Lunch Meat on the Atkins Diet

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You can have lunch meats, but beware of the sodium content.
You can have lunch meats, but beware of the sodium content. (Image: Zedcor Wholly Owned/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images)

You might assume you can have all the meat you want while sticking to Atkin’s strict guidelines. That isn’t the case, though. Lunch meats tend to have small amounts of carbs, which generally come from the outer casing added during processing. You can still have lunch meats, but read the nutrition facts label carefully, figure out how many grams of carbs per portion there are and weigh your serving ahead of time.

Daily Carb Count

Atkins requires you to cut a big chunk of carbohydrates from your diet. In the beginning phase, known as “Induction,” you can’t have more than 20 net carbs per day -- that’s the amount of carbs you get after subtracting fiber grams. You should be getting 225 to 325 grams of carbs per day, which follows the 45 to 65 percent of calories from carbs recommended in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010. But the 20 grams of carbs limit on Atkins meets less than 9 percent of your recommendation, making it essential to keep track of all of the carbs you consume.

Carbohydrates in Lunch Meat

The exact number of carbohydrates in your favorite lunch meat varies slightly, depending on the brand and what it’s made with. In general, sliced deli meats contain between 0.8 and 1.3 grams of carbohydrates in an ounce of meat. This includes lunch meats like ham, chicken, turkey and bologna. Because those grams of carbs can add up quickly if you pile several slices between a couple leaves of lettuce for lunch, weighing your portion before you eat is imperative to calculate your carb intake.

Sodium Consideration

The main concern with a large intake of lunch meats on the Atkins diet is with the high sodium content. Lots of sodium in your diet could increase your blood pressure and eventually lead to heart disease. You shouldn’t have more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium each day if you’re in general good health, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010. Some deli meats have as much as 300 milligrams in each ounce, taking up 13 percent of the sodium you can have for the day. Select lunch meats that are labeled as “low sodium” whenever possible, to keep you sodium intake down.

No-Carb Alternatives

Rather than filling up on processed meats, get in the habit of cooking meats at home. Natural, unprocessed meat doesn’t contain any carbohydrates. Once or twice a week grill a few chicken breasts, roast a round of beef or braise a pork tenderloin. You’ll be able to stock up your refrigerator with plenty of carb-free meats that are naturally very low in sodium.

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