What Are the Foods That Are Allowed on the Atkins Diet?


The Atkins Diet, developed by Dr. Robert Atkins, relies upon restricting the amount of carbohydrates a person consumes in order to encourage his body to enter a ketogenic state, in which his body's fat stores metabolize quickly. The Atkins’ dieter will count the grams of carbohydrate present in each food item and will choose foods that are higher in protein and lower in sugar, based upon each of the four phases of the Atkins Diet.

Starting Out

  • The Induction phase of the Atkins Diet calls for severely limiting the number of carbohydrates the dieter eats in one day to no more than 20 grams. This phase lasts for two weeks. During this time, you may eat as much red meat, chicken, fish, bacon and eggs as you please, as long as these items do not have additional breading or sauce. Also permitted are turkey, Cornish game hen and quail, as well as lobster, salmon, shrimp and crabmeat. It's important to drink lots of water during this phase.
    The dieter may also eat up to three cups of fiber-rich salad greens or fresh vegetables per day. Choose from lettuce, mushrooms, celery, cucumber, parsley, peppers and chives. Some vegetables are slightly higher in carbs, such as cabbage, onion, kale, asparagus, cauliflower, broccoli and tomatoes. You may include these, but limit to one cup per day during the first two weeks of your diet.
    Add spices to suit your taste as long as you avoid anything that contains sugar. By varying spices, you can add variety to your meals during the Induction phase. Try cilantro, basil, garlic, rosemary and tarragon to spice up your fare.
    While milk is forbidden during this phase of the Atkins Diet, you may eat up to four ounces of aged cheddar cheese, cream cheese, mozzarella, Swiss cheese, parmesan or blue cheese.
    Avoid other foods and count the number of carbs to make sure you stay below the limit.

Later Phases

  • Once the two-week Induction phase is over, you may have a wider variety of foods, but you may must still limit high-carb items. During the Ongoing Weight Loss (OWL) phase, you may eat more of the vegetables from the induction list but only up to 5 grams of additional carbohydrates per day, putting your maximum number of carbs for this phase at 25 grams. At this point, you may also eat a few berries, seeds or nuts and a small amount of whole grains as long as you do not exceed a total of 25 grams of carbohydrates per day.
    Remain in the OWL phase until you are within ten pounds of your weight goal. You may then shift to the Pre-Maintenance phase in order to lose the remaining weight gradually. During this phase, you may increase your carbohydrate intake to 50 grams per day at the rate of five extra grams each week, as long as you are still losing weight. Along with the foods from the Induction and the OWL phases, you may now add more nut varieties, including almonds, cashews, macadamias and pecans. You may also begin eating carrots, peas, beets, lentils, black beans and yams, but only in amounts that do not exceed your carbohydrate limit.
    A small amount of fruit is acceptable now, so choose a few cherries or strawberries or a small amount of watermelon or cantaloupe.
    After reaching your weight goal, you may add additional foods as you choose, but keep in mind that a diet rich in high carbohydrates may result in weight gain. Dr. Atkins suggests eating anything you like now, but limiting portions of bread, milk and other starches. An occasional small sweet treat isn’t out of the question, but make it a rare treat. Weigh yourself weekly, and if you gain five pounds more than your ideal weight, return to the Pre-Maintenance phase until you lose those pounds.

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  • Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution; Robert C. Atkins, M.D.; 2002
  • Atkins Website
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