There are few things in this world I love more than coffee. If you gave me the choice between giving up coffee and seeing my brothers for the rest of my life... I would probably give them a hug and say adios.
Here's another weakness of mine: putting half and half in my coffee. It's so good, right? So what happens when you decide to hop on the keto train? Can you still enjoy that perfect, flavor-brightening, swirling magical goodness?
Can you have half and half on keto?
Yes? And no? I know. This isn't the succinct answer you were hoping for, but here's the deal: half and half does have some carbs, and any food or drink with some level of carbohydrates can technically put you over your carb limit.
Now, if you make room for half and half in your daily carb intake, then you can absolutely have it! If you're running a 50g of carbs per day keto program and are at 49g for the day? Then no, absolutely not. Are you in an after-work slump and sitting at 10g of carbs in your day so far? Then go for it!
According to SELFNutritionData, generic half and half creamers have 0.6g of carbs per tablespoon. You may have to cut back on how much creamer you put in, but a little splash won't affect your count too much.
What is half and half, anyway?
In a world of clever names, half and half is rock bottom. Half and half simply means half cream, half milk. So what's the difference between milk and cream?
Milk is the liquid we get from the cows'... well, you know. When dairy farmers extract milk, something interesting happens. Because of differences in density, what we call cream naturally rises to the top. Cream is just the milkfat that is naturally found in milk. If you've ever bought milk from a local farmer and wondered when you opened the cap why there was a line of cream at the top, now you know!
The differences in milk types like 2%, whole, skim, etc. refer to how much of that fat the dairy farmer chooses to homogenize. Homogenization is just a fancy way of saying how well and how much do farmers distribute those fat particles throughout the milk. Take all the milkfat out? That's skim. Use 3.5-4%? That's whole milk. 2%? Well, you can probably guess[*].
So is milk better than half and half on keto?
No, actually not. Keto is all about prioritizing fats and reducing carbs, and since cream is the fat that rises to the top during the milking process, cream has a higher fat, lower-carb ratio and is preferable to milk for keto. Compared to cream, milk has higher amounts of lactose, which is the natural sugar found in milk. When you up the lactose, you up your carb count, so any addition of milk will increase the concentration of carbs.
What are the nutritional benefits of drinking half and half?
Half and half is generally rich in calories and saturated fats and low in sugars and carbs. One tablespoon has 2g of fat (one of which is saturated) and contains 0.6g of carbs.
Half and half is also high in calcium and Vitamin A, which isn't a surprise since we associate those nutrients with milk[*]. Calcium helps build and maintain your bones, and Vitamin A is important for vision, the immune system, and reproduction[*].
How many carbs are in half and half?
There are 0.6 carbs per tablespoon. While this isn't a lot, it can still put you over your limit if you're not careful. Fast-food chains in particular put lots of half and half (and sometimes sugar) in their coffee, so your best bet is to order black and add your own or opt for homemade coffee all the time.
Can half and half break intermittent fasting?
Yes. Fasting is a restriction of all calories, and because half and half has calories, it would break your fast. If you want to be strict on your fast, then you'll have to avoid adding this to your coffee in the morning. Coffee does have a small number of calories (estimates range between 2 and 12 calories for a cup of black coffee), but most people allow coffee as part of a fast since it’s a negligible amount.
Best keto-friendly half and half alternatives
If you're running a super strict keto diet or just prefer to lower your carbs as much as possible, there are more keto-friendly options to put in your coffee than half and half.
Here are a few of our favorites:
As we mentioned earlier, the heavier the cream, the lower the carb count because you're replacing more of the lactose (the source of milk's carbs) and replacing it with more milkfat! People criticize heavy cream due to its difference in flavor and higher calories, but a dash of this may be just what you're looking for. You could also whip up a batch of homemade whip cream using only heavy cream and put a dollop of that on top of your coffee each morning.
Coconut milk is a fine substitute, with 0.5g of net carbs per serving and a slew of healthy fats[*]. Coconut will drastically change the flavor of your coffee, though, so be prepared!
Almond milk or other plant-based milks are fair game — just opt for additive and sugar-free options. As with anything, put on your label microscopes and keep a sharp eye on the net carbs.
Bulletproof coffee is widely popular in the keto world and is a blended combination of coffee, butter (or ghee), and MCT oil. You can make this homemade or use bulletproof coffee mixes!
Butter or ghee
If you don't care for the MCT oil or are looking for a more cost-effective alternative, then simply blending in some butter or ghee may get you the fat and flavor mix you're craving. People usually blend the butter in instead of just dropping it in to avoid having the fat droplets rise to the top, and ghee is just clarified butter, which is when you heat butter and separate out the butterfats from everything else. Ghee is pretty much pure butterfat!
Store-bought keto alternative creamers
If you'd rather just buy some keto creamer options from a store, then here are a few good ones for you to pick up!
PICNIK Coffee Creamer
PICNIK offers a slick combination of grass-fed butter, MCT oil, and grass-fed whey protein. People love the taste of this keto creamer!
0g net carbs per serving
Terrasoul Coconut Milk Powder
If you want a simpler option that is exclusively coconut, then this is a good one for you. It's just a powder, so you can blend or drop it right into your coffee.
0.6g net carbs per serving
Left Coast Performance Keto Coffee Creamer
This keto coffee creamer is super popular, but you have to blend it due to the MCT oil. It's zero-carb and makes keto mornings a breeze.
0g net carbs per serving
Califia Farms Coconut Cream & Almond Milk Creamer
If you want to skip the MCT oil but still prefer a liquid creamer, then this is a good option for you. Califia has a few different flavors and relies on blends of alternative milks to come up with interesting flavors and textures. They're definitely worth a shot.
0g net carbs per serving
Garden of Life MCT Oil
This is just MCT oil, so you'll need to blend it. If you don't like adding in butter or want to add a little MCT oil to another creamer you already have, then this should work.
0g net carbs per serving
Bonus tips to keep in mind
Tip #1: Coffee creamer may not be what you think!
Coffee creamer is actually a bit of a misnomer — many major "coffee creamer" products are actually dairy-free and made with water, oil, and sugar!
That's why those little CoffeeMate creamer cups last so long. They don't actually have any cream at all in them.
Tip #2: Be wary of "zero-carb" labels!
Similarly to how some pickles have "0 calories", if an item has a very small amount of carbs (usually less than 1g per serving), companies don't always have to list their carb amounts. This lets them say an item is "zero-carb" without saying that there are actually small amounts of carbs present.
Point being, if you're close to your limit, don't have blind faith in zero-carb labels!
The bottom line on using half in half on keto
Half and half does have carbs, but plain half and half without additives only has 0.6g carbs per tablespoon. You can definitely have your half and half on keto, but make sure you calculate the carbs into your daily carb intake.
And if you've been trying to reduce your half and half addiction, then cutting down on the amount while you're on keto is a great way to start.