How many carbs should a woman on keto eat?

The ketogenic or “keto” diet has become incredibly popular in recent years for its effectiveness at promoting weight loss and other health benefits. The diet is characterized by very low carbohydrate intake, moderate protein intake, and high fat intake. This forces the body into a metabolic state called ketosis, where fat becomes the primary fuel source rather than carbs.

But how many carbs can you eat on keto? This article provides detailed guidelines on the optimal daily carbohydrate intake for women following a keto diet for weight loss or health benefits. We’ll cover how many net carbs to aim for, which foods to eat, meal ideas, and more. Read on to learn everything you need to know about women’s carb intake on keto!

What is the Keto Diet?

The ketogenic diet is a very low-carb, high-fat diet. It shares similarities with low carb diets like the Atkins diet, but takes carb restriction even further to promote the metabolic state of ketosis.

On a keto diet, you typically restrict net carbs (total carbs minus fiber) to 20-50 grams per day. This dramatic carb reduction puts your body into ketosis, a metabolic state where your body switches from primarily using glucose for fuel to primarily using ketone bodies derived from fat.

Ketosis causes rapid fat loss while preserving muscle mass. It may also provide other benefits like lower blood sugar, improved focus, and reduced inflammation. The keto diet has been used medically for nearly 100 years to treat conditions like epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes. More recently it has gained popularity for weight loss.

Why Carb Intake Matters on Keto

Carbohydrate restriction is the defining feature of a ketogenic diet. Consuming too many carbs will prevent your body from entering ketosis or knock you out of ketosis if already following the diet. This can halt fat burning and diminish other benefits of the diet.

That’s why tracking net carb intake and staying within your daily carb target is extremely important. Net carbs are simply total carbs minus fiber since fiber does not significantly impact blood sugar or ketosis.

Some of the reasons carb intake matters on keto include:

  • Prevents ketosis – Eating too many carbs will keep your body reliant on glucose rather than transitioning to ketones for fuel.
  • Knocks you out of ketosis – Consuming over 50g net carbs per day can kick you out of ketosis, halting fat burning.
  • Regulates ketone levels – Net carbs impact the level of ketones circulating in your body.
  • Controls appetite – Ketosis suppresses appetite so controlling carbs prevents hunger and cravings.
  • Affects weight loss – Lower carb intake equates to faster, more consistent weight loss on keto.

In short, keeping net carbs low enough to maintain ketosis is key to experiencing the many benefits of keto. Tracking your intake allows you to stay in the ideal range.

Recommended Carb Intake for Women

So how many net carbs should you aim for each day? Recommended carb intake can vary based on individual factors:

20-30g net carbs

This very low end is ideal for rapid fat loss. It gets you into deep nutritional ketosis quickly to maximize benefits. Best for women who are very insulin resistant or have a lot of weight to lose.

30-50g net carbs

This moderate range allows for great fat burning and health benefits while being more sustainable long term. Ideal for most women starting out on keto. Gives you more flexibility while still maintaining ketosis.

50-100g net carbs

Up to 100g net carbs is okay for some women, especially if active. Higher carb intake raises insulin slightly, slowing fat loss. Better for maintenance than weight loss.

Factors like activity level, metabolic health, weight loss goals, and carb tolerance determine where in the range you should aim. Start at 20-30g, then increase if needed for more success long term or to add back preferred higher carb foods.

Foods to Eat on a Keto Diet

Choosing the right low carb foods makes meeting your daily net carb target easy. Prioritize these nutritious keto-friendly foods:

Non-starchy vegetables

Low carb vegetables like leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, peppers, and others make up the foundation of keto meals. They provide fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants with minimal net carbs.

Aim for several servings per day. Count net carbs, which are typically 1-8g per 1 cup raw or cooked.

High fat dairy

Full fat milk, yogurt, cheese, cream, and butter are all great keto choices. Opt for full fat to increase ketone levels. Limit milk to 1-2 cups per day and counted carbs from yogurt or cheese.


Eggs are a nutritious keto superfood. They’re very high in protein and healthy fats, with minimal carbs. Enjoy eggs daily prepared any style. Consider adding extra egg yolks for more fat.

Meat, poultry, and fish

These protein sources are very low carb, so they can be included generously on a ketogenic diet. Choose fattier cuts like chicken thighs and ribeye steak for more fat. Wild caught fish provide beneficial omega-3s.

Nuts and seeds

Almonds, walnuts, pecans, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, and others make great high fat snacks or additions to keto meals. Measure 1 oz servings and count net carbs, which can vary by nut.

Healthy fats and oils

Olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, and nut butters should be used liberally to meet your higher fat needs on keto. Avoid unhealthy trans fats.


Choose strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries in moderation to satisfy sweet cravings. Keep portions to 1/4 – 1/2 cup and count carbs.

Herbs, spices, and condiments

Boost flavor of keto meals with garlic, basil, pepper, mustard, salsa, hot sauce, lemon juice, soy sauce, and more. Most add minimal net carbs.

Foods to Avoid on Keto

To keep net carbs down, avoid these high carb foods:

  • Grains: Wheat, rice, oats, corn, barley, pasta, cereal
  • Starchy vegetables: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, peas
  • Legumes: Beans, chickpeas, lentils, peanuts
  • Fruit: Bananas, apples, grapes, mangoes, cherries
  • Added sugars: Table sugar, syrups, honey, agave, sweeteners
  • Processed foods: Sauces, salad dressings, crackers, desserts
  • Unhealthy fats: Vegetable oil, margarine, shortening
  • High carb dairy: Low fat milk, sweetened yogurt
  • Sugary beverages: Juice, soda, sweet tea, sports drinks

Read labels carefully and beware of sneaky sources of added sugar in packaged foods. Avoid most pre-made snacks, desserts, and fast food.

Sample Menu for 20g Net Carbs

Here is a sample menu for a woman aiming to stay under 20g net carbs:

– 2 eggs fried in 1 tsp olive oil
– 1/2 avocado
– 1 oz walnuts
– 1 cup black coffee

– Tuna salad made with 2 oz tuna, 2 tbsp mayo, mustard, diced cucumber, and tomato
– 10 black olives
– 1 oz cheddar cheese
– 1 cup unsweetened iced tea

– 6 oz chicken breast seasoned with herbs
– 1.5 cups broccoli florets roasted with 1 tsp olive oil
– 1 tbsp butter
– 8 oz water with lemon

– 1 oz pecans
– 1 oz cheddar cheese
– 10 raspberries

Nutrition Info:
– Calories: 1,223
– Total Carbs: 18g
– Fiber: 6g
– Net Carbs: 12g
– Protein: 98g
– Fat: 86g

7-Day Sample Keto Menu for Women

This 7-day sample keto menu provides an idea of how women can plan delicious low carb, high fat meals. Net carbs are kept between 20-25g per day.

Day 1

Breakfast: Fried eggs with avocado and salsa

Lunch: Leftover taco salad with ground beef, lettuce, tomato, cheese, sour cream

Dinner: Baked chicken thighs with pesto zucchini noodles and side salad

Day 2

Breakfast: Keto yogurt with raspberries, almonds, chia seeds

Lunch: Tuna salad lettuce wraps with tomato

Dinner: Meatballs with marinara sauce, steamed broccoli

Day 3

Breakfast: Veggie omelet with cheese, spinach, onion

Lunch: Italian sub sandwich salad with deli meat, cheese, pepperoncini

Dinner: Salmon baked with pesto, cauliflower rice

Day 4

Breakfast: Coconut yogurt with strawberries and walnuts

Lunch: BLT lettuce wraps with turkey bacon

Dinner: Beef and veggie kabobs with zucchini and peppers

Day 5

Breakfast: Berry smoothie made with avocado, almond milk, and protein powder

Lunch: Leftover chicken zoodle soup

Dinner: Pork chops with sautéed cabbage and parmesan

Day 6

Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with keto sausage and sautéed mushrooms

Lunch: Pulled pork lettuce wraps with slaw and cheese

Dinner: Spaghetti squash Bolognese with ground turkey

Day 7

Breakfast: Chia pudding with almond milk and blueberries

Lunch: Grilled chicken salad with ranch dressing

Dinner: Steak with roasted asparagus and butter

Tips for Women Starting Keto

Here are some helpful tips for women getting started on a ketogenic diet:

– Gradually reduce carbs over a week or two to ease the transition and minimize side effects like keto flu, headaches, and fatigue.

– Drink plenty of water and salt foods liberally in the beginning to prevent the keto flu. Ketosis causes a diuretic effect.

– Choose healthy fats like olive oil, avocado oil, nuts, seeds, coconut, and fatty fish – avoid vegetable and seed oils.

– Eat nutrient dense low carb foods like non-starchy veggies, eggs, meat, fish, and dairy to meet nutritional needs.

– Monitor and count net carbs daily until you have a good understanding of serving sizes and carb counts for the foods you enjoy.

– Consider taking electrolytes like magnesium, sodium, and potassium to minimize side effects of keto adaptation.

– Exercise, sleep, and stress management help with keto comfort and compliance. Light walking is great during the initial transition.

– Plan ahead for meals and snacks each week so you stay on track even when busy. Having keto foods on hand prevents cheating.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I calculate net carbs?

Net carbs = Total Carbs – Fiber. You can find total carbs and fiber on nutrition labels. Only the net carb number impacts ketosis.

What if I go over on carbs one day?

Don’t stress if you go slightly over! Just get right back on track at your next meal. If you significantly exceed 50g net carbs, it may knock you out of ketosis temporarily.

Can I have fruit on the keto diet?

Berries are the best fruit option as they are lower in sugar. Enjoy strawberries, raspberries, blueberries in moderation. Avoid high carb fruits like bananas, apples, grapes, and mangoes.

What type of nuts can I eat on keto?

Almonds, walnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, and Brazil nuts are great high fat, low carb options. Measure portions as carbs can add up quickly.

Will I lose muscle on the keto diet?

Keto is muscle sparing compared to other diets. Consuming adequate protein and lifting weights will help maintain and even build muscle.

How long does it take to get into ketosis?

It typically takes 1-5 days of restricting carbs to under 50g net carbs to enter ketosis. This transition period varies based on factors like your metabolism and pre-keto diet.

The Bottom Line

Limiting carb intake to 20-50g net carbs per day can help women get into and maintain ketosis for effective weight loss and health benefits. Focus on nutrient-dense, unprocessed low carb foods like non-starchy veggies, eggs, meat, fish, nuts, healthy fats and dairy. Avoid grains, sweets, beans, fruits, and unhealthy fats. Tracking your net carb intake daily is key, especially when starting out. Consider your individual carb tolerance, activity level, and health goals to find the right carbohydrate intake for your keto diet.

Leave a Comment