Cheese and the Slow Carb Diet

Cheese and the Slow Carb DietHave you seen some great 4HB recipes online lately? There are lots of people experimenting with ingredients and finding great flavors. One of those ingredients that is showing up is cheese. Are you concerned about whether or not you can use your favorite cheese in a recipe? Find out more about cheese and how it can be used on the slow carb diet.

With its increase in popularity, the 4 Hour Body slow carb diet has definitely spread across North America, in many different forms. Lots of people are now eating bean and protein based diets, and finding great ways to make them taste fantastic. In its original form, the slow carb diet basically rules out cheese for all days but cheat day, but as more people have adopted it’s principles, more recipes are showing up online including some kinds of cheeses.

Firstly, let’s take a look at cheese and what it means to slow carb. Obviously, it is a dairy product, unless it’s goat cheese, or sheep cheese, or another variation. Then, technically, it is a little different. According to the book, cheese is out, with all other dairy, because it contains lactose, which is identified as slowing fat loss. We could also argue that cheese is one of the most high calorie foods available, and one that’s easy to go overboard with.

But while it’s easy to exclude all cheeses, as you hunt for different flavors you might be tempted by some familiar cheeses, or you might like to try something new.

So, here’s the run-down:

  1. Cottage cheese has been mentioned by Tim Ferriss, and others, to be OK as a last resort, or backup. This doesn’t mean relying on it every day, or multiple times per day, as your protein source. It means in a pinch, it’s better to get protein than not get it, and cottage cheese is high in protein and low in fat.
  2. Feta cheese has been argued by some people as being OK, because true Feta is made from goat’s milk and will be different to dairy cheese. Personally I don’t recommend feta because it packs a lot of calories and not a lot of protein, compared to lean meats.
  3. Parmesan has been mentioned, in some recipes, food diaries and forums, as something to use when you’re dying for a new flavor. It’s ok, perhaps once a week, because you can use it in such a small amount- ie one shake. It tastes great on eggs, but I find that it’s easy to overdo it, or use it too often to be careful.
  4. Other than the 3 above, most other cheese should be avoided. In general, cheese packs a lot of fat, a small to moderate amount of protein, and the potential to delivery a lot more energy than you’ll notice, making it easier to overeat.

Have you discovered a magic cheese I didn’t mention?? Or maybe I’m too hard on Feta. Let me know by leaving a comment below!
If you have any questions, feel free to email us at and we’ll be happy to get back to you.

This is a guest post from Luke Starbuck at The Four Hour Body Couple


  1. I see you keep mentioning fat & calories. I’ve read 4 hour body, I didn’t think those things mattered. I’m concerned about the inconsistencies. According to Tim if you eat 100% fat diet you’ll lose…

    1. Hi Mia, thanks for your comment.

      One of the keys of the slow carb diet is eating ‘enough’. Everyone fine tunes the amount of beans, veges and protein, so that they are eating just enough, ie not feeling hungry at all, but not stuffing themselves. Tim wisely limited the food choices to those that are nutritionally sound, have a purpose, and also in general don’t have a lot of calories per square inch (though he doesn’t mention that). A ketogenic diet (one where fat is used for energy, not carbs) like slow carb does rely much more on the kinds of foods that are eaten, rather than the total calories consumed, however, that doesn’t mean calories are totally irrelevant. Tim mentions not counting calories, because that is not a foundational pillar to success, however in the book, his results show the average loss for people who counted calories while on slow carb to be 35% more (27lbs vs 20lbs), so when considering modifying the diet (eating cheese is a good example), then it means you need to pay a little more attention to calories, as the simplicity gets complicated.
      My comment about fat refers to slow carb preferring legumes + vegetables + lean protein sources.. so cheese doesn’t fit under any of the 3 major food groups suggested.
      I’m definitely not saying you need to count calories, or worry too much about fat, however if you’re thinking about modifying any part of the diet, you need to be aware of the potential impacts it could have.

      All the best,

      1. Mia: In the book, Tim Ferriss cautions against eating too many nuts or peanut butter because of the high calorie count, i.e. the high fat content. He doesn’t talk a lot about calories because you shouldn’t be counting calories. But remember that the purpose of the diet is to manage metabolism by keeping macronutrients in check. A good macronutrient rule is: More protein, slow carbs, and some good fat (but not way too much).

  2. What about Trader Joe’s Fat Free Feta, 35 cal, 1 carb and 7g protein per ounce? It tastes pretty great! Would love to add it into some lentils with roasted veggies to make a salad!

    1. Hey Jessica, it’s up to you, but technically, any cheese is not part of the Four Hour Body slow carb diet. It would be a good thing to test, if you have baseline fat loss results already.

      All the best!

  3. Hey Jessica, it’s up to you, but technically, any cheese is not part of the Four Hour Body slow carb diet. It would be a good thing to test, if you have baseline fat loss results already.

    All the best!

  4. Hello!

    I’m glad you made this post. I’ve seen lots of folks eating cheese as well. I do make it a part of my diet as I find it hard to get enough calories although I eat tons of protein, veggies and some beans. Just coming out of Atkins, I am still a little starch shy.

    One of the things that Tim mentioned was the problem with cheese is the lactose, a milk sugar. I have found a cheese that has 0 lactose in it and is quite tasty. What are your thoughts on this?

    1. Hey Adeline, thanks for your comment.

      I think avoiding the lactose is one key aspect of it, however cheese sits somewhere between providing protein, and providing unneeded fat. So even lactose free cheese is less ideal than a lean protein source, like fish or chicken. This is why cottage cheese is right on the borderline, as it provides a huge amount of protein with very little fat.

      All the best!

  5. Should it be low fat cottage cheese or regular?

    1. Hey Eli – I think a 2% or 1% cottage cheese is fine.

      All the best,

  6. I have been doing Atkins for 15 years and cheese has been a part of it. Doing SCD has been hard without cheese, but I gave it up. Tim doesn’t say it is because of the fat, but the lactose or whey or something (I can’t remember exactly), but it caused stalls with all dairy and he explained that cottage cheese was the only exception. I just do a little cheese on binge day and it is all good. Best to all!

    1. Hi and thanks for your comment!
      Going off cheese is tough for a lot of people, and you’re right about it being linked to the lactose. I think in general, the slow carb diet works well because the food options also naturally limit your ability to take in calories (even though you don’t need to count), and this helps fat loss. Including cheese, even lactose free cheese, introduces a food that packs a lot of calories for not much chewing ;)

      All the best, and enjoy your cheat day cheese!

  7. What about lactose free milk? Since Tim mentions that the culprit in milk is lactose, then would lactose free milk be allowed in the diet?

  8. Hi Costas
    I think you need to re-read the slow carb chapters in the book – that’ll help you with your understanding and you won’t exhaust yourself asking specific questions about certain types of food.
    To answer this question – milk is high in sugar, whether its lactose free or not, and this is definitely well outside the boundaries of the slow carb diet – remember the rule – don’t drink your calories!
    All the best,

  9. I’ve read Tim’s book, but is there a list anywhere with the allowed vegetables? My family doesn’t want to eat the same ones over and over. I assume asparagus is allowed, but what about carrots and beets?

    1. Hey Jo-Lynne,

      Its all about following the principles of non starchy vegetables, so use that rule to guide you. Specifically, carrots and beets are quite starchy, so they’re best used seldom. Focus on green vegetables and others, like broccoli, spinach, kale, cauliflower, cabbage, red cabbage, asparagus, green beans, etc.

      All the best!

      1. Thanks so much. Your answer is a big help. How many legumes per meal? I’ve been doing 2-3 tablespoons.
        All best,

        1. you can eat way more than 2-3 tablespoons. try 1/2 – 1 cup!

  10. What about suggesting mexican food? That usually has cheese (albeit not all that much)?

    1. yeah, mexican food is great for when you are going out to dinner on the diet – I usually get whatever chicken dish they have (usually like a half roasted chicken). No rice, extra beans, no cheese, no sour cream, no tortillas. Perfect Slow carb meal!

    2. Read the book people! It’s so annoying when people ask questions that are clearly answered in the book. Ferris loves Mexican food and said its probably the easiest type of food to eat out slow carb style.

  11. I’m confused, the book says eat as much as you want, choosing one item from each of the three categories. But then you say that the foods listed in the diet are naturally less calories and less fat, implying that less calories and fat are good. He specifically says not to worry about calories, and I have been tracking what I eat, following the diet precisely as written, and I’m easily consuming twice the calories I normally would. He even mentions the biggest rookie mistake is not consuming enough. So I guess I’m just confused on your thoughts on less calories and fat is a good thing, when in the book I’ve read the opposite, chapters on eating tons of calories and fat. The whole fat doesn’t make you fat. In fact low fat adds more sugar, which is definitely a no no, on non cheat days that is.

    1. Hey Shelby,

      You’re right about the calories and fat in one regard. You definitely don’t want to undereat, which is a rookie mistake because these kinds of foods are less dense than typical western food.
      The comments I make about calories and fat allude to the fact that cheese is very dense in calories and typically high in fat. One comment Tim makes is about macadamia nuts, and how they are a ‘gateway’ to fat gain. What this means is that anything that is very energy dense can be deceptive and result in someone consuming so much of it that eventually there’s a large enough calorie excess that fat is stored.
      I agree that it’s not fat that makes you fat, however the optimum slow carb diet is low in fat because it still includes carbohydrates. Though the carbs are digested slowly, in some cases some insulin will still be released, and if there’s higher amounts of fat in the bloodstream, from dietary intake, that fat will be stored.
      The Atkins principle works on the same science, but avoids carbohydrates almost entirely, so that insulin is never a consideration. This means then that the bloodstream can be flooded with lots of fat, and very little will be stored. Remember though that as a complex system, the human body rarely has absolutes, and most things are on a sliding scale, not an on/off.
      Lastly, I agree entirely that ‘low fat’ foods are ridiculous and are almost always higher in sugar than their regular counterparts.

      Thanks for your comment,

    2. I love your question because I have been confused by the same thing. I think one problem is that some people say “low fat” when what they really mean is “not excessive in fat,” or “low calorie” when they mean “not excessive in calories.” My personal theory is that because of years and years of low fat salad dressing and other low fat products being pushed at us, “low fat” isn’t simply an adjective but implies a certain dieting strategy that is not a part of Slow Carb. Basically, watch the nuts.

  12. What about coconut or non-dairy based yogurts? I’m also a mega fan of goat cheese to add some creamy texture to salads. I’m still not clear on the consensus of goat cheese.


    1. Hi Christina,

      I think the key here is that if you test things on yourself, and check the results, you will have the answer for you. It’d be foolish of me to think that I can determine without a doubt whether or not this will work for you.
      In general, I like to recommend sticking with a meal template of beans/lentils, low fat protein and vegetbles. So, you’d need to consider where, nutritionally speaking, anything you suggested fits in to a meal. Does it replace the protein? Most likely not. The beans/lentils? Maybe to a degree, but there wouldn’t be the fiber in a yogurt.
      So it’s important to think about what’s going to create the best meals for fat loss, if that’s your number one goal.

      All the best!

  13. My approach to this diet is a little different. I don’t care so much about the fat, except when it comes to indigestion, which has been really bad when I eat a lot of animal fat (like bacon). My diet, in terms of calories, is about 60% fat, 30% protein and 10% carbohydrates – mostly from legumes.

    While I don’t eat dairy, I do occasionally add a little hard cheese to things. 1/4 cup parmesan to lentil meatballs. a little shaved on top of my meal. Sparingly, for the most part and it hasn’t affected me in a negative way. Heck, I was off the diet for 2 months, but still ate the same 30g protein breakfast and didn’t gain a pound. I didn’t lose a pound either, soo…

    If you need cheese, add a little bit to your diet. See what happens. If you can’t lose weight or inches, you might have to eliminate it. I think Tim has some strictness in this diet b/c if you give someone an inch, they take a mile.

  14. Hi. What substitute/ options do you suggest for spreads on brown bread sandwiches?

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  16. What about cheese substitutes, such as almond milk mozzarella cheese, which is both low fat and higher in protein (also avoids the soy factor). I drink Almond Milk (unsweetened) and almond cheese sub. Thoughts?

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  35. I just thought I would add my two cents. I have been on this diet for a while and it works! Cheese is definitely not allowed but Tim also preaches to pay attention to your body and see how it’s reacting. For me, I put half and half in my coffee and eat cheese about once a week as an indulgence and it doesn’t bother me at all. On the opposite side Tim allows nuts in moderation. However when I eat nuts I feel more sluggish and weight loss slows. So I just don’t eat them. Bottom line is this is supposed to be a way to eat for the rest of your life not a diet so pay attention to how your body reacts and adjust according to that instead of what other people say online.
    Until next cheat day,

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  37. What about Mayo? Is it okay?

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