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Atkins Foods You Can and Cannot Eat

author image Aglaee Jacob
Aglaee Jacob is a registered dietitian. She has experience working with people who have diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and obesity issues. Jacob obtained a bachelor of science and a master of science, both in nutrition, from Laval University in Quebec City, Canada.
Atkins Foods You Can and Cannot Eat
A chicken and vegetable kebab. Photo Credit: YelenaYemchuk/iStock/Getty Images

The Atkins diet is a popular low-carb eating program. This plan comprises four different phases, the first one restricting carbohydrate the most, while the subsequent phases allow the gradual reintroduction of carbohydrates until the optimal carbohydrate target for weight loss is found. As indicated in a study published in 2008 in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" Atkins-style diets can be effective at inducing fat loss in addition to reducing hunger in low-carb dieters.

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No Grains

Any food made with grains or flour need to be avoided on the Atkins diet. Rice, bread, pasta, barley, quinoa, bulgur, couscous, crackers, breakfast cereals, cookies, cakes and croissants are not allowed on the Atkins diet because of their high carbohydrate content. For example, a slice of bread contains 17.8 g carbohydrates and 3.0 g fiber, a serving of six crackers has 13.4 g carbohydrates and 0.5 g fiber, and a cup of corn flakes contains 22.2 g carbohydrates and 0.3 g fiber.

No Fruit

Fruits are high in sugar and carbohydrates, and are excluded during the first phases of the Atkins diet. For example, a medium apple provides 25.1 g carbohydrates and 4.4 g fiber, a medium pear has 27.5 g carbohydrates and 5.5 g fiber, and a cup of grapes contains 15.8 g carbohydrates and 0.8 g fiber. Fruits with the lowest carbohydrate content are berries, which are reintroduced first during the second or third phase of the Atkins diet. There are about 14.7 g carbohydrates and 8.0 g fiber in a cup of raspberries, 13.8 g carbohydrates and 7.6 g fiber in a cup of blackberries, and 11.7 g carbohydrates and 3.0 g fiber in a cup of strawberries.

No Sugar

Any foods containing added sugar, which can be listed as sucrose, fructose, glucose, dextrose, maltodextrin and high-fructose corn syrup in the ingredient list, are not allowed when following the Atkins diet. This includes all desserts, such as pies, cakes and cookies, as well as candies and soft drinks. Honey, maple syrup and agave syrup cannot be eaten either on the Atkins diet.

Non-Starchy Vegetables

Non-starchy vegetables have a very low carbohydrate content and need to be eaten in large quantities to obtain the required fiber, nutrients and antioxidants needed by your body. Include leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, artichoke, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, kale and bok choy at each of your Atkins meals.


Protein-rich foods constitute a key component of the Atkins diet. It is important for Atkins dieters to consume about 4 to 6 ounces of protein foods at each meal, whether it is pork, fish, turkey, chicken, beef, ham, cheese or eggs.


Fat, along with protein, is important to keep Atkins dieters satiated and prevent hunger between meals. The best sources of fat to include in this diet are olive oil, vegetable oil, avocado, coconut oil, butter, cream and mayonnaise. After the first two weeks in the induction phase, it is also possible to add nuts and seeds.

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