How much oats can I eat in a low-carb diet?

Oats are a nutritious whole grain that can be included in a low-carb diet in moderation. The key is sticking to reasonable portion sizes and accounting for the carb content of oats when planning your daily intake.

Can I eat oats on a low-carb diet?

Yes, you can eat oats on a low-carb diet, but you’ll need to be mindful of portions. On a standard low-carb diet, carb intake is limited to 50-150 grams per day. A 1/2 cup serving of dry oats contains about 27 grams of carbs.

So while oats are higher in carbs than some other low-carb foods, they can fit into a low-carb eating pattern if consumed in sensible amounts and balanced with lower-carb foods throughout the day.

What’s considered a low-carb diet?

There’s no universally agreed upon definition of a low-carb diet, but typically it involves limiting total daily carb intake to somewhere between 50-150 grams.

Here are some common low-carb diet carb ranges:

  • Very low-carb/Ketogenic: Less than 50g net carbs per day
  • Moderate low-carb: 50-100g net carbs per day
  • Liberal low-carb: 100-150g net carbs per day

The amount of carbs you can eat while staying in ketosis for weight loss is generally between 20-50g per day. But going as high as 100-150g may still be beneficial for health, blood sugar control, and weight maintenance in some individuals.

Oat nutrition facts

Before determining how much you can eat, let’s look at the nutrition profile of oats:

  • 1/2 cup dry oats contains about 27g total carbs, 4g fiber, for 23g net carbs.
  • 1/2 cup cooked oatmeal contains about 13g total carbs, 2g fiber, for 11g net carbs.
  • Oats are high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants like avenanthramides that provide health benefits.
  • They contain 6g protein per 1/2 cup cooked serving, making them a filling carb source.

The carb counts demonstrate how dry oats are higher in carbs than cooked oatmeal due to being more concentrated prior to adding water. This is important to pay attention to when meal planning.

Daily oat intake recommendations

How much oatmeal you can fit into a low-carb diet plan comes down to your daily carb allowance:

  • 50g net carbs: 1/4-1/2 cup dry or 1/2-3/4 cup cooked
  • 100g net carbs: 1/2-1 cup dry or 1-1 1/2 cups cooked
  • 150g net carbs: 1-1 1/2 cups dry or 1 1/2-2 cups cooked

Most low-carb diets recommend limiting carbohydrate-dense foods like oats to 1-2 servings per day max. This equals around 1/2 cup dry or 1 cup cooked oatmeal.

Spreading your oats out over multiple meals, like having 1/4 cup as breakfast and 1/4 cup mixed into a smoothie or energy bites as a snack, can help keep portions controlled.

Tips for fitting oats into a low-carb diet

Here are some tips for including oats as part of a healthy low-carb diet:

  • Choose whole, steel-cut, or rolled oats over instant oats when possible to get more fiber and nutrients.
  • Read labels carefully and measure portions to understand the total carb content.
  • Aim for no more than 1/2 cup dry or 1 cup cooked oats per day.
  • Mix oats with lower-carb ingredients like nut butter, chia seeds, or flaxseed to help balance carb intake.
  • Add protein like eggs or Greek yogurt to increase satisfaction.
  • Select unsweetened oat milk or make your own to control added sugars.
  • Pair oatmeal or overnight oats with high protein foods like eggs or yogurt.
  • Substitute extra oat fiber supplements if wanting added oat benefits.

Sample low-carb oat meal ideas

Here are some ideas for incorporating moderate portions of oats into low-carb meal plans:


  • 1/2 cup cooked oatmeal topped with nuts, coconut, fruit
  • Overnight oats made with 1/3 cup dry oats, milk, chia seeds
  • Omelet with 1/4 cup dry oats mixed in
  • Oat smoothie with 1/4 cup dry oats, protein powder, nut butter


  • 1/4 cup dry oats mixed into turkey burger patties
  • Stuffed peppers with 1/3 cup cooked oats, meat, veggies
  • 1/2 cup oat bran added to soup or chili


  • Energy balls with 1/4 cup oats, dates, nuts, seeds
  • Apple slices with 1/4 cup oat bran sprinkled on top
  • 1/4 cup dry oats microwaved into oat cereal


  • Meatloaf with 1/3 cup oats mixed in
  • Chicken veggie stir fry over 1/4 cup cooked oats
  • Zucchini oat pancakes with 1/4 cup dry oats

Portion control tips

To keep oatmeal portions controlled, consider these tips:

  • Measure dry or cooked amounts rather than eyeballing.
  • Use smaller bowls and plates to prevent oversized portions.
  • Read labels and know the carb counts before adding high-carb toppings.
  • Pick mixed dishes that incorporate oats as one part rather than the main carb.
  • Choose unsweetened oat milk and limit to 1 cup per day to control carbs.

Benefits of oats in a low-carb diet

Including moderate portions of oats in your low-carb diet can provide valuable benefits, including:

  • Fiber: Oats supply 4g fiber per 1/2 cup cooked. Fiber aids digestion, satiety and heart health.
  • Nutrients: Rich in B vitamins, iron, zinc, magnesium and antioxidant avenanthramides unique to oats.
  • Blood sugar control: Can help regulate blood sugar when carb intake is well managed.
  • Heart health:Beta-glucan fiber in oats helps lower LDL cholesterol.
  • Digestion: High fiber content helps prevent constipation.
  • Fullness: Combination of protein, fat and fiber promotes satiety.

The nutritional benefits of oats can be obtained without excess carbs by sticking to about 1/2 cup dry or 1 cup cooked oatmeal daily as part of a low-carb diet.

Risks of excessive oat intake

While moderate oat intake offers benefits, exceeding recommended serving sizes on a regular basis may lead to the following downsides:

  • Kicked out of ketosis due to excess carbs if following a keto diet.
  • Increased blood sugar and insulin if overdoing portions.
  • Weight gain when overeating calories and carbs.
  • Increased hunger and cravings from blood sugar spikes.
  • Nutrient deficiencies if oats displace too much other nutrient-dense food.
  • Gut irritation in those sensitive to higher fiber intake.

Portion control and balancing oats with low-carb foods throughout the day is key to preventing adverse effects.

Individual carb tolerance

How many carbs and how much oatmeal you can eat may vary based on individual factors like:

  • Activity level: Active individuals can tolerate more carbs.
  • Metabolic health: Those with good insulin sensitivity may handle carbs better.
  • Weight loss goals: Lower carb intake often needed for fat loss.
  • Appetite control: Carb sensitivity influences hunger cues.
  • Digestive health: Some do better with less fiber or more soluble vs insoluble fiber.
  • Medical conditions: Health conditions may require carb restriction.

Monitor your own response to determine if you feel and function best with daily oats or prefer limiting them. Input from a healthcare professional can also help guide individualized carb intake.

Should you avoid oats on keto?

Most ketogenic diet plans recommend avoiding oats or strictly limiting them due to the high carb content.

On a very low-carb keto diet, aiming for 20-50g net carbs per day, oats can quickly use up a large share of the daily carb limit.

For example, just 1/2 cup of cooked oatmeal would provide over 20g net carbs, making it difficult to stay in ketosis.

However, some people following a more moderate keto diet with 50-100g of carbs may be able to fit in a very small amount of oats in moderation. This would equal about 1/4-1/2 cup dry or 1/2 cup cooked oatmeal per day.

Still, most keto dieters avoid oats since they have a high carb to fiber and nutrient ratio compared to lower-carb alternatives like nuts, seeds, avocado, and non-starchy veggies.

Are oats low glycemic?

Oats have a low to medium glycemic index of 55 compared to white bread at 75. However, the glycemic load of a typical oatmeal serving is considered high at about 20-25.

This means oatmeal can cause more of a blood sugar spike than foods with a lower glycemic load. But oats are still slower digesting than refined grains.

Managing portions and pairing oatmeal with fat, protein and fiber can help mitigate blood sugar spikes. But those with insulin resistance need to be cautious with high glycemic load carbohydrates.

Alternatives to oats

For low-carb dieters wanting to further reduce carbs, some alternatives to oats include:

  • Chia seeds: Just 1 tablespoon provides 5g carb, 10g fiber, protein, omega-3s.
  • Ground flaxseed: 2 tablespoons has 3g net carbs plus lignans.
  • Nut flour: Almond, coconut, hazelnut flour used for baking.
  • Vegetables: Low-carb veggies like spinach, avocado, mushrooms.
  • Cauliflower rice: Replaces oats in fried rice dishes with fewer carbs.
  • Shirataki noodles: Low-carb pasta alternative made from konjac plant.
  • Hearts of palm: Can be riced or used like oats when fried.

Trying oat alternatives can provide more variety while keeping carbs low. But oats themselves can still be incorporated in moderation on less restrictive low-carb diets.

The bottom line

Incorporating up to 1/2 cup dry or 1 cup cooked oats into a low-carb diet providing at least 50g daily carbs is unlikely to disrupt ketosis or negate the health benefits, provided portions are controlled.

Higher carb diets with room for more oats may further maximize the nutritional pros of oats themselves. But too much oatmeal can counteract the intended carb reduction of a low-carb eating plan.

Pay attention to your individual carb tolerance and aim to balance oatmeal with more low-carb whole foods over the course of each day. This allows you to reap benefits like more fiber, vitamins and minerals from oats without going overboard on carbs.

Leave a Comment