Cottage Cheese on Slow Carb – The Low Down

It’s a question that goes through the mind of every slow carber when they start looking beyond the usual options for protein – bored with beef, sick of chicken, fed up with fish, and we start thinking about that ‘exception’ to the dairy rule that’s mentioned in the book. So, what’s the real story with cottage cheese? And is it really an acceptable alternative? What about it being a dairy product?

Let’s kick-off with some background.

Slow carb meals are comprised of:

  1. a serving of legumes (beans or lentils)
  2. a lean protein source
  3. vegetables (preferably leafy greens, or close to it)

So, where does cottage cheese fit in to that picture? Number 2 – it is noted as an ‘OK’ backup option if you’re stuck without meat/fish/chicken/eggs/other lean protein.

So does it really do the same job of a slab of chicken breast? Or a salmon fillet?

Well that depends a little on what you’re looking to achieve. If you’re planning out your next week’s groceries, and you figure you can slot in a cup of cottage cheese for every breakfast, you might be a little disappointed when your fat loss slows down. But, if you see a Thursday afternoon where packing a late lunch with meat just won’t fly, then cottage cheese could be a great alternative.

Just the facts

Gram for gram, ounce for ounce, cottage cheese does pack a lot of protein. Certainly more than any other cheese or similar dairy product. Compared to meat, though, it’s not delivering anything like the same amount. But there’s more to it than that.

In 100g of Cottage Cheese, we get:

  • 13g protein
  • 2g fat
  • 4g carbohydrates (which is mostly sugar)

In 100g of Chicken Breast, we get approximately:

  • 32g of protein
  • 4g of fat
  • 0g carbohydrates

So, you could say that to get the same amount of protein from cottage cheese, that you just need to eat around 250g (or 1 cup). Let’s take a look at what else you would get with that, however. If you ate that much cottage cheese, as a replacement for a chicken breast, you’d also get around 5-6g of fat (about the same as the chicken, a little higher), plus around 10-12g of carbohydrates, most of which is sugar.

So with the cottage cheese, you might get more than you bargained for.

But isn’t it dairy?

This is the interesting thing about cottage cheese. Obviously, it is a dairy product, made from cow’s milk generally. The difference with cottage cheese, and cottage cheese alone (not yogurt) is that the process it goes through to become cottage cheese results is there being almost no lactose present at all. This explains why mysteriously some lactose-intolerant folks can happily eat cottage cheese without a problem. The lack of lactose is also why Tim Ferriss included it in the ‘grey area’ of slow carb foods, because he cites lactose specifically as the reason he thinks dairy slows/prevents fat loss.

So can you eat it? Is cottage cheese allowed on the slow carb diet?

The answer to this comes down to personal choice. Getting protein is a key to success, so if you’re in a tight squeeze, then it’s better than not getting anything. However, including it into a regular meal routine could mean slowed fat loss, as it delivers sugar where there normally wouldn’t be any, and one key to slow carb’s success is controlling glycemic load, and potentially even reaching a point of ketosis (where fat is being used for energy, not carbohydrates).

So, despite its delicious taste, cottage cheese isn’t a great, regular, substitute for a lean cut of grass fed beef, or lean turkey breast, for a simple reason – it’s a different product, and it’s nutritional profile is quite different to the above mentioned proteins. That said, I do use it at times as a protein addition, for variety. So once or twice a week, I drop one of my eggs from breakfast, and include some cottage cheese on the side. Likewise once a week, or so, I might have a couple of tablespoons on the side of a meal that has some real heat to it (using cayenne pepper or hot tomato salsa with no sugar or corn).

Do you think I’ve been fair to cottage cheese? Leave your thoughts below in the comments!

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28 Responses to Cottage Cheese on Slow Carb – The Low Down

  • Jason says:

    That’s how I feel about it, Luke. If I NEED cheese on something (like when I dabbed it on top of an eggplant lasagna), I’ll use cottage cheese. But it’s definitely not in my daily menu. Maybe I eat it once every couple weeks, and then only 1/2 c.

    I could eat a whole tub of that stuff though. Yum!

    -j

  • Meredith says:

    I use it — but for a snack. I’ll open the tub, take out a big spoonful and eat it — and put it right back in the fridge. I remember Tim saying his Mother used it. So that’s my 2 cents!

    • Luke says:

      Hey Meredith – I do that too! Just enough to satisfy some hunger, and knowing there’s lots of protein is great.

      All the best,
      Luke

  • Adam says:

    I started the SCD with cottage cheese for breakfast. I occasionally added it to a dinner because I was afraid of not being full. But I found that my fat loss was much slower. Since dropping it, my rate of weight loss increased.

    • Luke says:

      Hey Adam,

      Thanks so much for leaving your feedback and experience with cottage cheese. I’ve heard from a couple of people now that cottage cheese was the make-or-break of their fat loss, so having another person echo that same thing is very useful.

      All the best!
      Luke

  • Hector says:

    I’ve been eating four eggs for breakfast and 1/4 cup C.C. with and w/out cayenne for about a month now. I get up in the morning and walk my dog for 30-45′. Since the whey protein is a no-no, unless after workouts and eating something like a chicken breast and beans first thing seemed too heavy, I’d been using the aforementioned combo to get my protein and stay “light.” Two nights a week I don’t get off until 8 PM and go to bed around 10:30. Therefore, I’d have 1/2 cup CC, two TBSP of Almond butter and 3 TBSP of hemp seeds when I got home around 8:30 PM. I’m a counselor and have three appts. back to back, therefore, the last chance I get to eat a real meal on those two days is between 4 and 5 PM. Great snack, however, I do notice that I’m losing about a lb. a week and keep thinking it should be more. Since 8/3/11, I have lost 9 lbs and about 6-7″ total off of my body. Looking forward to losing more and thanks for the update/thread on CC. Going to limit the CC this week and expect to see more of a loss. This is the first time in my adult life that I can remember being 189 lbs. feels great. 11 more lbs and I can join the Century Club; process over 11 yrs, but better late than never. Thanks for providing this forum for us, it’s been a big help. Off to enjoy a nap and the rest of my cheat day. Speaking of cheat days, I was thinking about alternating the days to keep the body guessing. For Ex: Cheat day today, cheat day again on Wed. then not cheat again until the following Wed. The next week, skip Wed. and then not cheat again until Sat. Anyone have an opinion concerning this? Bueller…Bueller…Bueller. Peace.

    Hector

    • Luke says:

      Hey Hector,
      Thanks for your comment.
      I think you’re making good progress – weight loss is just part of it.. if you’re taking measurements you might notice you’re losing more fat than you thought, and potentially gaining a little muscle. Tends to happen with higher protein diets. Maybe you want to trade your cottage cheese in the evening for 1/2 cup of beans with salsa? Delicious and plenty of nutrition after your long day. I would skip the hemp hearts, personally, and try to stick with beans/veges/protein.
      With regards to cheat days, I like your idea. They only thing to consider is that it takes around 3 days after a cheat day for the body to flip back over to using fat for energy (if it does – not necessary but lots of people end up in ‘ketosis’ for Wed-Fri, meaning they are burning fat for energy). If you had another cheat day within 5 or so days of the last one, you likely wouldn’t see any losses, but might see a gain. So perhaps you want to make the minimum gap between 6 days, and the maximum gap 10 days, or something like that. If you can keep track of that, then you might want to test it out!
      All the best,
      Luke

      • Hector says:

        Any particular reason you’d suggest staying away from the hemp seeds? I got off of the Cottage cheese and drop 2.6 lbs this week instead of the 1 lb previously. I didn’t do anything differently. Also, lost another inch off of the body. I see what you mean on the cheat day thing and that’s a good thing to keep in mind. I’ll probably stick to the once every 7 days.

        • Luke says:

          Hey Hector,
          Great result! Thanks for letting us know.
          The hemp seeds I assume would be a replacement for the lean animal protein in a meal? If we start with a ‘template’ slow carb meal of beans/lentils, lean protein and vegetables, hemp seeds could only replace the lean protein portion. In doing so, they are lower in protein and much higher in fat than most options otherwise would be. So that main reason I would stay away from them is their fat to protein ratio (about 1.3:1) – you could do better with a different protein source.
          All the best,
          Luke

  • Tricia says:

    As a vegetarian, I have to add it from time to time. I get so sick of eggs. I have all but begged Tim to shed some light on vegetarian options for SCD. Might you?

    • Luke says:

      Hi Tricia,

      I think the simple answer is that the slow carb diet includes protein from lean meats. Therefore, doing it vegetarian is actually a large modification, and hasn’t been tested by Tim or many other people. Cutting out meat definitely makes it a lot more difficult to include enough protein, though the beans and lentils pack quick a bit. I understand a lot of protein options vegetarians regularly use are cut out by the slow carb rules. I’m not an expert on vegetarian food, so I don’t have many other suggestions – unflavored whey protein powder might be an option, if you test it and check your progress after a couple of weeks.

      All the best,
      Luke

  • Gretchen says:

    I am a cottage cheese freak, and one week I bought a 5-lb tub (yes, FIVE!) of it at Sam’s. I had cottage cheese for breakfast every day that week and now and then for lunch or dinner. (I don’t eat beef, pork, or poultry and I was getting tired of eggs and fish). Well, that week was the first one that I GAINED. A lb and a half. Some of that might be because of its high sodium content, but since that experiment, I have gone back to using cottage cheese just now and then and I’m doing fine. I’ve lost 29.5 lbs in 17 weeks and I’m 53. No supplements, no exercise.

    • Luke says:

      Hey Gretchen, thanks for sharing! Great to hear about your experience, I think this will help people out when they’re making their own decision about cottage cheese. This seems commonplace, when cottage cheese consumption goes up, weight loss slow down, stops or reverses.
      Congratulations on your progress thus far!! Brilliant.

      All the best,
      Luke

  • Pingback: Cheese and the slow carb diet « Slow Carb Goat

  • Aaron says:

    Cottage cheese has been proven to be the most heart friendly / heart healthy protein we have today…

    Unlike artery clogging meats…

    • Luke says:

      Hi Aaron,

      You might want to read up a little more on meats. In fact many of the fattier cuts have been shown to not clog arteries, and in fact assist in fat loss, believe it or not. The basis of slow carb is the ‘cyclical ketogenic diet’ which is in fact a lower carb, higher fat, moderate protein diet that sees 5 or 6 days of low carbs and then 1 or 2 days of higher carbs (with less fat). Tim created an easier to follow version of this that yields most of the results.
      Low fat diets have not been proven to increase heart health, and in fact as they generally result in fat being traded in for carbohydrates, they are being linked to the fat gain that is causing heart problems and diabetes. You might be interested in Gary Tabues’ excellent book, ‘Why we get fat’.

      All the best,
      Luke

  • Anni says:

    Hi!
    So from what I understand Cottage Cheese is ok because it is low in lactose.
    From what I’ve been reading most hard cheese are very low in lactose, some having zero lactose. The process of draining the liquid from the cheese drains out the lactose, or a lot of it. And the process of aging a cheese gets rid of the rest of it.
    So, I’m kind of confused! Is all the info I’ve been reading incorrect or is there another reason hard cheeses aren’t allowed?
    I did read that the types of protein in dairy can push up insulin levels so I thought perhaps it was that but I can’t seem to find much info on that.
    Any insight would be great!
    Thanks
    Anni

    • Luke says:

      Hi Anni,
      Great question. I haven’t found a lot about dairy and insulin levels either, but the simpler answer is that slow carb meals are made up of a lean protein source, legumes (beans or lentils) and vegetables. So, if you were using cheese, in theory you must be using cheese as the protein source. To get a good amount (20-30g) of protein from cheese, you’d be packing in a lot of fat too, which I believe is the reason Tim omitted cheeses from the slow carb diet.

      All the best!
      Luke

  • Anni says:

    Hey Luke
    That makes a lot of sense!
    Thank You!
    Love the website – you and Kat do a great job :-)
    Anni

  • Jo says:

    Luke,
    I am a vegetarian like Tricia, and am struggling as well to find protein sources other than eggs. Tim mentions something about Yves veggie dogs in the book, but the ingredients don’t seem to jive with the SCD. Regardless, I have do eat them sometimes when I feel just can’t eat another egg. LOL

    Anyway, I found some lactose free cheese in the health food section of my grocery store, and from what I’ve read here is sounds like it might be okay to use that from time to time, but not as my main protein source – is that the case?

    For instance, I will cut up some cubes and put them in my salad, or sometimes I will grate a bit on top of my eggs.

    I’m just curious to know if you think this is okay.

    Thanks for the great site – I’ve found some great info here.

    Jo

    • Luke says:

      Hi Jo,
      Thanks for your question and thanks for your nice comment! We aim to help people as much as we can.
      It’s tough being vegetarian on the slow carb diet. You could consider some unflavored rice protein or other plant-based protein powders (avoid soy though), as a protein source, to have with a meal of beans and veges. Consider the beverage to be replacing what would otherwise be meat on the plate. Depending on your response to it, you could consider an unflavored whey isolate protein too. I use one with cinnamon for flavor and to blunt at potential blood sugar reaction.
      The cheese you mention might be an acceptable addition, being lactose free, but most cheeses tend to be a balance of fat and protein.. not a low fat protein source like meat and fish are. So, check the protein vs fat content of that specific cheese. Some cheeses, like Babybel light are low in fat, high in protein and have zero carbs – though I’m not sure about their lactose content. Getting adequate protein is more important, considering your circumstances, than avoiding lactose at all costs, if it means not getting your 25-30g of protein per meal.
      I hope that helps you out, all the best.
      Luke

  • Rosalind says:

    Hi. Just starting out on the 4-hour body. Have skimmed through my friends book but actually still waiting for mine to arrive. Should be in the next few days! What my worry is that I am a vegetarian and like others worried I won’t be able to get the protein needed to make this diet successful. Would drinking a sugar free protein powder drink each day (25g protein per serve) with water do the trick. Or any other vegetarians have suggestions? Thanks heaps and I love your site already!
    Roz

    • Luke says:

      Hey Rosalind,
      You’re welcome! This is a valid concern, but there are options. Consider protein powders that are rice, hemp and whey isolate – unflavored ones only. The sugar free ones tend to have sweeteners that can impact your blood sugar. Also it is best to treat the protein drink as if they’re replacing a piece of meat on your meal plate – so have a ‘meal’ of beans, veges and protein drink.
      Also consider eggs a couple of times a day.
      All the best!
      Luke

  • Hey great blog,

    Ok, let’s say that life comes up – and you end up having a holiday (say Thanksgiving) – and you end up having a cheat day and then 3 days later another one – are you totally screwed for the week if you only mess up those two days and then are good the rest? :)

    Thanks in advance!
    Jim

    • Luke says:

      Hey Jim,

      Thanks for your question. It’s a common thing to happen, and understandable around this time of year. In effect, it’s likely that you gained some weight on your first cheat day, as is usual, and then if you had 2 slow carb days after that, you probably didn’t gain any more on those two days, but it’s less likely you lost any. Then you probably gained some on your second cheat day, after which, if you stick on the same cheat day schedule, you probably only have another 2 or 3 slow carb days before the next cheat day, which might not be long enough to lose any, but you’ll likely gain on the next cheat day.
      I would suggest, if you had a double so close to together, to forgo your next cheat day, even if it means having up to 8 or 9 days of slow carb in a row. Otherwise you might find yourself a couple of weeks behind where you were.

      Hope that helps!
      Luke

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