It's low in carbs but high in protein, so is cottage cheese really keto-friendly?

By Rachael Schultz
July 18, 2019
Cottage Cheese
Credit: Sea Wave/Shutterstock

Being on a ketogenic diet means you essentially learn the nutritional profile of every food to keep your body in ketosis. One of the biggest wild cards: dairy. Milk and yogurt often have a surprising amount of carbs, but cottage cheese is a hot topic of keto debate.

As a refresher, the ketogenic diet is high in fat (roughly 75 percent of your calories), low in carbs (just 5 percent), and moderate in protein (20 percent), as to keep your body in the fat-burning, ketone-producing stage of ketosis. (Related: The Keto Meal Plan for Beginners)

Cottage cheese is a staple in the low-carb Atkins Diet. But full-fat cottage cheese doesn't *precisely* fit the keto mold: It's high in protein, moderate in fat, and low in carbs.

But cottage cheese won't knock you out of ketosis. And the nutrition profile—one cup has 25 grams of protein and 10 grams of fat—is more than enough to keep you in a ketone-producing state, says nutritionist Vanessa Rissetto, R.D.

What's more, it's an overall healthy food choice. "Cottage cheese is good for the gut, it's filling and it provides protein and fat to keep you full," she explains. "One cup also has 187 mg of calcium, which is important for women and bone health." (Related: The Benefits of Milk Outweigh the Potential Downsides of Dairy)

Plus, it's a great vehicle to add to other foods to boost their fat content, says New York-based nutritionist Amy Shapiro, R.D. "You can stir in nut butter, blend cottage cheese into smoothies, use it to make 'pancakes,' stir in coconut milk or oil—the higher-fat combinations are abundant," she says.

Historically low-fat cottage cheese has been popular, but both nutritionists recommend reaching for the full-fat variety. "The flavor tastes better and a little goes a long way," Shapiro adds. She likes the Good Culture brand since it has probiotics in it. (Related: Skim Milk Officially Sucks for More Reasons Than One)

If you're eating it plain or with a low-cal topping, use about 3/4 cup, but if you're adding it to a meal like Shapiro suggested earlier, she says to reduce the portion to half a cup.

And if cottage cheese just isn't your thing, you can use coconut oil, coconut cream, or full-fat Greek yogurt in pretty much all the same ways to get a creamy texture and healthy dose of fat, Shapiro adds.