Regular oatmeal is not an ideal choice if you’re following a keto diet. Some exceptions may apply, but you may want to look for an alternative to the popular oats.

The ketogenic diet, also known as the keto diet, is a low carbohydrate, high fat diet intended to put your body into the metabolic state of ketosis.

In ketosis, your body uses ketones instead of carbohydrates (carbs) as a primary energy source. Ketones are substances produced when your body breaks down fats.

Regular rolled, quick-cooked oatmeal is not considered a keto-friendly food.

One cup of oatmeal contains around 47 grams (g) of net carbohydrates. When you factor in your carbs from other food sources, even half a cup of oatmeal can exceed your daily allowance of carbs in a keto diet.

It’s possible to have a smaller portion of oatmeal if you pre-plan your entire day to ensure you stay within your carbohydrate goal.

If you’re in the mood for some oatmeal goodness, you could consider using oat fiber, a product made from the outer husks of oats that can produce porridge when mixed with hot liquid.

Carbohydrate values vary depending on the manufacturer, but oat fiber is lower in carbs than oatmeal.

If that isn’t quite what you’re looking for, you might find success mixing a spoonful of oatmeal with a keto-friendly food, like chia seeds, often eaten using the same preparations as traditional oatmeal.

Keto diet at a glance

According to 2021 research, being in ketosis may help you lose body fat while curbing your appetite.

Any diet designed to create ketosis is a ketogenic diet. Several variations exist, differentiated by the percentage of macronutrients (carbs, fats, protein) they allow.

General ranges of macronutrients in keto diets are:

  • Fat: 55–60%
  • Protein: 30–35%
  • Carbohydrates: 5–10%

For example, if you’re on a standard 2,000-calorie-a-day plan, your carbohydrate range would be between 20 and 50 g for the day. Need a visual? One regular banana has approximately 26 g of carbs.

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Infographic on alternative foods to oatmeal for keto dietsShare on Pinterest
Infographic by Paul Lawrence

Oat milk is made by blending oats with water and separating the liquid from the solids. Even though it’s lower in carbs than oatmeal, oat milk isn’t considered keto-friendly either.

One cup of oat milk has approximately 17 g of net carbohydrates.

Used sparingly as a coffee creamer or in tea, oat milk may still be acceptable on a keto diet if you factor in the rest of your carb intake.

Let’s talk about total carbs vs. net carbs

When it comes to a ketogenic diet, the type of carbohydrates listed on your food labels matter. Many products list “dietary fiber” and “sugar alcohols” under the total carbohydrates.

Some people on a keto diet will subtract all dietary fiber and half of the sugar alcohols from the total carbohydrates to gain a “net carbohydrate” number. They use this number to calculate the daily totals.

Dietary fiber and sugar alcohols are subtracted from the total carb count because they don’t contribute to blood sugar spikes that disrupt the ketosis you’re aiming for.

However, not everyone on the diet uses net carbs. This isn’t an official nutritional term, although it may encourage you to choose high fiber foods.

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Whether you eat it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, oatmeal doesn’t vary much in preparation.

Oatmeal as a prepared dish is typically a form of porridge, a food made by combining liquid with grains or legumes until you have a cream-like consistency.

If you’re not too concerned about maintaining the oat flavor, there are plenty of other low carb porridge alternatives:

  • Flaxseed meal: Flaxseed ground up is called flaxseed meal. One hundred grams, or between ½ to ¾ cup, depending on the consistency of the meal, contains around 11 net carbohydrates.
  • Coconut flour: Coconut flour is another porridge option, made from dried and ground coconut meat. Its net carbs come in at about 24 per 100 g (or 8 g net carbs per 1/2 cup), depending on consistency.
  • Chia seeds: Chia seeds are a versatile food used in various dishes and as baking substitutes. When mixed with liquid, they develop a gel-like coating that creates a texture similar to pudding. One-half cup of chia seeds contains about 8 net carbs.
  • Hemp hearts: Hemp hearts are the seeds from the Cannabis sativa plant. They’re considered a nutrient-dense food that you can add to a keto diet. After calculating for fiber, hemp seeds have almost no net carbs per serving.
  • Almond flour: Almond flour is typically used as a substitute for regular baking flour, but it can also make porridge if you need an oatmeal alternative. Almond flour has approximately 6 net carbs per 1/4 cup.

If you eat your oatmeal dry, with granola, or as an additive in smoothies and protein bars, the whole-form versions of the above foods still work as keto-friendly substitutes.

Is oatmeal keto-friendly? No, not unless you’re interested in only a spoonful a day. Oatmeal is high in net carbs, which doesn’t fit the low carb, high fat strategy needed to achieve ketosis.

Chia seeds, flaxseed, hemp hearts, and almonds are all possible substitutes for oatmeal, whether you make them into porridge or enjoy mixing them with other foods.