CRDA: Carbohydrate Diet Classifications Table (2023)

CRDA: Carbohydrate Diet Classifications Table (2023)

Carbohydrate Diet Classification1

The minimum amount of carbohydrates (CHO) in the diet recommended by the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) is 130g/day CHO, which is the amount of glucose required for brain functions.2 This amount is generally exceeded to achieve a healthy balance of the three macronutrients, CHO, protein and fat and meet energy needs. For a given (constant) calorie intake, a modification in the amount of one of the three macronutrients (i.e., CHO, protein, or fat), necessarily changes the proportion of the other two macronutrients. Thus, CHO-restricted (CHO/R) diets may include higher amounts of protein or higher amounts of fat for a given energy intake.3 

The NAM recommendations for an acceptable macronutrient distribution range for healthy adults is 45% to <65% CHO.2,4,5 This range of CHO is sometimes referred to as a high CHO diet (HCD). As a percentage of total daily calories, diets with >65% CHO are considered very-high CHO diets (VHCD). Diets with <45% CHO are considered CHO/R,4 and sometimes referred to as low CHO diets (LCD). CHO/R diets can range from <45% to <10% CHO. Dietary intakes of <10% CHO and <50 g/day CHO are ketogenic,4,5 regardless of total energy intake. 

There is no universally accepted definition of an LCD.4,5 Proposed definitions for different classifications of CHO/R diets have been made by Kirkpatrick et al,4 and adapted by Handu and Piemonte1 as follows:

Diet classifications based on % total daily energy intake (TDEI) and total grams CHO per day
 Diet  CHO (% TDEI) CHO (g/d) PRO (% TDEI) PRO (g/d) FAT (% TDEI) Fat (G/d)
 VHCDa  > 65%  >325g  10 to 30%  -  5 to 25%  -
 HCDa  45 to <65%  225 to <325g  10 to 30%  -  25 to 35%  -
 MCDa  26 to <45%  120 to <225g  10 to 30%  -  25 to 35%  -
 LCDa  >10 to <26%  >50 to <130g  10 to 30%  -  25 to 45%  -
 VLCDa   <10%  <50g  -    -   
 VLCKDa,c  <10%  <20 to 50g  ~10%  1.2 to 1.5 g/kg  70 to 80%  -
 Classic KDa  3%  <50%  7%    90%  
 VLEDd,e  Varies  Varies (typically <20 to 80g)  -   Varies (typically 0.8 to 1.5g/kg IBW)  -  Varies (typically 15 to 30g)
 VLEKDg  Varies  <50g        

CHO=carbohydrate; d=day; HCD=high carbohydrate diet; g=grams; IBW=ideal body weight; KD=ketogenic diet; kg=kilogram; LCD=low carbohydrate diet; MCD=moderate carbohydrate diet; PRO=protein; TDEI=total daily energy intake; VLED=very low energy diet; VLCD=very-low carbohydrate diet; VLCKD=very-low carbohydrate ketogenic diet; VHCD=very-high carbohydrate diet.

 a=Based on 2,000 kcal reference diet.  
 b=Amount of CHO required to induce ketosis in most people.  
 c=Also called very-low carbohydrate, high fat ketogenic diet (VLCHFKD)
 d=Also called very-low-calorie diet. Contains ≤ 800 kcals/d (typically 450-800 kcals). 
 e=Protein sparing modified fast (PSMF) is a type of VLED which contains <20 to 50g CHO/d, 1.2-1.5 g/kg protein/d and <10 to 15% TDEI fat.
 f=May be ketogenic if <50g CHO only. >50g CHO is not considered ketogenic. 
 g=Also called very-low-calorie, ketogenic diet. Contains ≤ 800 kcals/d (typically 450-800 kcals)



  1. Handu D, Piemonte T. Dietary Approaches and Health Outcomes: An Evidence Analysis Center Scoping Review. Supl Table 2. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2022 Jul; 122(7): 1,375-1,393.e9. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2021.08.106. Epub 2021 Nov 10. PMID: 35577747.
  2. Institute of Medicine. Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; 2005.
  3. Freire R. Scientific evidence of diets for weight loss: Different macronutrient composition, intermittent fasting, and popular diets. Nutrition. 2020; 69: 110549.
  4. Kirkpatrick CF, Bolick JP, Kris-Etherton PM, et al. Review of current evidence and clinical recommendations on the effects of low-carbohydrate and very-low-carbohydrate (including ketogenic) diets for the management of body weight and other cardiometabolic risk factors: A scientific statement from the National Lipid Association Nutrition and Lifestyle Task Force. J Clin Lipid 2019; 13(5): 689-711.e681.
  5. Oh R, Gilani B, Uppaluri KR. Low Carbohydrate Diet. In: StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing Copyright © 2021, StatPearls Publishing LLC.; 2021.