Can You Eat Cheese on the Keto Diet?

The ketogenic diet — or keto — is the weight loss trend everyone’s talking about (again). Though there are plenty of good foods that are allowed on the diet — and many healthy foods that aren’t — it’s sometimes difficult to figure out what’s really going to help you lose weight and what probably won’t.

Take cheese, for example. Everyone pretty much says it’s low-carb and that you can eat as much of it as you want. Are they right?

Is everyone’s favorite wish-it-were-a food group (be honest) actually keto-friendly? Are some cheeses better than others? Here’s how dairy and the keto diet might work together to help you get the results you’re hoping for — and what that might look like on your own personal menu.

Does dairy make you lose weight?

Cheese

Cheese | fotek/Getty Images

It’s often thought that dairy is “fattening” and therefore it should be off-limits. However, dairy can be part of a healthy diet if your body can tolerate it. In fact, a reasonable amount might actually help you lose weight and/or maintain a healthy weight.

Some research suggests dairy products can serve as a beneficial part of weight maintenance. Researchers are careful to point out, however, that eating MORE dairy doesn’t necessarily mean its possible health benefits will multiply. In fact, it could have the opposite effect.

You pretty much have to treat cheese, yogurt, and other dairy products like you should any food on any weight loss diet: more is not necessarily better.

Dairy can be a part of your diet if you are trying to lose weight. You just have to make sure you are choosing the products that are good for you, and avoid falling into the “it has dairy in it so it must be good for me” trap. Yes, ice cream has dairy in it. No, that doesn’t make it healthy. Sorry!

Is cheese okay to eat on keto?

The good news is, cheese is totally fine to eat on the keto diet. Unlike most breads, for example, it’s an ideal ratio of carbs and protein — an excellent low-carb addition to many meals and snacks that’s much better for you than, in many instances, a bowl of white pasta.

However, it’s important to be cautious when you learn something is good for you. Extremes, when it comes to food and dieting, almost never end well. Cheese is fine. Cheese for every meal probably isn’t.

What I don’t see enough of people talking about when discussing keto is calories. If you’re doing keto to lose weight, it’s very possible to get caught up in all the rules about carbs and fat and learning how to check your ketones and forget that weight loss still requires some kind of calorie deficit.

In other words, cheese still has calories, and too much cheese (too many calories) — in most cases — isn’t going to help you lose weight regardless of whether or not you’re in ketosis.

I’m not saying you have to count calories. But paying attention to the quality of your calories (the foods you are eating) can make a huge difference in your weight loss efforts. Cheese is not bad — as long as you’re balancing out your cheese consumption with plenty of other foods.

How to eat dairy on the keto diet

mac and cheese

Mac and cheese | IgorDutina/iStock/Getty Images

What you obviously want to avoid are the high-fat dairy products that are also high in added sugars — or the ones that just aren’t worth the calories in the long-term.

Make sure you’re careful about consuming:

  • Ice cream and other dairy-based desserts
  • American “cheese” (check the sodium content!)
  • Milk and milk-based products such as half-and-half

If you’re going to have yogurt, try to consume small amounts of plain Greek yogurt, which has more protein than regular yogurt and typically less sugar than flavored varieties. Mozarella and cheddar cheeses are among the best cheese varieties for people following keto.

But most importantly, always keep in mind that even though cheese is low-carb, that doesn’t mean you can or should eat massive quantities of it (more than you normally would) or swap every grain-based product for something made with cheese.

On the keto diet, fat is your friend. But make sure you’re getting your daily fat from a balance of quality proteins, not just cheese. Cheese is not a food group. We all wish it were. It’s not.