Guide to Going Dairy Free on a Ketogenic Diet

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Guide to Going Dairy Free on a Ketogenic Diet – Heavy cream, soft cheese, sour cream, half-and-half…we rely on dairy for fat content, texture, and flavor. But, believe it or not, following a ketogenic diet while going dairy-free is possible!

Guide to Going Dairy Free on a Ketogenic Diet

These days more than ever, there are a number of dairy substitutes and dairy-free recipes suitable for whatever diet you’re on. Lactose intolerance and allergies are widely prevalent. In fact, 65 percent of the human population has a reduced ability to digest lactose after infancy.

Some people have never been tested or diagnosed, but self-diagnosing is easy: Mix lactose powder with water, drink it, and wait to see if you experience any digestive issues. We suggest trying 25 grams of lactose first thing in the morning or 3 hours after your last meal. Problematic symptoms include abdominal cramps, bloating, diarrhea, stomach or intestinal pain, gassiness and indigestion.


If, after the test, you experience minor symptoms, you’ll likely be able to handle the lactose included in a balanced keto diet. However, if your reaction is more severe, you may want to explore options, such as limiting your dairy intake, taking a lactase enzyme supplement before dairy-heavy meals, or eliminating all forms of dairy from your diet.

If your body struggles with low-lactose dairy products, like butter or cheddar cheese, then you may have an actual dairy allergy or dairy protein intolerance, not just lactose intolerance. Dairy allergies elicit intense immune responses, like severely blocked sinuses, itchy skin, hives or rashes, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, an elevated heart rate, and/or difficulty breathing.

Dairy protein intolerances can have more subtle symptoms, and the symptoms often take longer to appear. If you are seriously considering removing dairy from your diet for any reason, you may want to try a 30-day dairy elimination diet. After that period of time, you can begin reintroducing specific kinds of dairy to see what the effects are.

See Also: Top 10 Foods for the Ketogenic Diet

First, try introducing casein-rich, low-lactose and whey foods back into your diet, like cheddar, Parmesan and Swiss cheeses, as well as casein protein powder. After a day of eating these foods, ask yourself: Do you feel better, worse, or the same? For two to three days after reintroducing those products, eliminate dairy again, then try other dairy products, like butter and heavy cream.

Both of these contain casein and whey, which makes them a good test of your body’s reaction to whey protein. Do you feel better, worse, or the same? Eliminate dairy for another few days, and test your lactose tolerance to common keto foods: Try cooking some keto recipes that call for half-and-half, heavy cream, sour cream, whole milk and/or cream cheese.

Gauge how you feel after the meal. If you feel worse after eating any of the dairy products, remove them from your diet again and see how you feel. Remember, butter and natural, aged, low-lactose cheeses, like cheddar, Parmesan, and Swiss might be easier on your body than higher-lactose items, like heavy cream, half-and-half and sour cream. It may take some time and experimenting to find out what works best for you.

If you do decide to eliminate all dairy, there will be lots of things besides milk, cream and cheese you’ll need to avoid. Common keto dairy items, like Greek yogurt, cottage cheese and other soft cheeses will no longer be on your plate. Then, there’s the fact that milk-derived products show up in all sorts of unexpected places, like the casings of hot dogs, sausages and lunch meat and in protein powders, and lactic acid starter culture which might be in pickles or other fermented products, and chocolate, too.

Even some “non-dairy” products may contain casein. Don’t worry! There are still so many things that you can eat on a non-dairy keto diet. Animal fats, like lard, tallow and duck fats, as well as plant-based oils, like coconut oil, MCT oil and olive oil, can take the place of butter.

Organic, pasture-raised red meat, poultry and seafood and low-carb, above-ground vegetables and leafy greens will be the foundations of most of your meals.

Low-carb fruits, eaten sparingly, as well as nuts and seeds, in moderation, can provide flavor and texture to plenty of dishes. There are many dairy alternatives out there, as well as easy swaps. For instance, whole milk can be swapped out for coconut milk, and coconut cream, silken tofu, or a combo of olive oil and almond milk can be a replacement for heavy cream.

In place of sour cream, try coconut yogurt, silken tofu, or cashew sour cream – you can even make your own! Instead of dairy cheese, try vegan cheese, cashew cheese or vegan spreadable cheese.

Instead of whey or casein protein powders, try beef, egg white, or pea protein powders. For more info, recipe suggestions, and a one-week sample meal plan for a dairy-free keto diet, read through the article, “Guide to Going Dairy Free on a Ketogenic Diet” on also has so many recipes that are dairy-free, or nearly dairy-free – adapting them may be as simple as replacing butter with coconut oil.

Explore our extensive Keto Recipes page, and keep in mind that even some of the recipes with dairy products are still available if you’re creative with substitutions! No matter what other dietary restrictions you may have, there is a way to make a keto diet work for you!

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