it and really press it down. If it sticks, separate crust and glass with a small piece of parchment. Put in freezer to firm up.


5. Add all filling ingredients to a blender and mix until very smooth. If it won’t come together, add a touch more lemon juice, agave or a splash more coconut milk liquid as the liquid should help it blend better.
6. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. If adding peanut butter, add to the blender and mix until thoroughly combined. If flavouring with blueberry or caramel, wait and swirl on top of plain cheesecakes (optional).
7. Divide filling evenly among the muffin tins. Tap a few times to release any air bubbles, then cover with plastic wrap and freeze until hard, approx. 4-6 hours.
8. Once set, remove by tugging on the tabs or loosening them with a butter knife. The best way to devour these is with a little more caramel and a touch of coconut whipped cream. But they’re perfect as is! Keep in the freezer for 1-2 weeks. (Optional: you can set them out for 10 minutes before serving to soften.)


Vegan pastitsio (Serves 8-10)


500g thick bucatini pasta (rigatoni or penne)
2 tbsp bread crumbs
Lentil sauce:
1 medium onion, thinly chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups homemade or canned tomato sauce, or crushed tomatoes
1 cup red lentils
1 1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp oregano
2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
120g raw cashews
3 tbsp sunflower seeds
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 litre water
5 tbsp all-purpose flour
5 tbsp olive oil or vegan margarine/shortening
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp freshly ground nutmeg
1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
Lentil sauce:
1. Place 1/4 cup of water in a pot over medium heat.
2. Sauté the onion and garlic until soft for 4-5 minutes.
3. Add all ingredients, except parsley, and cook for about 20 minutes.
4. Add parsley, lower heat and cook for a few more minutes, adding a bit of water if necessary.
1. Cook pasta in salted boiling water until al dente. Be careful not to overcook as it will go in the oven for baking. Then drain and keep aside.
2. Oil a baking dish and sprinkle with the bread crumbs.
3. Add pasta and top with lentil sauce.
1. Preheat oven to 180°C.
1. Blend all ingredients, except flour and oil, in a high-speed blender for at least two minutes.
2. In a pot make the roux. Heat the oil, add the flour and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly for 2 minutes.
3. Pour cashew cream into the roux, whisking constantly. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until smooth and thick.
4. Pour cashews and bechamel over the lentil sauce.
5. Sprinkle with vegan cheese or breadcrumbs and bake for 40 minutes until golden brown.