Diet for Galactosemia

Galactosemia is when the body is missing a digestive aid (enzyme) that helps break down galactose. Galactose is a naturally occurring sugar in many foods. Lactose is sugar contained in milk, which is made up of galactose and glucose.

Galactosemia is usually diagnosed during infancy or childhood. When your child cannot digest galactose properly, it can build up in the body and cause damage to the liver, central nervous system, and other body systems.


Problems during infancy include:

  • Yellowing of the skin (jaundice).

  • Vomiting.

  • Poor weight gain.

  • Refusing to feed.

  • Tiredness.

  • Irritability.

  • Shaking (convulsions).


Avoid milk, milk-containing foods, and all foods that contain galactose. Your child will need to follow these restrictions for life. It is important to know what foods contain lactose and galactose. Work with a Registered Dietitian to help you and your child find what foods he or she can and cannot eat. Your child needs good nutrition to allow for growth and development. These diets may lack in calcium, riboflavin, and vitamin D, according to the Recommended Dietary Allowances of the National Research Council.  Supplements of these nutrients may be needed.


  • Lactose and galactose are carbohydrates. They are mainly found in dairy products. However, reading food labels is important. Many products contain lactose even when they are not made from milk. Look for the following words:

  • Whey.

  • Milk solids.

  • Dry milk solids.

  • Nonfat dry milk powder.

  • Common sources of lactose, other than dairy products, include:

  • Breads.

  • Candies.

  • Cold cuts.

  • Prepared and processed foods.

  • Commercial sauces and gravies.

  • All foods must be prepared without milk, cream, or other dairy foods.

  • A vitamin or mineral supplement may be necessary. Consult your caregiver or dietitian.

  • Lactose is also found in many prescription and over-the-counter medicines.

  • Lactose-free supplements may be used as an alternative to milk.

  • Avoid other non-milk foods that contain galactose, including:

  • Organ meats.

  • Dried beans.

  • Sugar beets.

  • Lentils.

  • Lima beans.

  • Peas.

  • Soybeans.

  • Blueberries.

  • Honeydew melon.

  • Peaches.


  • Butter.

  • Cream.

  • Milk chocolate.

  • Cheese.

  • Buttermilk solids.

  • Nonfat dry milk solids.

  • Milk solids.

  • Lactose.

  • Casein.

  • Sour cream.

  • Dry milk.

  • Whey and whey solids.

  • Dry milk protein.

  • Yogurt.

  • Sodium caseinate.

  • Calcium caseinate.

  • Tragacanth Gum.

  • Lactostearin.

  • Lactalbumin.

  • Dough conditioners. Dough Conditioners may include caseinates which are unacceptable. Most labels specify the name of the conditioner which is added to the product. If not, contact the company to make sure that all are acceptable.

  • Hydrolyzed Protein. Hydrolyzed protein is unacceptable and is commonly found in canned meats, like tuna. Hydrolyzed vegetable protein, however, is acceptable.

  • Margarine. A few diet margarines do not contain milk. Check labels before using any brand. If "margarine" is listed as an ingredient in any processed food, consider the product unacceptable.

  • MSG (Monosodium Gluconate). MSG or Monosodium Glutamate itself is acceptable. However, some MSGs contain lactose extenders. It is best to avoid MSG whenever possible.

  • Soy sauce. Soy sauce is unacceptable if it is fermented. Brands must be checked before including this in the galactosemic diet.

Note: Lactate, Lactic acid, and Lactylate do not contain lactose and are acceptable ingredients.