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Tackling food sensitivities: lactose and gluten

Chocolate Cherry Chia Pudding
Chocolate Cherry Chia Pudding - Contributed

Foodwise with Kerri Robichaud

You’ve probably heard about gluten and lactose, but what exactly are they? Why are people sensitive to them? If you have just developed an intolerance, what’s next?

Today I’m going to break down these things so that you understand what they are and what to do about them – and so you’ll be able to shop, cook and eat without getting your tummy in a rumble.

What is gluten? Gluten is a type of protein found primarily in wheat, rye, and barley that helps give foods like pasta, bread, and baked goods their shape; it acts like glue that holds them together. When people with a gluten sensitivity eat something containing gluten their immune system ends up attacking their own digestive system and causes them to feel ill.

Lactose is a type of sugar found in dairy products which needs an enzyme – lactase - to break it down. For some people, their bodies don’t produce this enzyme and as a result they can’t break down the milk sugar, which leads to digestive issues.

For those with a sensitivity to these foods, you may need to start looking for products that say gluten- or lactose-free. It is also important to check the product packaging for wording such as “May contain…” or “Processed in the same facility as…” as you run the risk of cross contamination, especially for those with a gluten sensitivity.

For some people with a food sensitivity, going out to eat can be a challenge. Be mindful about what you’re ordering at a restaurant and let your server know in advance about any sensitivities you have so that the kitchen can take extra special care in preparing your meal.

The good news is, food companies and restaurants are adapting to food allergies and sensitivities more than ever, as they know how important it is to keep their customers healthy. When it comes to purchasing products for those with a lactose sensitivity, there are many alternative products on the market that are dairy free, such as coconut yogurt, coconut milk or other milk alternatives. There are also some dairy products on the market which are lactose-free, like the PC lactose-free cheeses, milk and margarine. PC Skyr yogurts are dairy products, but they are all naturally lactose-free and come in a variety of different flavours! As for gluten-free products, you can easily find gluten-free pizza crusts, breads, and pastas now. There are also great substitutes for flour on the market if you enjoy baking, such as the PC Organics Chickpea flour, or PC Organics Quinoa flour which has a nuttier taste and is good for making foods like pancakes and waffles. There are many recipes to create your own delicious gluten-free flour blend.

Gluten and lactose sensitivities are becoming quite common and companies are becoming more accommodating because of it. Cooking for someone with any food sensitivity can feel like a challenge, but as long as you understand how to check your labels, avoid cross-contamination and know what products contain those troublesome foods, you will be in the clear! If you’re still questioning some food products or recipes, you can always visit me in-store for a personalized shopping session, or just to ask me a few questions!

This Chocolate Cherry Chia Pudding is nutritious, delicious and. because of the use of almond milk, it makes a great lactose-free option. This pudding could fit in nicely as a healthier dessert over the holidays or even prepared as a breakfast or snack.

Chocolate Cherry Chia Pudding


1cup PC Pitted Dark Sweet Cherries, thawed and drained

¼ cup PC Organics Black Chia Seed

1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

¼ tsp PC Black Label Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract

5 tsp honey


Slice cherries in half; place in small bowl and refrigerate until needed

Stir chia and cocoa together in bowl; pour in almond milk, vanilla, and honey. Stir well; cover and refrigerate 1 to 2 hours or until chia has absorbed all the liquid. Divide pudding among four small serving bowls; top with cherries. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings

Nutrition Information: 120 calories, 0mg sodium, 20g carbohydrate, 6g fiber, 3g protein, 4g total fat, 0.5g saturated fat

Recipe source:

Kerri Robichaud is a registered dietitian with Atlantic Superstore in Amherst.

Have a nutrition question? Want to book an appointment or shop with the dietitian? Book online at www.atlanticsuperstore/dietitians, contact me by phone at (506) 866-2115 or by email at

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