If you follow any low carb diet like the keto diet, you will likely be tracking your daily net carb intake. Most people try to stay under 20-50 grams of net carbs every day. To calculate this, nutrition facts labels are used to determine the number of net carbs per serving. Here’s the formula:
Net Carbs = Total Carbs – Fiber – Sugar Alcohols (e.g., erythritol)
That sounds simple enough. However, you may be unknowingly consuming “hidden carbs” when you use nutrition labels for foods with small serving sizes. When a product has a label with a small serving size, it’s more susceptible to rounding errors when you need to use multiple servings for a recipe.
Example: Heavy Whipping Cream
A great example is heavy whipping cream, which typically has a nutrition facts label with a serving size of 1 tablespoon. Note that 1 tablespoon of heavy whipping cream has 0.4 g total carbs, according to the USDA’s basic nutrient report.
Most product manufacturers will not list 0.4 g for total carbs on the label; instead, they will round down and list 0 g. As a result, many people will erroneously think that heavy whipping cream has zero carbs, which is not true.
If you need 1 cup of heavy whipping cream for a recipe, that would equate to 6.4 g carbs that you unknowingly consumed. That’s about one-third of your daily carb allowance if you follow a strict 20 g keto diet.
That’s why you should watch out for foods with small serving sizes listed on nutrition facts labels, especially if you need to use multiple servings. These “hidden carbs” add up, and can knock your body out of ketosis.
When in doubt, check if the food in question is available in the USDA database with a standard reference source (as opposed to a source from a branded label).
This was very helpful. I have been adding a cup of heavy cream to my cold brew coffee, thinking I wouldn’t need to deduct any carbs from my daily allowance! That big “zero” on the nutritional label threw me off.
Great information. Thank you very much!
Sugar in milk is dissolved evenly in all its water, and cream has 65% of other material solution besides fat. There is no way to get the sugar out of it, other than by souring it or making an artificial emulsion of butterfat. The cream I buy in Europe has nominally 4.4g sugar, which is higher than online sources report (3g). Raw farmer’s cream is likely more variable. Even butter has 0.8g sugar. I would treat cream and milk the same, except that less cream is needed to get the flavor or whiteness.
The proportions should be per 100g or 100ml for accuracy. The unit amount needed depends on the role of cream in a meal.
My Heavy Whipping Cream has 1 carb per tbsp. Where do I find Heavy Whipping Cream with low carbs?
The manufacturer of your heavy whipping cream probably rounded up to 1 g carbs on their label, and not necessarily because their product is actually higher carb than other brands. If you would rather use a product that actually lists 0 g carbs, I recommend checking the various products of heavy whipping cream at your grocery store to see which ones lists 0.
I know where to find HWC that “reports” lower carbs, but not before buying one that supposedly has 1 g per serving. I’ve noticed that some report <1 g. Does this all boil down to different companies decide to round numbers rather than any processing differences that could equate to actual differences in HWC carbs?
The reason that I ask is because on certain items there can be differences between additives, etc. If this all boils down to someone misunderstood basic math this might be the one time I find that to be such a relief. Either that or I will be making a paranoid run to Walmart for zero carb HWC that doesn't really have zero carbs.
I think it’s more likely due to differences in how different companies decide to report their numbers, rather than significant differences in carb content. I think it’s fine buying HWC that’s more convenient for you rather than making a special run to buy “zero carb” HWC.
My thinking is ‘Cream is a dairy product and therefor contains sugar/carbs in the form of Lactose (a milk sugar)’, and because I find nutrition fact labels are often ‘half truths’ and have been caught out several times, I now simply go Dairy Free.
I have found many errors on a number of nutrition labels myself… some are obviously wrong, like the sugar and fiber sum is MORE than the total carbs listed.
True however true heavy cream sometimes called whipping cream is very low in carbs compared to milk as it has a lot less lactose and much higher fat content. Only 3.3 carbs in half a cup! Unsweetened Almond milk has 0.7 in half a cup so lower however coconut milk is actually higher at 6.5 carbs per half cup about the same as 1%, 2% and whole milk at 6.3!
Is there a non-dairy heavy whipping cream?
The closest dairy-free substitution is probably canned coconut cream.
I have seen soy based heavy cream.
Hello, I downloaded the app you recommended to check a heavy whipping cream I found at a dairy that has no carbs. It also has no milk listed like other HWC does. The app said it is zero carbs, even for a large serving. It’s Gossner brand. Can you confirm?
I searched online but couldn’t find a nutrition/ingredients label for Gossner, so I can’t speak to its nutritional makeup. It looks to me like a typical dairy-based heavy whipping cream, which means it likely isn’t zero carb.
Per the USDA, there are way more carbs than that in heavy cream, unfortunately.
100ml has 6.67 carbs – and 100ml is .422 of one measuring cup.
Your link shows a branded label, as opposed to a basic nutrient report whose data I reported on this page. Branded labels are less accurate because USDA is simply taking the information provided on the manufacturer’s label (1 tbsp serving size) and scaling it up.
If you are drinkning 1 cup of heavy whipping cream a.k.a. 800 calories and 50 grams of fat! 6.5 grams of carbs is definitely the least of your worries.
You’ve obviously never tried Keto 😂
Helen had mentioned that the carb/sugars in milk come from Lactose. Does that mean that Lactose free products have less carbs?
Not necessarily, because dairy-free milk can contain other carbs. Dairy-free milks with least carbs are unsweetened almond or cashew milks, with 1 gram of carbs per 1 cup serving size.
I use a real milk product called FairLife whole milk. It is lower in carbs and higher in protein than regular milk. For 1 cup of FairLife milk it’s only 6 carbs.
So, so true. An alternative to the USDA site is a tracking app with a good database. By ‘good’, I mean lots of foods (natural & branded) and accurate macro counts. I don’t know if I’m allowed to promote one here, so I won’t; but Julia’s heavy cream example makes a great test case for any app you may be investigating.
I often use Cronometer, which seems to have reasonably reliable numbers.