The Keto diet has become popular in mainstream media in recent years due to the support its getting from athletes, doctors and celebrities. If you’re thinking about beginning the Keto diet it’s a fabulous way to improve your health, lose weight and get rid of brain fog.
However, if you’re lactose intolerant or vegan you might have some questions regarding the Keto diet and abstaining from dairy products. After all, Keto is portrayed in the media by smiling celebrities smothering their favorite dishes in layer upon layer of gooey cheese. So can you do the Keto diet while forgoing the cheese?
The simple answer is, yes, Keto still works for anyone who doesn’t want to eat dairy and the following article will explain how to best go about a dairy free Keto diet.
Overview of the Keto diet
So what exactly is Keto? The media portrays it as a cheesy meaty diet that’s loaded with bacon; however, although these things are all a delicious part of Keto, it’s not the complete picture. The Keto diet wasn’t designed to allow people to indulge in salty meats. It actually had a much healthier beginning. Although it may not have been referred to as Keto, this diet was created by doctors that were trying to help diabetics regulate their blood sugar levels.
The reasoning behind this is simple. When you eat a diet that’s rich in carbohydrates your body produces the majority of its energy from the glucose that’s created from the carbs as they’re broken down. Carbs are loaded with energy and anyone that’s ever eaten a bowl of pasta knows that there’s a sharp spike in energy levels shortly after eating. However, you’ve probably also experienced the sudden drop in energy that comes a few hours after your high-carbohydrate meal. This is because although carbs are a quick form of energy, they don’t last long and this causes your body to crash until it can get its next carb rich meal. This also means that your body sends hunger signals out frequently in order to avoid the sugar crashes that come with carbs.
The Keto diet, on the other hand, uses a form of energy known as ketones in place of glucose. When you’re eating a carb rich diet your body stores away excess glucose for a rainy day as body fat. However, because glucose levels are always being replenished, the body fat is never turned into energy. The Keto diet changes this by restricting the amount of carbs you eat to 20-25g of net carbs daily. When this happens your body doesn’t have enough glucose to power its systems and it has to turn to its backup fuel. Ketones are this backup fuel and they’re created in the liver out of stored fat cells.
As your body burns its stored fat you begin to see a stabilization in your energy levels. Fat is almost always available for fuel and it’s slower to burn than carbs so it lasts longer. Keto eliminates the sugar highs and lows that come with carbohydrates and replaces it with more energy, a better sleep and improved mental clarity. An added bonus is that you’ll probably lose weight and that you can do it while eating bacon.
Is diary usually allowed on the Keto diet?
If the Keto diet is low in carbs and high in fat, where does dairy come in? Dairy can be a part of a healthy Keto diet if it’s properly sourced from free-range cows without any added antibiotics or preservatives. It’s low in carbohydrates while being high in healthy fats and essential nutrients. The average cup of full fat milk contains 12g of net carbs and one ounce of cheddar cheese contains only 1g of carbs.
The calcium that’s in dairy can be hard to find in other food sources. Dairy is also a great source of vitamins A, D and B12 as well as phosphorus, potassium, zinc, magnesium and selenium. With a moderate dose of protein in each serving of dairy it can fit into a Keto meal plan quite well.
Why would you want to avoid dairy on the Keto diet?
Just because dairy can fit in well with a Keto diet doesn’t mean that it should. There are numerous reasons why you might want to avoid dairy while on the Keto diet.
For starters, if you’re lactose intolerant you’re going to have to avoid dairy no matter what diet you’re on. There are a lot of people who have food intolerances and don’t even realize it. Have you ever eaten a scoop of ice cream or sipped on a cup of milk and you feel bloated, nauseous and gassy or you get bad heartburn or stomach cramps a little while after you’re finished? If so, it’s possible that your body has an intolerance to the lactose that’s found in dairy. Since it’s the lactose that contains the carbs that are in dairy this is double the reason to avoid dairy on the Keto diet.
You might also need to avoid dairy if you’re on the Keto diet if you’re also a Vegan. Being vegan means that you can’t consume animal by-products in any form from meat to eggs to dairy to leather. Contrary to what you might think, it is possible to be a vegan on the Keto diet.
Preventing digestive issues is another reason that people might avoid dairy products. Even if you don’t have a full fledged intolerance to lactose, there’s a good chance that your digestive system would work better without it because humans weren’t designed to digest lactose and dairy products after they’ve been weaned off their mother’s milk. Ice cream, cheese and yogurt have all caused adult humans to eat a food group that our ancestors stopped eating after a year or two and our modern day genetics haven’t evolved.
Dairy can also cause skin problems. Although scientists aren’t sure exactly why dairy causes acne, they know that it’s not a coincidence that so many people find that their acne disappears after they commit to a diary free diet. If you’re struggling with acne try going without dairy and you might be surprised at how your previously stubborn pimples vanish.
What can you eat if you’re avoiding dairy?
If you decide that you want to give dairy free Keto a try you don’t have to be worried that you’re cutting out a major Keto food group. Although dairy can work with Keto, it doesn’t have to. The main components of Keto are healthy fats, whole foods, meat and non-starchy vegetables. Dairy is an added bonus, but it’s not necessary.
If you’re looking to go dairy free there are still plenty of foods that you can eat. For starters, every meat that you can think of is low in carbs, Keto friendly and dairy free. You should try to include a lot of fish such as salmon for the omega-3’s and healthy fats that they contain.
Low-starch vegetables are also an essential part of Keto. A low-starch vegetable is basically one that grows above ground. Potatoes, carrots, beets and parsnips tend to have a higher sugar and carb count than their above ground counterparts. Leafy greens such as spinach and kale are chock full of nutrients and vitamins while being low on carbs. Peppers, tomatoes, beans and peas are all great sources of nutrients while being low in carbs.
Nuts and seeds are a vital part of the Keto diet for the healthy fats that they contribute to your diet. Pretty much every nut or seed that you can think of is low in carbs and a great addition to your Keto meal plan. Fats such as extra-virgin olive oil and avocado oil are also important to add into your Keto diet.
So picture a sample Keto meal. You have a generous serving of steak that you’ve smothered in a mushroom gravy. On the side you have a salad that’s chock full of leafy greens, tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers with chia seeds and pecan halves mixed throughout and a homemade lemon oil vinaigrette as a dressing. This would make a delicious, nutritionally complete meal that is 100% Keto friendly and 100% dairy free.
What can you substitute for dairy products in Keto baking and meals?
If you’re doing Keto baking, it’s definitely possible to stay dairy free. The following is a list of common dairy products that are used in baking recipes and some suggested Keto friendly substitutions.
- Instead of using cow’s milk when you’re baking try using a soy or nut milk. Almond, coconut, soy and pistachio milks are all commonly found, Keto friendly and easy to substitute into recipes
- If your recipe calls for Greek yogurt try using coconut yogurt or a nut yogurt. There are recipes that help you make coconut yogurt from the comfort of your own home.
- Most baking calls for butter; however, if you’re going dairy free you can use ghee as a substitute. Ghee is clarified butter that’s had the milk solids removed and so it tastes like butter but it’s actually dairy free. You could also try using coconut oil.
- You can use a vegan substitute for cheese in your Keto recipes. Both nut cheeses and nutritional yeast give you the rich flavor of cheese without the dairy. Nut butters are easy to make yourself with a handful of nuts such as cashews and a blender or you can buy them in most grocery stores as well.
Going dairy free while still enjoying the benefits of Keto is easy to do. A few simple swaps will have you reaping the extra health benefits that can come along from a dairy free diet.