A dairy-free diet excludes all milk products, including casein, whey and lactose, as well as all products derived from milk and milk products.

Why Would Someone Follow A Dairy-Free Diet?

Eating your curds and whey may actually do more harm than good for those people who have an intolerance, allergy or sensitivity to dairy. Dairy products can cause adverse food reactions that can provoke unwanted symptoms such as bloating, gas, vomiting, diarrhea, skin rashes, mucous production and/or abdominal cramping. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it might be worth investigating if dairy foods are playing a role.

Vegans also follow a dairy-free diet, as they would be consuming a diet devoid of all animal products and animal-derived products.

Do I Have a Dairy Allergy/Intolerance/Sensitivity?

Intolerances, sensitivities, and allergies are often used interchangeably, which is confusing and incorrect. Visit our Food Sensitivities page to determine the differences. If you believe you may be suffering from one of these ailments, be sure to contact your physician or a dietitian who can provide more information. 

Dairy Components That Might Be Making You Sick

These dairy components can be found in milk products in different amounts. Identifying which of the three causes your symptoms is difficult to pinpoint. A registered dietitian and/or your physician can help you determine which dairy foods you can safely add back and how much you can have without provoking a symptom.


A protein found in milk (curd). See our Casein-Free Diet page for more info.


A protein found in milk (liquid that is strained off after curdling) 


A sugar found in milk and milk products. If a label contains the following words it contains lactose: milk, lactose, whey, curds, dry milk solids, nonfat dry milk powder. See our Lactose-Free Diet page for more information.


As with any symptoms you are experiencing, you should relay these to your physician. Your physician will base the diagnosis on medical, family and diet history, including medical tests if necessary. Many digestive symptoms can occur for a variety of reasons and those need to be examined as well. Your physician may likely tell you to eliminate all dairy foods from your diet for at least a couple of weeks and evaluate your symptoms.


Federal law has made label reading a bit simpler for us shoppers with food intolerances, sensitivities and allergies. Milk is one of the top eight allergens required to be labeled either in the ingredient list OR in a separate contains statement.


1. Check the contains statement and look for the word “milk.” If it is there, the item should not be consumed. It will contain casein.

2. If you have checked the contains statement and did not find the word “milk,” move on to the ingredient listing and look for the word. If you did not find the word “milk” either in the statement or the list then it does not contain milk products.

3. Don’t be confused by the terms dairy-free, lactose-free, and non-dairy. These terms do not all carry regulatory definitions and can be very misleading. For example, non-dairy allows caseinates, which is a milk protein and needs to be avoided on a casein-free diet or dairy-free diet.

Exceptions to this labeling law: 

  • Prescription and over-the-counter drugs 
  • Food regulated by USDA, including meat, poultry, or certain egg products 
  • Alcoholic beverages 
  • Fast foods, street vendors, festival foods and local foods 
  • Kosher labeling 
  • Pet foods and personal care items such as cosmetics, mouthwash and toothpaste. 
You will need to call the manufacturer of these products to find out if they contain dairy in any form.


When you are going dairy free, you do risk not getting enough calcium and vitamin D. It is important to replace what is lost with fortified milk substitutes such as almond milk or acceptable vitamin and mineral supplements. Ask your doctor or dietitian for advise on proper supplementation.

Be sure to check out Price Chopper's selection of dairy free milk alternatives!