There is certainly a lot of confusion, and frankly misinformation, out there about how to count carbs for keto. Here is what I’ve come to believe. It is best to start your keto journey by counting total carbs, which means counting all carbs, including fiber. This is because it can be so easy to overdo carbs until you really understand what the daily carb intake that works for you looks like in practical terms.
With a traditional keto diet, you may be limiting carbohydrates to 5% of your total daily calories and that is likely a lot less than you are used to. I suggest tracking your carb intake (using an online tool such as Chronometer or My Fitness Pal) for a little bit until you get the hang of it. Tracking can be truly eye-opening!
If you do well with total carbs, are meeting your ketosis goals and are feeling well, the next step can be to expand to a net carb approach. I view net carbs as the total carbs minus the fiber. This gives you more room to play with high fiber foods in the diet that are so important for feeding the healthy bacteria in your digestive system. A balanced microbiome is the foundation of health. Some of my favorite high-fiber, low-carb foods to include frequently are Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus, dark leafy greens, seaweed, fermented vegetables like sauerkraut, chicory root, parsley, chia seeds, pili nuts and, of course, avocados.
Now some people say that you can also subtract sugar alcohols from your carbs in order to get a net carb value. I don’t agree with this approach because adding sugar alcohols to a food doesn’t make it healthier. In fact, it can be a red flag that a food product is highly processed. Many people will find that limiting sweet flavors actually helps them get into ketosis and move past sugar cravings.
So, I hope that helps to clarify total carbs vs. net carbs and gives you a place to start exploring and counting carbs on a keto diet. Be sure to let us know how it goes!