Everybody knows there are a ton of carbs in candy, grains and delicious baked good—but what about carbs in milk?
I mean Mom used to make us drink it, so it can’t be that bad…right?
Well friends, I hate to break this to you, but there are a ton of carbs in milk—In fact, one 8oz glass of 2% has 11.7 grams of carbs!
But if you’re like me and can’t cope with black coffee or dry cereal, have no fear… there are a boat load of low carb milk alternatives to choose from.
So low carb foods rock stars, here’s what you need to know about carbs in milk and other dairy products plus some awesome dairy alternatives to try out—use this table of contents to skip to the section you’re looking for:
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How Many Carbs in Milk
Here’s a rundown of how many carbs in milk there are, no matter what jug you grab.
Carb count of milk is:
Whole Milk: calories 149, carbs 11.7, sugar 12.3, fat 7.9, protein 7.6
2% Milk: calories 122, carbs 11.7, sugar 12.3, fat 4.8, protein 8
Fat Free Milk: calories 83, carbs 12, sugar 12.4, fat 0, protein 8.2
It may not taste like a carb, but it is. Bummer right?
As you can see, for us low carb-er, the whole “low fat is healthier” mentality doesn’t apply down the dairy aisle—in fact there are more carbs in skim milk than carbs in 2% milk.
Moral of the story: no matter what type of milk you favor, the carbs in milk make it a low carb shopping list no-no.
Carb Free Milk
If you haven’t already left this page frantically in search of a carb free milk, then let me tell you: there’s no such thing as a carb free milk. Sorry friends.
This is because the carbs in milk occur naturally and are rather important to the milk making process…
Why Are There Milk Carbs?
Milk carbs are short chain carbohydrates (or sugars) called lactose.
Unfortunately for us low carb-ers, it isn’t as easy as making a “sugar-free” version, as these carbs play a pretty important role in the production of milk: they’re in charge of pulling water into the milk as it’s being made.
Now there is lactose free milk. This is intended for those with a lactose intolerance—meaning their bodies lack the digestive enzyme lactase, which breaks lactose down into glucose.
This option is not a good choice for low carb drinks as 1 cup of lactose free milk has 91 calories, 13 g of carbs and 12 g of sugar—because instead of taking the carbs out of milk, lactase is added to the milk, which doesn’t affect the carb or sugar count, rather makes it easier to digest for those with a lactose intolerance.
Is Milk a Bad Carb?
The carbs in milk are naturally occurring sugars—similar to the carbohydrates in fruits (fructose). Whether these are “good carbs” or “bad carbs” is up to your interpretation.
For me, milk is a no-no for a few reasons…
Number one, consuming milk has been shown to produce high insulin responses, even though it’s a low glycemic index food. Which is especially bad for those of us watching our blood sugar (hello diabetic family!).
On top of that, lactose (the sugar in milk) is hard for many to digest—in fact, lactose intolerance effects an estimated 30 to 50 million American adults.
On the other hand, cow’s milk is full of vitamins and nutrients essential to the health of our bodies. So really, it’s up to you, your dietary restrictions and goals if cows milk has a place in your diet.
Low Carb Milk Substitutions
Good news, there are plenty of low carb milk substitutes to add to your low carb food list. Best thing about these alternatives is that many of the negative effects associated with milk don’t apply!
That’s right, these are all lactose and casein free! Plus, they’re great options for our paleo and vegan friends.
Here’s the carb count for low carb milk alternatives:
Carbs in Almond Milk: 1.52g per cup
Carbs in Soy Milk: 4g per cup
Carbs in Flax Milk: 1g per cup
Carbs in Coconut Milk: 1g per cup
Carbs in Hemp Milk: 1g per cup
Carbs in Cashew Milk: 1g per cup
Other Milk Substitutes
Interestingly enough, there are hardly any carbs in cheese, heavy cream, and (depending on the kind you buy) yogurt. You’ll find a lot of low carb recipes use heavy cream as a milk substitute.
Why There Aren’t Carbs in Cheese
One would assume there are a boat load of carbs in cheese (given what we just learned about milk)—however, during the cheese making process, lactose is broken down into glucose, then lactic acid, which gives cheese an acidic flavor and hardly any carbs left!
Low carb cheese options include cheeses like goat cheese or brie, which have about 0-0.1 grams per ounce. Cheddar and blue cheese contain around 0.7-0.9 grams per ounce. Parmesan contains about 0.9 grams.
Carbs in Heavy Cream
Since it’s made almost entirely of fat, little room is left for carbs in heavy cream—which is great news for us! This ingredient has got a lot of flavor bang for it’s buck.
Carbs in Cream: 1 cup has 6.52g carbs, 6.95g sugar, 85g fat, 6.76g protein
There are less carbs in cream vs milk because cream is a component of milk that has at least 36 percent milk fat. Cream is mechanically separated during the milk making process.
Carbs in Yogurt
Yogurt carbohydrate amount varies a ton based how each yogurt is processed and the ingredients that are add to it. For example, those sweet flavored, cartoon covered yogurts are usually filled with sugar—while a tart, thicker, Greek yogurt can be lower in carbs.
Safest bet is to always read the labels before purchasing a Greek yogurt!
If you’re looking for the least carbs in yogurt, you’ll want a true Greek yogurt. These have been strained several times, which pulls out a lot of the lactose, water, and whey—resulting in a higher protein, lower carb yogurt.
My favorite brand is Fage as it’s loaded in protein and is delicious to boot! 1 cup of Fage 2% has 170 calories, 23g protein, 9g carbs—impressive right?
Now that you know the carbs in milk are high, I hope you’ve found some delicious alternatives to help you create your own low carb meals!
I’d love to hear from you below, what’re you favorite low carb milk swaps?