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Starting a Keto Diet? Don’t Forget The Low-Carb Coffee Creamer
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When you commit to a low-carb diet like keto or paleo, planning ahead is a great way to start. And that doesn’t just mean stocking up on bacon and butter, or leaving cake and cookies off your shopping list.
Many of the foods we eat every day without thinking – salad dressing, ketchup and barbecue sauce, even apples – aren’t keto-friendly. So getting ready for keto doesn’t just mean figuring out what you will be eating. You also have to understand what you can’t eat, and either get rid of it or find a substitute.
The ketogenic diet has become such a big deal in recent years that most grocery stores are loaded with keto-friendly foods, and keto options are easy to find on Amazon as well. It’s easy to stock up on keto-friendly pasta sauce, salad dressings, syrups and snacks.
Here’s one that may not cross your mind, though: what are you going to put into your morning coffee?
The Keto Diet and Coffee
Coffee is the perfect keto beverage. It contains zero carbs and is good for your health. The problems only start if you don’t take your coffee black.
Obviously, sugar is out. (Well, hopefully you know enough about keto to make that obvious.) If you automatically reach for the sugar bowl after pouring a cup of coffee, you’ll need a supply of healthy, zero-carb sweetener instead. Natural non-nutritive sweeteners like stevia or monk fruit extract are ideal. (You may also have heard about erythritol, but it’s primarily used for cooking or baking.)
But what about the milk or cream?
Milk is out, if you’re following keto guidelines. The lactose in milk is actually sugar (in scientific terms, lactose means “milk sugar”), so it’s not allowed on strict keto diets. Half and half isn’t much better.
Heavy whipping cream is OK but only in moderation, since the normal serving size of two tablespoons uses up about one-tenth of keto’s daily allowance of carbs. If you’re a heavy coffee drinker – and the average American drinks more than three cups per day – cream isn’t the best choice.
And most non-dairy commercial coffee creamers are on the naughty list, too, since they’re also full of sugar and carbs. A serving of Coffee-Mate original creamer, for example, will use up about one-third of a keto dieter’s daily carb allowance. Coffee-Mate crème brulee creamer? It uses up almost all of the carb allowance.
It might not be the first thing you think about when planning your keto diet, but you’re going to need some low-carb coffee creamer, unless you’re ready to switch to black coffee.
What’s the Big Deal about Carbs on Keto?
It might seem that putting a little milk into your coffee wouldn’t really make a difference when you’re on a keto diet. That might literally be true, but the problem is that you’re only allowed a certain number of carbs each day. So every carb you consume might be the one that puts you over the limit. And that’s a very big deal.
The principles of the keto diet can seem odd until you know a little about the way the body works. Normally, the energy we need comes from the carbohydrates we eat. The body turns the carbs into glucose (or blood sugar), which is the fuel it needs to function. But when you drastically reduce carb intake, the body can’t make glucose. It needs a different energy source instead.
To deal with the situation, the body enters a metabolic state called ketosis; in ketosis it generates molecules called ketones, which can provide the body and brain with enough energy to keep functioning. Here’s why that can be a good thing: the body burns stored fat to produce ketones – which is why the keto diet works. Low carb intake induces ketosis, ketosis requires fat burning, and fat burning produces weight loss. It really is sort of an odd process, but it works.
There’s a danger, though. As soon as the body gets enough carbs to make glucose, it “falls out” of ketosis and fat burning stops. That’s why every carb you eat on keto matters. Once you consume too many carbs, you fall out of ketosis and your diet is destroyed.
It also explains why milk, lots of cream, and grocery-store coffee creamer are problems for keto dieters. A strict keto diet only lets you consume 20-25 grams of carbs per day. If you use up some of that allowance on your coffee add-ins, you either have to give up some of the other food you’d normally eat on the diet, or risk falling out of ketosis.
Thankfully, there are lots of keto-friendly alternatives. We’ll discuss them shortly, after a slight detour.
What Is Keto Coffee?
If you’re new to keto or low-carb dieting, you may be wondering what all the fuss is about keto coffee. It’s received lots of publicity (usually focusing on the trademarked name that one company uses for it, bulletproof coffee), but the articles and mentions often don’t mention that it is not a coffee creamer. It’s really a “creamy” type of coffee.
Keto coffee, also known as butter coffee, is a keto-friendly mixture of black coffee, grass-fed butter or ghee (a type of clarified butter), and something called MCT oil. The concoction, when blended to ensure that the coffee and oil don’t separate, does have a creamy, latte-like consistency. However, the reasons to drink keto coffee involve the ingredients, not the consistency.
- Black coffee: Obviously, you can’t make any type of coffee drink without coffee, and putting milk or sugar into it would defeat the purpose. You can also use decaf or iced coffee to make keto coffee.
- Unsalted butter or ghee: People often don’t realize that keto isn’t just a low-carb diet. It’s also a high-fat diet; high-quality, healthy fats are the macronutrients that replace most of the carbs. A great way to get that healthy fat is by blending grass-fed butter (or ghee) into coffee.
- MCT oil: This is a unique type of oil, which contains bountiful amounts of medium-chain triglycerides. MCTs are important to keto dieters, because they provide a supply of ketones and help power the body’s fat burning; they provide other health benefits as well. MCT oil is usually created by refining coconut oil or palm kernel oil.
Since keto coffee is creamy when you drink it, and it helps people stay in ketosis and lose weight, many are tempted to simply substitute keto coffee for their usual coffee with milk or cream.
Bad idea. Bulletproof coffee is loaded with saturated fat (because of the butter). In fact, one cup contains more saturated fat than the American Heart Association recommends for maximum daily consumption. One keto coffee per day is fine; after that, you’ll have to find something else to make your coffee creamy.
Low-Carb Coffee Creamer Choices
Before we get to the good options – and there are quite a few – let’s talk about the ones you shouldn’t consider.
We’re thinking specifically about the zero-sugar or sugar-free coffee creamers that companies like Coffee-Mate and International Delight sell. It’s not even true that all of them are zero-sugar. Coffee-Mate sells “sugar-free” creamers that contain, in their words, “a trivial amount of sugar.” That doesn’t sound like truth in advertising to us, but let’s continue.
Most of the sugar-free (or “sugar-free”) creamers that the big manufacturers sell contain two artificial sweeteners, sucralose and acesulfame potassium (better known as acesulfame-K or ace-K). The government calls them “generally recognized as safe,” but there’s lots of research showing that artificial sweeteners often cause people to crave sugar and gain weight. And some studies report that the sweeteners may also cause inflammatory issues in the gut biome and throughout the body. That’s certainly not ideal.
Let’s look at the better keto coffee creamer choices.
You may usually walk right past the nut milk section in your supermarket without giving it a second thought. Keto dieting requires an open mind, though, so let’s retrace our steps and reconsider a few plant and nut milks that are low-carb, dairy-free options. One important caveat, though: make sure you only use unsweetened plant-based milks; many brands contain added sugar.
- Almond Milk: This keto coffee creamer is one of the best choices. Unsweetened almond milk contains just 0.3 carbs per tablespoon, it contains ample amounts of calcium, potassium and Vitamin E, it’s gluten-free and vegan-friendly, and it “feels” like milk when you drink it. It’s also yummy once you get used to it.
- Hemp Milk: Hear us out here. Hemp milk is almost zero-carb, low in calories, high in protein, calcium and vitamins, and has lots of omega-3 fatty acids. The taste is an acquired taste, but it’s a very good option when you’re on keto.
- Oat Milk: There’s just one gram of carbs per tablespoon, and if you like the taste of oats, it’s another good keto-friendly coffee creamer.
Some people prefer the taste of coconut milk or coconut cream, but even unsweetened varieties are high in calories and fat. Use them with discretion.
Keto Coffee Creamers
Once you move past the giants of the creamer world like Coffee-Mate, you’ll find some smaller companies that make terrific creamers specifically designed for keto dieters. Many are designed to be similar to keto coffee, but some don’t include the saturated fat that can be problematic. Here are two of the best alternatives.
- Super Creamer: This product is from the folks who make Super Coffee, a popular ready-to-drink keto coffee. It contains MCT oil, monk fruit sweetener and added protein, it’s zero-carb, and it’s available in eight flavors including French vanilla, toasted hazelnut, caramel and coconut mocha.
- Omega PowerCreamer: PowerCreamer is a similar low-carb keto creamer that contains MCT oil and stevia instead of monk fruit, but it is higher in saturated fat because it also contains ghee. There are almost as many varieties, including salted caramel, pumpkin spice, peppermint mocha and French vanilla flavors.
Low-Calorie, Low Carb Creamers
These low-carb coffee creamers don’t add “bulletproof coffee ingredients” like MCT oil or ghee to their recipes; they’re simply no-sugar alternatives that are keto friendly.
- nutpods: (The capitalization error isn’t ours, it’s in the company name.) This manufacturer sells unsweetened varieties of their creamers which are almost zero-carb, and sweetened ones which contain just one or two grams of carbs. They’re all made with a base of almond milk or coconut cream (or both), in a number of enticing flavors.
- Califia Farms: The same company that makes healthy salad dressings also makes healthy coffee creamers with oat milk or almond milk bases. No carbs, low in calories and fat, they’re another good alternative, as are the creamers from Laird Superfood.
- Collagen Creamers: There are several brands of keto-friendly coffee creamer that add collagen, for the well-known benefits it can provide to skin, bones and hair. Most are higher in calories and carbs than our other suggestions, though.
Make Your Own Low-Carb Coffee Creamer
Perhaps the best keto coffee creamers are the ones you make yourself – and they’re easy to whip up. You can find plenty of DIY keto coffee creamer recipes online, but you should be able to come up with creamers that are just as good by using your imagination.
Start with a base of unsweetened almond milk, oat milk or coconut milk, and add your favorite flavorings like cocoa powder, cinnamon or vanilla extract. No muss, no fuss – just a delicious, low-carb coffee creamer that will perk up your coffee without damaging your diet.