It is unclear which of four popular contemporary diet patterns is best for weight maintenance among postmenopausal women. Four dietary patterns were characterised among postmenopausal women aged 49–81 years (mean 63·6 (sd 7·4) years) from the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study: (1) a low-fat diet; (2) a reduced-carbohydrate diet; (3) a Mediterranean-style (Med) diet; and (4) a diet consistent with the US Department of Agriculture’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA). Discrete-time hazards models were used to compare the risk of weight gain (≥10 %) among high adherers of each diet pattern. In adjusted models, the reduced-carbohydrate diet was inversely related to weight gain (OR 0·71; 95 % CI 0·66, 0·76), whereas the low-fat (OR 1·43; 95 % CI 1·33, 1·54) and DGA (OR 1·24; 95 % CI 1·15, 1·33) diets were associated with increased risk of weight gain. By baseline weight status, the reduced-carbohydrate diet was inversely related to weight gain among women who were normal weight (OR 0·72; 95 % CI 0·63, 0·81), overweight (OR 0·67; 95 % CI 0·59, 0·76) or obese class I (OR 0·63; 95 % CI 0·53, 0·76) at baseline. The low-fat diet was associated with increased risk of weight gain in women who were normal weight (OR 1·28; 95 % CI 1·13, 1·46), overweight (OR 1·60; 95 % CI 1·40, 1·83), obese class I (OR 1·73; 95 % CI 1·43, 2·09) or obese class II (OR 1·44; 95 % CI 1·08, 1·92) at baseline. These findings suggest that a low-fat diet may promote weight gain, whereas a reduced-carbohydrate diet may decrease risk of postmenopausal weight gain.