If you're looking to lose or maintain weight, the Atkins Diet is one possible option for reaching your goals. The Atkins diet menu restricts carbohydrates and emphasizes proteins and fats to help you shed extra pounds.
By eliminating most carbs, the Atkins diet aims to help you burn fat for fuel rather than sugar. Meanwhile, the high-fat, high-protein foods and focus on vegetables may help you feel satiated and more energetic.
About the Atkins Diet Menu
The Mayo Clinic explains that the Atkins diet aims to resolve many of the problems associated with a diet high in refined carbohydrates, such as white sugars and flours. Obesity, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease are just some of the problems that may arise from eating a low-fat, high-carb diet.
The Atkins diet works in four different phases, starting with induction, which is followed with balancing, fine-tuning and maintenance. Phase 1 is the most restrictive phase, when you eliminate almost all carbohydrates during the first two weeks of the diet. That means saying goodbye (for now) to most fruits, dairy, legumes, juices, whole grains and starchy vegetables.
You don't need to count calories or measure portions when using the Atkins meal plan, but you do need to count net carbs. To calculate net carbs, take the total carb content of a food, minus its fiber content. For example, five spears of asparagus have 4 total grams of carbs and 2 grams of fiber, making the net carbs 2 grams, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
You are allowed a total of 20 to 25 grams of net carbs during this phase, notes the Atkins website. Up to 8 grams of your net carbs may be used for dairy, dressings or Atkins products. The remaining foods in your Atkins diet menu will be vegetables, proteins, healthy fats and cheeses.
Consult With Your Doctor First
Much of the research on low-carb diets like Atkins points to positive results, such as weight loss and better blood sugar control, according to the UC Berkeley School of Public Health.
For example, a June 2018 study published in the journal Pediatrics surveyed adults and children with Type 1 diabetes who followed a very low carbohydrate diet (VLCD). After eating the VLCD for a period of approximately 2.2 to 3.9 years, respondents were found to have exceptional glycemic control of Type 1 diabetes.
At the same time, it's possible to experience negative health outcomes from Atkins and other low-carb diets. The Mayo Clinic notes that drastically reducing carbs in Phase 1 may result in headaches, dizziness, weakness, fatigue, nutritional deficiencies and constipation. Your body may also enter a state of ketosis, whereby your body breaks down fat for fuel, potentially causing nausea, headaches, mental fatigue and bad breath.
Check with your doctor before starting on Atkins, especially if you take diuretics, insulin or oral diabetes medications. Avoid Atkins if you have kidney disease or you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
If you get the go-ahead to try the Atkins diet, start with some of the Atkins meal plan suggestions below. Atkins diet recipes can be not only healthy, but tasty, too — and after Phase 1, you might find you no longer crave carbs (especially highly processed sugars and flours).
Read more: The Signs of Ketosis on Atkins Diets
Phase 1 Atkins Meal Plan
It's helpful to familiarize yourself with Atkins' list of Phase 1 acceptable foods as you get started with the diet. Don't starve yourself, and aim to eat every three to four hours throughout the day. Drink plenty of water, too — the Mayo Clinic recommends at least eight glasses a day.
After induction, you'll gradually start adding carbs back into your diet. For now, focus on learning the carb content of foods, reading nutrition labels for net carb content and experimenting with different Atkins diet recipes of your own.
Below are a few ideas for Atkins diet recipes and foods to try in Phase 1. For your meats, avoid processed meat, bacon and ham that has been cured with sugar, as well as cold cuts and other meats with nitrates and other preservatives. Choose one item from each section for your meals throughout the week.
Meal 1: Breakfast
- Spinach and cheese omelet topped with salsa and sliced avocado
- Lean strips of steak sautéed with allowed vegetables, such as sliced onion and bell peppers
- Smoked salmon with cream cheese and cucumber
- Two eggs with bacon and ½ cup of allowed vegetables
- Loaded veggie omelet cooked with allowed vegetables
Meal 2: Lunch
- Salad with mixed greens topped with diced raw vegetables and grilled chicken
- Tuna salad spooned into fresh avocado halves
- Atkins-brand frozen entree like Italian sausage primavera
- Chicken or turkey meatballs served over spaghetti squash
- Lean beef stir-fry with broccoli, bok choy and onion
Meal 3: Dinner
- Grilled fish served with steamed vegetables and a salad
- Ground beef burger with a lettuce "bun" and 1/2 cup allowed vegetables
- Broiled pork chop with mashed cooked cauliflower mixed with cheese
- Grilled chicken and veggie kabobs
- Ground turkey taco salad with allowed veggies and 1 ounce shredded cheddar cheese
Eat one or two snacks between meals, and pair any higher-carb foods with a source of protein or fat. Examples include raw celery sticks with low-carb salad dressing, cherry tomatoes with your favorite allowed cheese or cucumber slices with cream cheese. Remember to track your net carbs throughout the day so you don't go overboard.
Finally, season your meals with salt, pepper, herbs or spices, but avoid condiments with a high-carb content, such as ketchup or salad dressing containing added sugars. In addition to water, you can drink coffee, tea, plant milks and diet soda (in moderation). Again, check your net carbs before adding anything to your cup of coffee or tea — as some creamers contain added sugar.
Read more: What Diet Sodas Can You Drink on Atkins?
- Atkins: How It Works: "List of Low Carb Foods for Atkins 20, Phase 1"
- Atkins: "Atkins 20®: A Low Carb Ketogenic Diet"
- U.S. Food & Drug Administration: "Nutrition Information for Raw Vegetables"
- Pediatrics: "Management of Type 1 Diabetes With a Very Low-Carbohydrate Diet"
- UC Berkeley School of Public Health: "Keto Diets: What People With Diabetes Need to Know"
- Mayo Clinic: "Atkins Diet: What's Behind the Claims?"