Coffee is a beloved beverage for many people following a low carb or keto diet. While plain black coffee is naturally low in carbs, many coffee drinks and additions contain carbohydrates. The good news is that there are many delicious low carb coffee options to enjoy while on a low carb diet.
Here are quick answers to common questions about drinking coffee on a low carb diet:
- Plain black coffee has minimal carbs and is generally allowed on low carb diets.
- Coffee drinks with added sugar, flavored syrups, and high carb dairy products can contain significant carbs.
- The best low carb coffee additions include heavy cream, coconut milk, unsweetened nut milk, and sugar-free flavorings.
- Cold brew coffee and products like bulletproof coffee are low carb options.
- Cappuccinos and lattes made with low carb milk and without added sweeteners can fit into a low carb diet.
Counting Carbs in Different Types of Coffee Drinks
When following a low carb diet, it’s important to be aware of the carb content of different coffee drinks to make the best choices.
Plain black coffee is the ultimate low carb coffee drink. An 8 oz (240 ml) cup of black coffee contains less than 1 gram of carbs, so it can be enjoyed freely on both keto and low carb diets.
Coffee with Cream and Sugar
Adding heavy cream, half and half, or milk to coffee leads to some increase in carbs. An 8 oz coffee with 2 tbsp of heavy cream has just under 1 gram of carbs. Using 2 tbsp of half and half adds around 1.5 grams of carbs. Full fat milk has around 5 grams of carbs per 1/4 cup serving. Sugar also significantly increases the carb count. Just 1 tsp of granulated sugar contains 4 grams of carbohydrates.
Sweetened Coffee Drinks
Popular sweetened coffee drinks like flavored lattes, frappuccinos, and mochas can contain high amounts of carbs. For example, a 16 oz Starbucks Salted Caramel Mocha Frappuccino has 63 grams of net carbs. Even drinks advertised as “skinny” or “sugar-free” often have added sugars or sweeteners that can affect blood sugar. It’s best to avoid these drinks or ask for them to be made sugar-free.
Coffee Shop Lattes and Cappuccinos
Coffee shop lattes and cappuccinos can range widely in carb content. An 8 oz cafe latte made with 2% milk contains around 9 grams of carbs. Choosing non-fat or low carb milk and avoiding added syrups or sweeteners reduces the carbs. For example, an 8 oz latte made with almond milk has just 4 grams of net carbs. Asking for heavy cream instead of milk is another low carb option.
Instant and Ready-to-Drink Coffee
Instant coffee and ready-to-drink bottles and cans of iced coffee generally contain minimal carbs. However, many flavored instant coffee products and ready-to-drink coffees have added sugars. Check labels carefully and stick to unsweetened options to keep carbs low.
Cold Brew Coffee
Plain cold brew coffee is an excellent low carb choice, with less than 1 gram of carbs per serving. However, many pre-bottled cold brew coffees have sweeteners and flavors added. To keep carbs minimal, choose unsweetened varieties or make homemade cold brew.
Best Low Carb Coffee Additions
To add flavor to black coffee without boosting carbs, use these delicious keto-friendly additions:
- Heavy cream – 1-2 tbsp adds richness without significant carbs
- Coconut milk – Use the thicker, canned type to add creamy texture
- Nut milk – Unsweetened almond, coconut or cashew milk contain about 1 gram of carbs per 1/4 cup
- Sugar-free flavor syrups – Try flavored options from brands like Torani, Monin or DaVinci
- Cinnamon – A sprinkle adds warmth and spice
- Cocoa powder – For chocolatey flavor, add 1-2 tsp
- Vanilla extract – A few drops enhances coffee’s roasted notes
Avoid using sweeteners like sugar, honey, agave, maple syrup or sweetened creamers, as these significantly increase the carb content.
Delicious Low Carb Coffee Drinks to Enjoy
You have plenty of options to get your caffeine fix while following a keto or low carb diet. Try these tasty coffee drinks:
Butter or ghee blended into coffee provide creamy richness and healthy fats. Add 1-2 tbsp to a cup of hot coffee along with MCT oil or coconut oil.
Brew coffee hot but let it chill on ice for refreshing iced coffee. Include low carb additions like a splash of heavy cream or sugar-free flavor syrup.
Low Carb Latte
Order a latte made with heavy cream or unsweetened almond milk instead of regular milk and skip the sweetened flavor shots.
Combine coffee, unsweetened cocoa powder and your choice of low carb milk. Avoid the sugary chocolate sauces and whipped cream toppings.
This trendy drink is made by whipping instant coffee with hot water until frothy. Top with unsweetened nut milk and cinnamon for a low carb treat.
Potential Benefits of Coffee on a Low Carb Diet
Drinking coffee may provide additional perks for those following low carb or keto diets. Here are some of the potential benefits:
- Increased fat burning – The caffeine in coffee may help boost metabolism and promote fat burning, which is the goal of ketosis.
- Reduced hunger – Coffee may help suppress appetite, which can assist with carb and calorie restriction.
- Lowered risk of type 2 diabetes – Some research shows coffee drinkers have a significantly lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- Improved physical performance – Caffeine helps some athletes and gym-goers feel like they can exercise harder and longer.
- Enhanced mental focus – The caffeine in coffee acts as a stimulant that can improve alertness, focus and concentration.
However, individuals vary widely in how their bodies process and respond to caffeine. Some experience negative side effects. As with any part of a low carb diet, pay attention to how coffee makes you feel.
Potential Concerns and Considerations
Here are a few important points to keep in mind about caffeine and coffee consumption when following a low carb diet:
- Caffeine may interact with some medications or supplements. Check with your doctor about any possible interactions.
- Too much caffeine can cause side effects like jitters, anxiety, insomnia and stomach upset in some people.
- To minimize acidity, avoid drinking coffee on an empty stomach.
- Switching to decaf allows enjoyment of coffee flavor without caffeine side effects.
- Consider reducing coffee intake if experiencing low blood pressure, which caffeinated coffee could worsen.
- Caffeine dependency can develop over time, leading to withdrawal headaches if stopping suddenly.
- Pregnant women may wish to limit coffee intake to 200mg caffeine per day maximum.
Pay attention to your personal reactions when determining the right amount of coffee to drink on a low carb diet. Most people do well with 1-2 moderate servings per day.
Tips for Low Carb Coffee Drinking
Follow these tips to choose the healthiest options when drinking coffee on a keto or low carb eating plan:
- Opt for black coffee or add calorie-free flavorings like cinnamon.
- Flavor coffee with healthy fats like coconut oil, heavy cream or butter.
- Avoid using sweeteners like sugar, honey or flavored creamers.
- Make lattes and cappuccinos with unsweetened nut milks.
- Ask for sugar-free versions of flavored coffee drinks.
- Brew refreshing cold brew or iced coffee at home.
- Limit coffee shop drinks to an occasional treat, not an everyday habit.
- Mix up caffeinated and decaf coffees.
- Drink coffee alongside food rather than on an empty stomach.
- Stay hydrated by sipping water between coffees.
Sample Low Carb Coffee Recipes
Here are a few tasty low carb coffee recipes to try:
Vanilla Iced Coffee
- 1 cup hot brewed coffee, chilled
- 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
- 1 tsp sugar-free vanilla syrup
- 3-5 ice cubes
- Brew coffee using your preferred method and let chill completely.
- Add all ingredients to a blender. Blend until frothy and icy, about 30 seconds.
- Pour into a glass and enjoy!
- 1 cup hot brewed coffee
- 2 tbsp canned coconut milk
- 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
- Brew coffee.
- Place all ingredients in a blender. Blend until frothy.
- Pour into a mug and top with additional cinnamon if desired.
- 2 tbsp instant coffee
- 2 tbsp hot water
- 1 cup cold unsweetened almond milk
- In a small bowl, dissolve instant coffee into the hot water.
- Using an electric mixer, beat coffee mixture on high speed for 2-3 minutes until light and fluffy.
- Add almond milk and beat briefly just to incorporate.
- Divide between 2 glasses and serve topped with cinnamon.
The Bottom Line
Enjoying coffee while following a low carb or keto diet is definitely possible. Stick to black coffee or add healthy fats like butter or coconut oil rather than sweeteners to keep your daily cup low in carbs. Avoid sugar-laden specialty drinks and opt for low carb milk options when making lattes or cappuccinos. Drink coffee in moderation and choose decaf if caffeine causes problems. With so many delicious options, you don’t have to give up your coffee habit on a low carb diet.