Vegetables You Can Eat That Won't Disrupt Your Atkins Diet

Low-carbohydrate diets like the ketogenic diet and Atkins are infamous for eliminating carbohydrates of all types. This means that you're not only giving up pizza, pasta, bread and other carbohydrate-rich foods, but many fruits and vegetables too. Fortunately, there are many vegetables you can eat on the Atkins diet, even during its strictest phases.

Salad greens are well suited to the Atkins diet as these vegetables are very low in carbs. (Image: Julia_Sudnitskaya/iStock/GettyImages)

Tip

The vegetables you can eat on the Atkins diet may depend on the form you're following and the phase you're in. The lowest-carb veggies, those with 0.1 to 1.0 gram of net carbs per 1/2 cup, include escarole, bok choy, spinach, endive and celery.

What Is the Atkins Diet?

The Atkins Diet is a low-carbohydrate diet created in the 1970s by Dr. Robert Atkins. The Atkins Diet now exists in several forms: Atkins 20, Atkins 40 and Atkins 100. The numbers in these names relate to the amount of carbohydrate you can consume each day on these diets. However, fiber and sugar alcohols don't count toward these carbohydrate totals, which means you're counting net carbohydrates.

Given that the Food and Drug Administration's daily value for carbohydrates is 300 grams per day (with 25 grams that should come from fiber) on a 2,000-calorie diet, all of these diets can be considered low carb. However, each is different: Carbohydrate consumption varies for each one and also varies throughout the phases.

Atkins 20 is considered to be ideal for people who want to lose 40 or more pounds or have diabetes, while Atkins 40 is more suitable for people who want to lose less than 40 pounds. Atkins 100 is a long-term maintenance diet suitable for anyone interested in low-carbohydrate diets, so it doesn't involve phases as other Atkins diets do. This Atkins diet might be particularly useful for people who have completed all the phases of Atkins 20 or 40.

Atkins Diet Phases

Both Atkins 20 and Atkins 40 feature four phases:

Atkins Phase 1: The induction phase is the strictest phase of both of these Atkins diets. Atkins 20 starts at 20 carbohydrates per day, similar to a ketogenic diet, while Atkins 40 starts with 40 carbohydrates per day. Atkins 40 allows you to obtain carbohydrates from fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains straight away, unlike Atkins 20.

Atkins Phase 2: The second phase of the Atkins involves balancing the diet. Carbohydrates are added back in slowly. For Atkins 20, this is in 5-gram increments, with 10-gram increments for Atkins 40. This is where someone following Atkins 20 could start to eat fruits, higher-carbohydrate vegetables, nuts and other foods. Carbohydrates are added only as long as you keep losing weight.

Atkins Phase 3: The third phase of Atkins focuses on maintaining lost weight. Carbohydrates in Atkins 20 are gradually added back to make the diet more varied — essentially meaning that Atkins diet foods can be any fruit or vegetable. This is already the case for Atkins 40. For both diets, limiting sugar, refined carbohydrates and other high-carbohydrate foods is essential.

Atkins Phase 4: The fourth phase is similar to the third phase, but is more long term. This phase may involve cycling back through Phases 1, 2 and 3 if necessary, or simply continuing to live a low-carbohydrate lifestyle through diets like Atkins 100.

Essentially, each phase defines the low-carb foods you can consume. Obviously, Atkins 40 allows you to eat a wider range of vegetables, even from the start. In contrast to the other two diets, Atkins 100 advocates healthy, moderate consumption of carbohydrates over the long term.

Plant-Based Atkins Diet Foods

Like other low-carbohydrate diets, the Atkins diet essentially changes the ratios of macronutrients you're consuming so that you're eating more fat and less carbs. However, since fiber is an important part of a healthy diet and carbohydrates from fiber aren't counted, it's actually easy to consume various servings of vegetables.

The strictest diet, Atkins 20, allows you to eat dozens of different vegetables, even during the restrictive induction phase. Atkins recommends vegetables like:

  • Chicory greens
  • Endive
  • Escarole
  • Watercress
  • Arugula
  • Spinach
  • Bok choy
  • Lettuce
  • Button mushrooms
  • Celery
  • Collard greens
  • Pickles

Such vegetables have between 0.1 and 1 net carbohydrates per half-cup serving. Eating high fiber, low-carbohydrate Atkins vegetable recommendations like these, you could easily consume 10 to 15 cups of vegetables per day and not reach the 20-carbohydrate limit. These aren't the only Atkins vegetable recommendations, though; other vegetables you can eat during the strict induction phase include:

  • Radishes
  • Zucchini
  • Cucumbers
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Okra
  • Fennel
  • Bell peppers
  • Bean sprouts
  • Yellow squash
  • Spaghetti squash

Atkins diet foods even include higher-carbohydrate options, like pumpkin and snow peas, and fruits like avocado and tomatoes. None of these foods have more than 9 grams of net carbohydrates per half-cup serving. During the induction phase, people should aim to consume at least 12 grams of net carbohydrates from plant-based sources like these — a surprisingly easy thing to do if you're consuming low-carbohydrate vegetables like these.

Foods After Atkins Phase 1

For someone following Atkins 40, the induction phase is a lot less restrictive. A third of your carbohydrates need to come from vegetables, while the rest of the carbs can come from fruits, nuts and whole grains. In contrast, people on Atkins 20 only start consuming legumes, nuts and lower-carb fruits in Phase 2. They can consume a more expansive array of plant-based foods in Phase 3.

As long as you're adding vegetables and other sources of carbohydrates gradually, you can essentially eat anything in moderation after you've completed the Atkins diet. If you are following Atkins 20, you may be consuming anything between 30 and 80 carbohydrates once you reach Atkins Phase 2, and between 80 and 100 carbohydrates once you reach Atkins Phase 3.

Ketogenic Diets Versus Atkins

Some people never choose to progress past Atkins Phase 1. This phase of the Atkins diet is more similar to the standard ketogenic diet, in which people eat no more than 20 grams of carbohydrates per day and consume primarily fat (about 70 to 80 percent of their diet).

Ketogenic diets have been around since before the Atkins diet. They were developed to help reduce seizures in hard-to-treat epilepsy and have been used clinically since the 1920s. They're now used for a variety of other conditions too, and have been shown to be useful for people with:

Although ketogenic diets are associated with a variety of health benefits, it can be hard to maintain over the long term, as you have to avoid so many foods. The positive effects of these diets are based around ketosis, which your body can become used to over time. If this happens, the positives of the ketogenic diet may plateau, depending on the benefits you are hoping to attain.

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