How much food is 20 or 50 grams of carbs?

To go into ketosis, and stay there, you are almost certain to succeed by eating fewer than 20 grams of net carbs each day.1 While healthy, active and insulin sensitive individuals can remain in ketosis at higher levels of carb intake, others must be more strict with their carb intake.2

What does 20 or 50 grams of carbs look like on a plate? On this page your find some simple pictures.3

20 grams of carbs in two ways

What looks more appetizing and filling: a plate overflowing with keto-friendly vegetables, or half of a large hamburger bun – naked?

It is easy to see how consuming 20 grams of vegetables, even with the sweet taste of cherry tomatoes and peppers, is not only very satisfying but also chock full of vitamins and minerals.

But what about that naked half bun? Add if you add the other half, the ketchup, and other fixings, soon it is easy to see that you will be well over your daily carb count. That is why regular bread is never a recommended part of a keto diet. It is exceedingly challenging to eat it and stay below 20 grams of carbs. We do have recipes, however, for delicious keto breads that have much fewer carbs.

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High carb foods: here’s 20 grams

20 grams of carbs in high-carb foods

So what does 20 grams of carbs look like for potatoes, pasta, rice or bread?

It is one potato, a small serving of pasta (about 1/2 cup), about 1/2 cup of white rice, and that half bun.

It won’t take much of any of these foods to exceed your daily carb limit and take you out of ketosis.

What to eat instead? Try cauliflower – riced, mashed, au gratin and many other ways — which makes a great replacement for rice or potatoes. For bread replacements, try making any of Diet Doctor’s delicious bread and cracker recipes. Craving a sauce on a bed of pasta? We have keto pasta recipes or just spiralize a zucchini for a fresh veggie take on a noodle bed for a zesty sauce.

 

Low-carb food: here’s 20 grams

20 grams of carbs in lower-carb foods

Compare that half of a large hamburger bun or miserly portion of pasta to 20 grams of various vegetables, nuts and berries.

Betcha can’t eat 20 grams of spinach in one go! That plate on the bottom right isn’t even 20 grams, it is about 5! It was all we could fit on the plate. Spinach has 1.4 grams of carbs in 100 grams of leaves. You would have to eat about three pounds (1.5 kilos) or 42 cups of spinach leaves to get to 20 grams.

It’s a bit easier to get to 20 grams of net carbs with other vegetables. For example, one large yellow bell pepper, half a large zucchini, one cup of cherry tomatoes, and five cups of spinach total 20 grams of net carbs.

Berries and nuts have more grams of carbs than vegetables per serving, so be careful. One cup of raspberries and 3/4 cup of blueberries add up to 20 grams of net carbs. One cup of walnut halves plus 1 1/2 cups of hazelnuts also add up to 20 grams of net carbs.

Keto fruits and berries guide

Keto nuts guide

 

Moderate low carb eating: What does 50 grams look like?

50 grams of carbs in bread, pasta, rice and potatoes

If you occasionally want to “carb up,” or if you can maintain ketosis at a higher level of carbs, eating 50 grams of carbs means you’re still staying relatively low carb.

Here’s 50 grams of refined or higher carb foods: three slices of bread, three potatoes, a cup of rice and a cup of pasta.
 

50 grams of carbs in low-carb foods

50 grams of carbs

Here’s 50 grams of lower carb foods like vegetables, nuts and berries. That’s a lot of food on a plate:

4 cups of cherry tomatoes, 2 large zucchini, and 3 large red peppers = 50 grams of net carbs

2 1/2 cups of raspberries, 1 1/2 cups of blueberries, and 5 large strawberries = 50 grams of net carbs

1 1/2 cups of walnut halves, 2 cups of hazelnuts, and 1 1/2 cups of almonds = 50 grams of net carbs

 

 

Very low-carb foods

Some foods, like high fat dairy, meat, fish, cheese have almost no carbs. To eat 20 grams of net carbs is almost impossible if you stick to them. No wonder you can eat your fill of these foods and still lose weight. Here’s how much you’d need to eat to hit the daily limit:

Meat – an almost infinite amount (meat is virtually free of carbs)
Fish – an almost infinite amount
Olive oil – an infinite amount
Coconut fat – an infinite amount
Butter – 44 pounds (20 kilos)
Eggs – 30 eggs (one egg contains less than 1 gram of carbs)
Avocado – 7 avocados (net carbs per avocado: 3)
Cheese – 3 pounds (1.5 kilo)
Béarnaise sauce – 2 pounds (1 kilo)

 

More visual keto guides

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More

A ketogenic diet for beginners
Ketogenic diet foods – what to eat and what to avoid
14-day keto diet meal plan with recipes and shopping lists
 

How much food is 20 or 50 grams of carbs? - the evidence

This guide is written by Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt, MD and was last updated on September 6, 2021. It was medically reviewed by Dr. Bret Scher, MD on May 29, 2020.

The guide contains scientific references. You can find these in the notes throughout the text, and click the links to read the peer-reviewed scientific papers. When appropriate we include a grading of the strength of the evidence, with a link to our policy on this. Our evidence-based guides are updated at least once per year to reflect and reference the latest science on the topic.

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