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Best Keto Coffee Creamers: Great Milk And Cream Substitutes
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If there’s one thing that most people know about the keto diet, it’s this: there are a whole lot of foods and beverages that you’re not allowed to eat or drink.
They may also know this: most beverages are off-limits.
The reason is simple. On a keto diet, you have to drastically restrict your carbohydrate intake, and the number one “carb culprit” is sugar. Needless to say, almost all of the drinks we commonly consume every day, like soda, fruit juice, milk, beer and mixed drinks, are loaded with sugar.
Water is fine on keto, as are tea and coffee – but with a big caveat for those last two. Adding milk to your tea or coffee is a bad idea, and there are limits on how much cream you can use before you get yourself into trouble.
Most non-dairy coffee creamers are high in sugar and carbs as well, which leads to a big problem for regular coffee drinkers. If you’re following the keto diet, do you have to take your coffee black?
Not at all. There are plenty of keto-friendly options. In fact, you may find that some of them taste even better, or provide more health benefits, than your regular coffee with milk and sugar.
To understand which ones are OK to use – and why – it’s important to first review the basics of keto.
Why You Have to Limit Carbs on the Keto Diet
Low-carb eating plans were first used successfully to treat specific types of childhood epilepsy. Over the last 50 years, however, versions of low-carb diets like the Atkins diet were designed to help people lose weight, and more recent iterations like the paleo and ketogenic diets have been shown to be effective tools for short-term weight loss.
In a nutshell, here’s how keto works.
Normally, the body breaks down the carbs we eat to create glucose, the blood sugar that serves as fuel for the brain and most bodily functions. When dietary carbohydrates are strictly limited, there’s only a few days’ worth of stored glucose to provide energy; after that, the body must find an alternate energy source.
The source it uses: molecules known as ketones. They’re produced by the liver when the glucose supply runs low and the body enters a state called ketosis. In order to create ketones, the body must break down stored body fat – and as we all know, burning body fat is one key to weight loss.
In other words, eating a very low-carb diet forces the body to enter ketosis, burn fat, and lose weight. There’s a catch, though; as soon as the body gets enough carbs to make glucose, even if it only happens because the dieter “cheats” for a day, it’s kicked out of ketosis and the process has to start all over again. And getting into ketosis by eating a low-carb diet can take several days or more.
So when you’re on keto, you have to keep a very close eye on the amount of carbohydrates you eat, eliminating most of them from your diet whenever and however possible. Even small amounts of carbs can add up quickly and kick you out of ketosis.
That brings us to coffee.
Coffee and Keto Diets
Deciding what to drink while following a keto diet can be difficult. Soda, juice and beer have lots of carbs and are all on the “bad” list. Sugar-free soda is theoretically OK, but it’s usually discouraged because the unhealthy sweeteners in most diet sodas can cause people to crave other sweets.
By contrast, coffee is a great beverage choice for those who are on keto because it contains zero carbs. That is, unless you take it with sugar and milk.
The worst “keto offender” among all foods is sugar, because sugar is almost 100% carbohydrates. That means using sugar as a sweetener for your coffee is definitely verboten on a ketogenic diet. There are good keto alternatives, notably the natural sweeteners monk fruit, stevia and erythritol, so you’re not “stuck” drinking unsweetened black coffee.
But what about milk?
Milk contains lactose, which is actually considered “milk sugar” and loaded with carbs. If you’re following a very strict keto diet, meaning 20-25 grams of net carbs per day, nearly half-a-day’s allowable carbs are in a single glass of milk. You probably won’t use that much in your coffee, of course. But even if you add milk to your coffee a few times a day, you’re consuming a lot of carbohydrates that would be best allocated somewhere else.
What about cream? Isn’t it supposed to be good for ketogenic dieters? Yes, because of the fat it contains. But two tablespoons of heavy cream can contain as many as two grams of carbs; that’s about one-tenth of the maximum number you can consume each day if you’re on a strict keto diet. So once again, it’s easy for heavy coffee drinkers who add cream to “use up” their daily allowance of carbohydrates.
The bottom line: milk and cream are only acceptable on keto if you use them sparingly. (Heavy whipping cream is the best choice; half-and-half and light cream each contain more carbs than heavy cream.) “Sparingly” may not help the folks who mainline coffee throughout the day, or those who would rather spend their very limited carbohydrate budget somewhere else.
Enter “keto coffee.”
What Is Keto Coffee?
Nutritionists who help their clients navigate the ins-and-outs of the Keto diet often suggest something called “keto coffee” as a fat-laden substitute for their normal morning coffee. It’s sometimes called bulletproof coffee, although the person who came up with the recipe now sells his own line of trademarked products.
Keto coffee is essentially black coffee with several added ingredients that help the body achieve or stay in ketosis.
The first ingredient is MCT oil (usually coconut oil). MCT stands for medium-chain triglycerides; that describes the oil’s unique molecular composition which provides the body with a quick source of additional ketones.
The second addition is either ghee (clarified butter with the water and milk solids removed) or grass-fed butter. Why grass-fed? When cows naturally graze on grass, their milk contains more nutrients and is healthier.
Both options contain high amounts of healthy fats – and a key to the keto diet is replacing carbohydrates with lots and lots of healthy fat. Yes, cream has a lot of fat as well, but ghee and grass-fed butter are better choices. Grass-fed butter contains less than a gram of carbs and ghee is carb-free, while the cream you add to coffee may contain several grams of carbohydrates.
They both help you feel fuller, too, reducing the urge to eat problematic, “normal” breakfast foods. Dietitians caution, though, that replacing breakfast with keto coffee isn’t healthy, and they warn that the beverage isn’t something you should drink all day because it contains a lot of calories. Keto coffee is best consumed alongside other keto-friendly breakfast foods, or saved for a midday energy boost.
What does keto coffee taste like? It’s actually quite good once you get used to it, something like a nuttier-tasting latte but heavier, richer and with a somewhat-oily mouth feel. Is it a good substitute for coffee with added milk, cream or non-dairy creamer? That’s up to your taste buds.
But even if you love it, you can’t drink keto coffee all day long. And that still leaves the baseline problem: what else can you add to your coffee without sabotaging your diet?
Thankfully, there are a number of keto coffee creamers which can come to the rescue.
Keto Coffee “Creamers”
You undoubtedly noticed that we put quotation marks around “creamers.” Here’s why.
The word “creamer” is commonly used to describe a dairy-free product (meaning it doesn’t contain lactose) added to coffee or tea, in place of milk or cream. One of those substitute products that’s been around forever, for example, is Coffee Mate, which is definitely not keto-friendly. It contains a whopping 51.7 carbs, all of which are net carbs because the creamer doesn’t contain any fiber.
But “dairy-free creamer” is a pretty broad term. It’s usually used to describe white stuff like Coffee Mate, but in reality, it can mean almost anything. In fact, some people consider ghee to be a dairy-free creamer, since it doesn’t contain lactose.
So here’s the definition of keto coffee creamers that we’ll be using: they can be used to replace milk or cream in cup of coffee, they’re very-low-carb or zero-carb, and they don’t contain lactose. Ideally, they also taste good.
That opens up some fertile territory. Let’s explore it.
As long as you’re buying unsweetened almond milk, it’s an excellent choice as a keto coffee creamer. It only contains 0.3 carbs per teaspoon, just about as low as you can get without being completely carb-free. It’s high in Vitamin E and potassium, it’s vegan and gluten-free (as are most of these keto coffee creamers), and it’s a good source of calcium despite the fact that it’s not “real” milk. It also has a “mouth feel” that’s almost identical to dairy milk – and it tastes really good, too.
Speaking of tasting good, drinking your coffee with added unsweetened coconut milk may make you feel like you’re on a tropical beach. (Well, a little imagination is required, too.) It has about the same amount of carbs as almond milk and provides the same health benefits, with a rich mouth feel and a delicious nutty taste. It’s also a common ingredient in other types of keto recipes. Coconut cream is another good alternative, but it has a slightly higher carb content.
Commercially-Available Keto Coffee Creamers
Keto Coffee Substitutes
A number of companies sell “made-for-you” products designed for keto dieters who love coffee. They combine some or all of the key ingredients that go into keto coffee, milk substitutes or both. Just a sampling:
- SuperCoffee’s SuperCreamer contains MCT oil, monk fruit sweetener and added protein, has no added sugars and just trace levels of carbs per teaspoon. It’s sold in eight flavors like sweet cream, French vanilla and hazelnut.
- Omega PowerCreamer contains ghee, MCT coconut oil, stevia sweetener and virtually no carbs. It comes in four flavors including cinnamon and salted caramel.
- Califia Farms and Nutpods each offer unsweetened, zero-carb coffee creamers with a base of almond milk and coconut cream.
No, this isn’t as weird as it sounds. The stated purpose of this product is to add collagen to the diet; collagen is a protein that provides the foundation of the body’s skin and bones, and some research studies report that collagen supplements can improve the skin’s elasticity, help heal wounds and fight the effects of aging.
What does that have to do with coffee or keto diets? This supplement (available on Amazon) is designed to be added to beverages, and coffee is certainly a beverage. And a teaspoon of collagen creamer contains less than one gram of carbs, so it’s certainly keto-friendly.
Just as importantly, collagen creamer doesn’t taste like milk but it’s a tasty addition to coffee, particularly the coconut and mocha flavors. The vanilla flavor is mild and won’t impact coffee’s flavor very much, although its apparent health benefits are still a good reason to try it.
What About Coffee Shops?
You can always order a black coffee or espresso when you’re out and about and on keto. Sadly, however, Starbucks and the other major coffee chains don’t offer “real” keto creamer options, just sugar-free syrups that aren’t completely zero-carb.
You can craft your own specialty coffees that aren’t too bad on keto, though. Order an Americano with heavy cream, and then have your barista add a “pump” or two of sugar-free hazelnut or caramel syrup. Just figure about five carbohydrates total for the cream and the flavorings – and remember to account for your splurge when you’re tracking your daily carb consumption for keto. Pro tip: always carry packets of pure stevia extract with you, since most shops don’t offer them.
Easy Keto Coffee Creamer Recipe
Can you make keto coffee creamer in your kitchen? Of course. Just be aware that most keto creamer recipes use either whipping cream or half-and-half as a base, so they’ll contain more carbs than a substitute for dairy milk like almond or coconut milk.
A recipe like the one we have here, courtesy of Carb Manager, will add one carb per serving to your daily keto allotment, and takes a little longer to prepare than just pouring cream right into your coffee. On the other hand, it’s quick and easy to make – and you may find that it tastes better than nut milk.
½ cup of heavy cream
¼ cup Swerve confectioners sweetener
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsalted grass-fed butter
1 tablespoon coconut oil, a pinch of salt
That’s all there is to it. Two tablespoons only contains one carb, the texture is perfect for adding to coffee, and it can be stored in the refrigerator for several weeks. Want a little variety? Get creative, and add flavorings like cinnamon, pumpkin spice or cocoa powder.
Who needs Starbucks when you can make delicious and healthy keto coffee at home, complete with creamer, in a few minutes?