A ketogenic, or keto, diet is a very low carb, high fat eating pattern. It forces your body to use fat instead of glucose for fuel.
The ketogenic diet was originally used as a way to reduce seizure activity in people with epilepsy (
However, research suggests that it may also offer other health benefits, such as weight loss, reduced insulin resistance, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels, and even improvements in neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s (
Meal planning on this diet can be challenging, as you must choose foods that are healthy, provide variety, and fit into your daily intake goals for fat, protein, and carbs.
Many dairy foods are off-limits because they’re too high in carbs. Therefore, you may wonder about cottage cheese.
This article reviews whether cottage cheese is a keto-friendly dairy option and how you may include it in your diet.
A keto diet forces your body to burn ketones — a byproduct of fat — instead of glucose for fuel.
To maximize the effects of the diet, you must continue to produce ketones, a characteristic of the metabolic state of ketosis. As such, you have to eat mostly fat, a moderate amount of protein, and very few carb-containing foods.
Eating too many carbs can quickly kick you out of ketosis. In addition, high amounts of protein may bring you out of ketosis, as your body can convert protein into glucose (
The standard keto diet typically comprises about 80% of calories from fat, 15% from protein, and 5% from carbs (
Thus, if your goal is 2,000 calories per day, you should aim for about 178 grams of fat, 75 grams of protein, and only 25 grams of carbs each day to get into ketosis.
However, if you have been in ketosis for a while, you may be able to increase your carbs a bit and still produce ketones. The key is finding your carb limit.
In a study in 50 women following a low carb keto diet for weight loss, most participants were able to increase their carb intake from 20 grams to 40–60 grams per day after 2 weeks and still produce ketones (
Regardless, a keto diet is still very low in carbs, so it’s important to plan your meals and snacks around foods that are high in fat but contain no or very low carbs. Foods that are likely too high in carbs include:
- all fruits, except a small portion of berries
- starchy and root vegetables like white or sweet potatoes, carrots, and parsnips
- legumes, such as dried beans, peas, and lentils
- grains like oats, wheat, quinoa, farro, and rice
- milk and yogurt
- low fat foods and desserts
No or very low carb dairy foods that are often recommended for a keto diet include full fat, unprocessed cheeses and heavy cream.
To stay in ketosis, it’s important to eat mostly fat, a moderate amount of protein, and limit your carbs to about 20–60 grams per day. Dairy foods like milk and yogurt are usually too high in carbs, but full fat cheese is allowed.
When following a ketogenic diet, dairy foods like cheese can provide needed fat, along with high quality protein, calcium, and variety, so it’s nice to have them as an option.
However, the carb and fat contents of cheese can vary, especially among cottage cheese varieties. If you want to add cottage cheese to your keto diet, it’s important to check its nutrition label.
Reduced fat or nonfat cottage cheeses not only have less fat but also potentially more carbs than whole milk cottage cheese.
That’s because some reduced fat products contain fruit, and many contain gum-based thickeners, which are used to give low fat dairy foods a similar texture and thickness as full fat products. However, they also increase the carb content.
|Type of cottage cheese
|4% Full fat
|2% Reduced fat
|1% Reduced fat
|Low fat with pineapple and cherry
|Low fat with garden vegetable
All cottage cheese is a good source of protein, but since it’s not excessively high in this nutrient, it should fit into your daily protein allowance if you’re on a keto diet.
However, if your daily carb limit is very low, a serving of cottage cheese may take a bite out of it if it’s nonfat or contains fruit.
If you want to add cottage cheese to a keto diet, it’s important to check its nutrition label and compare brands. Those that are plain and 4% fat will generally be highest in fat and lowest in carbs.
The best type of cottage cheese for a keto diet is full fat and free of thickeners and stabilizers like guar gum or xanthan gum. It should provide only about 3 grams of carbs in a 1/2-cup (100-gram) serving.
For a nutritious snack, stir in some chopped fresh herbs, and serve it with low carb vegetables like celery, cucumber strips, or broccoli florets.
To make a tasty low carb vegetable dip, blend your cottage cheese with a whole, roasted red pepper, 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder, and a generous pinch of dried basil.
If you want to bump up the fat content without affecting the carbs, stir in some olive oil or a few tablespoons of chopped olives.
Plain, full fat cottage cheese can be paired with low carb vegetables for a keto-friendly snack. You can also use it to make a tasty, low carb dip base.
Cottage cheese can be a keto-friendly protein option, but ideally, you should choose full fat, plain cottage cheese.
For a healthy, low carb snack, combine it with vegetables or use it as a dip base.
Given that cottage cheese contains some carbs, you may want to limit your portion size, depending on your daily carb goals.