A LCHF diet is low in carbohydrates. How low? That depends on the individual, and how many carbs you’re currently eating. Some people do very well on 100 to 150 net grams of carbohydrate a day. Others need to reduce their intake to less than 50 grams of net carbs a day.

How to Calculate Net Carbs

It is best to get your carbohydrates from natural foods, but how do you know how much carbohydrate is in any given food? The USDA National Nutrient Database contains information on pretty much every food you can possibly think of. For example, if you search for “apple, raw, with skin,” you can find out that 1 medium (3” diameter) apple contains 95 calories, 25.13 grams of carbohydrates, and 4.4 grams of fiber. To find out how many net carbs the apple has, you simply subtract the grams of fiber from the carbohydrate grams. So, 25.13 minus 4.4 equals 20.73 grams of net carbs.


Net Carbs = Total Grams of Carbs – Grams of Fiber


A note about processed foods: When looking at a label for a packaged food, the same rule applies. Subtract the fiber from the total grams of carbohydrates to get the net carbs. It’s good to also take a look at the amount of sugars in products. Some sugars are natural, like those in milk and fruits, but some are added sugars. The US is working on adding “added sugars” to the Nutrition Facts label, but until that happens, the best way to know for sure if there are added sugars is to read the ingredients list. Sugar may be listed as “cane sugar,” “corn syrup,” “sucrose,” or by many other names. Generally words that end in “-ose” mean sugar.

You may see processed foods in the market, such as breads, protein bars, and other snacks, that have a claim on their package about “low net carbs.” Do not be fooled by this marketing. Most are full of sugar alcohols, which the manufacturers don’t count in their total carb count. However, your body still absorbs about half of their calories as sugar. And many people don’t tolerate sugar alcohols well—gas, diarrhea, and other digestive issues are common with sugar alcohol consumption. You’ll find these listed on the ingredients list as well, generally words that end in “-tol” (sorbitol, xylitol, mannitol, etc.).