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Fact checked by Andrew Lenau, ISSA CPT & Sports NutritionistFACT CHECKED
January 31, 2022
Keto seems to be all the rage these days. Everywhere you look, there’s keto for muscle building, keto for fat loss, keto for athletes, etc. However, if you have ever looked into the keto diet or are using it, you know that it is a highly restrictive diet with a list of foods that you can and can not eat. Being that we live in a world that loves coffee, one of the more frequent questions concerning keto is, “Can I have half & half while on keto?” Therefore, we’re going to tell you that below, but we will also explain a lot more than just that. We want you to really understand this, so we’re going to go over:
To understand why you can or can’t have certain foods on the keto diet, you need to understand what the keto diet even is. The keto diet is one of the latest fad diets to hit the fitness industry, whose primary claim is that it can improve energy, decrease cravings, and help lose or maintain weight.
The hallmark of a keto diet is that it contains very high fat, minimal carbs, and moderate protein. Keto’s typical breakdown of macros looks as so:
This macro percentage is set this way as the goal of a keto diet is to get you to actually alter your metabolism. Under normal circumstances, the body’s preferred method of energy is through utilizing carbs and glucose. However, while on the keto diet, glucose is basically absent. Therefore, the body is forced to find other means of energy and finds it through compounds known as ketones which are heavily produced on the keto diet.
In order for this to happen, you must introduce a minimal amount of carbohydrates into your system so that it enters a state known as “ketosis. However, if your body finds glucose, you will get “kicked out” of ketosis meaning no more keto benefits. In fact, this is also why you need to be mindful of your protein intake.
This is because if you eat a surplus of protein, your body can convert it into glucose through a process known as “gluconeogenesis.” For lifters interested in learning more about keto, be sure to check out our keto bodybuilding guide for even more information!
This being said, you have to be VERY CAREFUL with the foods you eat. The keto diet does not work like other diets where if you slip up and have a Snickers, you can just cut out some calories during dinner or get in some extra exercise. The keto diet modifies your metabolic system which leaves minimal room for error. And this is why there are so many questions like “Can I eat X on keto?”
However, even though the keto diet just recently hit the fitness industry, it’s actually been around for quite a while. 100 years to be exact. It was first introduced in the 1920s to control persons with seizures and epilepsy. And it works. Actually, very well. Multiple studies and meta-analyses have confirmed that the ketogenic diet is highly effective in treating epilepsy by severely reducing the number of seizures seen in an individual, anywhere from a 50-90% decrease. This is even more amazing because many of the test subjects in these studies had previously used medication yet saw no improvement.
Keto was the main course of action to combat epilepsy until the late 1930s, when new anticonvulsant drugs were produced. Research instead went in this direction and the popularity of the keto diet dwindled. However, due to the inconsistent outcome with drugs, the keto diet has recently seen an increase of popularity in the medical field again.
All this being said, many people fail to adhere to the keto diet for the long term because it is so restrictive. Nevertheless, patients on the keto diet started to report things like weight loss and loss of cravings which was picked up by the fitness industry, and that’s where we are today.
Half & half refer to a milk product that is equal parts cream and whole milk. It’s generally used for recipes and foods where you may want something thicker than milk but not full of cream. As mentioned above, one of the most popular uses of half and half is that of a coffee creamer. Using half and half can take the bitterness out of a strong coffee and make it a bit sweeter if that’s your thing (We’ll take ours black, please).
Being that half and half is actually a dairy product, it does, in fact, have carbs in it. These carbs come in the form of lactose, and dairy is actually the only form of carbohydrates that we consume from animals.
Luckily, half & half don’t actually contain a lot of carbs. When looking at the calorie content, you would see that the majority of the calories come from fat, with only 10-20% coming from carbs, depending on the specific mixture.
For example, Land O’ Lakes Half & Half macro content is broken down as:
If you do the math real quick, you see that 2.5 calories are missing. Our math doesn’t suck as we are aware. You can thank the FDA for that and its policy on reporting macros.
Anyways, you see, there is only 0.5g of carbs (actually, it’s likely 0.5-1.0) so it’s not a whole lot. Part of the reason there is so little is that a serving size for half & half is so small due to its intended use. At the same time, however, the percentage of carbohydrates found in half & half is more than your daily percentage of carbohydrates. Therefore, you need to decide if this is a carb you need in your life or if you’d instead allot that carb to someone else.
That being said, your average person on keto only allows themselves 50g of carbs a day, so it’s up to you on how you want to use them. Therefore, you need to take a few variables into account.
If you primarily use half & half to add to your coffee, you’re probably going to be ok assuming you only have one per day and you have reasonable control over the other carbohydrates. However, if you are using it for baking or making some sort of beverage, you should probably find an alternative (see below).
The one thing you don’t want to do when trying to minimize your carb intake is to try to swap out your half & half for whole milk! Whole milk is around 30% carbs, with 1 cup offering an insane 12g! That’s almost half of some keto dieters’ total intake!
Yes. However, you need to realize that just about everything we eat will raise our blood sugar levels; it’s not just sugar. Still, fluctuations in our blood sugar levels depend on a lot more than just the food we eat. For example, other variables that can dictate how our blood sugar levels react to food are the type of food we eat, the quantity, and if we eat it with anything else. That being said, as we generally eat small portions of half & half, it won’t significantly affect our blood sugar levels.
Nope. Not a good idea. If you were to look at the nutrition label of almost any type of “fat-free” version of a food, you will see that they don’t just take the fat out; they replace it with sugar and other ingredients like corn syrup. Fat is what gives food taste, so when you take it out of a food, you’re left with bland nothingness. The food industry can’t have that, so they’ll actually add other ingredients to make it taste better. You can almost universally say that these ingredients are always less healthy as they are generally just cheap sugars. Not only is this bad news for the keto diet, it’s bad news for your health in general.
Actually, never mind keto; just stay away from “fat-free” foods altogether.
While you could get away with a bit of half & half once in a while, there are other options out there. Therefore, if you do want to opt for something else, here are the best keto-friendly half & half alternatives.
1. Heavy Cream
The first half & half alternative for keto diets is to just go with full, heavy cream. Heavy cream has a much higher fat percentage than whole milk empty carbs. In fact, heavy cream is almost total fat leaving very little room for carbs. Therefore, next time you’re going to get a coffee, go ahead and get the full stuff rather than half & half.
2. Almond Milk
One of your best choices for a more keto-friendly alternative is your plant milk products. Perhaps the best option to substitute is going to be almond milk. Almond milk is an awesome plant-based milk as it offers healthy fats and is low in calories and low in carbs. However, you must get the unsweetened kinds! Buying almond milk that has been flavored will definitely not work with keto.
Still, another option could be to swap out the whole milk in your half and half with almond milk. As most of the carbs come from the whole milk, this will drastically reduce the number of carbs while maintaining the creaminess of half and half.
3. Coconut Milk
Coconut milk is another popular plant-based milk that could be a possibility for you if you’re trying to keep carbs to a minimum. The caloric content makes up about 5% of the total calories, with one tablespoon containing 0.4g. This low count makes it fit quite nicely with a keto diet; again, assuming you’re not drinking glasses.
4. Bulletproof Coffee
Bulletproof coffee has become quite popular over the last decade or so due to its creator, the famous biohacker, Dave Asprey. Bulletproof coffee completely changes the game, and instead of using dairy products (or milk), it uses butter! Yes, you heard us right.
Actually, bulletproof coffee consists of butter and MCT oil, which is medium-chain triglyceride. MCT oil is touted to give a slew of health benefits by it’s adherents, but one of it’s primary abilities is to charge the brain. There are many ways to make bulletproof coffee, but it simply involves mixing 1 tbsp of MCT oil and 1tbsp of grass-fed butter into your coffee. Check out our post that covers the Best MCT Oil Supplements that you can use to make bulletproof coffee.
5. Plain Butter
Some people will also just use butter without the MCT oil in their coffee. They may do this for economic reasons or caloric; either way, it’s a cheap and easy solution to completely eliminate carbs in your coffee. People swear by it, so who are we to judge? The only way to see what the fuss is about is to try it yourself!
Perhaps the most obvious choice for a half & half alternative is to just use coffee creamer. It’s “creamer,” so it must be good, yea? Obviously, the answer is no; creamer is not good. The vast majority of these are simply a mixture of sugar, syrups, oil, and water. This is not good for those on keto, or anybody for that matter.
Coffee creamers are incredibly high in calories relative to their size and are heavy on the carbs. For example, just 1 tbsp of a popular creamer has a whopping 35 calories and 5 grams of carbs. As mentioned, it’s basically just eating sugar, and it really isn’t healthy for anyone. You’re way better off just sticking with half & half.
The keto diet is one of a few popular dieting methods (the other being intermittent fasting) that have come into mainstream lately that have completely changed the game and how we look at nutrition. As you can see, half & half does not have a ton of carbs when used as a coffee creamer, meaning it’s probably fine for you. However, when looking at the keto diet, we can say this about a lot of foods. Therefore, it’s up to the specific individual on how they want to consume their carbohydrates. There’s only a limited amount of carbs you can eat on the keto diet, so you must choose wisely.
Your best option is to look at your entire day and see what it is that you want to eat. This will give you an idea of how close you are to your total carb allowance for the day. From there, determine if you need to cut some out or perhaps you have a few to spare. This may also mean that you will have to decide between some foods; eat one and not the other. Still, don’t think that just because you choose not to eat one carb on this particular day that it bans you from ever eating it again. You may just need to have a schedule; something like you will use half & half in your coffee on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday while using butter Tuesday, Thursday, & Saturday. Sunday you can be nuts and have butter and MCT oil!!!
For more awesome information on cutting weight and controlling your metabolism, check out these articles:
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