"What can you eat on the Atkins Diet?" is one of the most common questions asked by people considering the Atkins program. I know it was the question that interested me the most. After all, if you can’t enjoy eating while on a diet, you aren’t going to stick with it.
What I discovered was that eating on the Atkins Diet can be really enjoyable – in fact, you have much more leeway than on most conventional diets. Understanding what you can eat when starting the Atkins diet – and why – will help you adjust your eating habits and easily have a wide variety of meals with lots of taste and texture.
The most important part of eating on the Atkins diet is knowing that the key is limiting carbohydrates. Also very important is coming to grips with the idea that fat, in moderation, is not necessarily a bad thing. This second part was hard for me to get used to – on other diets I felt guilty if I ate anything that wasn’t low fat.
But trying to cut out too much fat usually means you end up loading up on carbohydrates, which isn’t a good. Carbohydrates actually convert to starches and sugars that will be used as fuel – you won’t be burning off any body fat!
So what do we know? Plenty of foods rich in nutrients, balanced with proteins and a good balance of fats is what to eat on the Atkins Diet in order to be successful. But what does this mean in terms of actual foods? I did a lot of reading and studying, especially “Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution,” and learned which foods are good to eat and which are bad. I recommend you read these as well and check out your local bookstore or browse for cookbooks with low-carb recipes online.
The central part of the diet is proteins. You can eat liberal amounts of protein on the Atkins Diet, which means meat is your friend! Any kind of beef, poultry, pork or seafood is a key element of your Atkins diet menu plan. You can also get protein and nutrients from sources such as eggs (one of the most versatile and delicious foods around – I found dozens of great ways to prepare eggs!) and, in moderation, I also ate nuts.
In fact, you can eat meat at every meal on the Atkins Diet. Keep in mind that you are looking for protein, so you don’t necessarily want to eat fried foods that are covered in breading (which will add carbs). You can, however, leave the skin on poultry and eat rich foods like lobster and shellfish.
Also important are vegetables – these provide most of the fiber and vitamins you need. The Atkins diet program does allow for specific vegetables, however. You can’t eat starchy vegetables like potatoes. Why? Because they are too high in carbohydrates. The good thing is that you’ll be amazed by the wide range of delicious vegetables, from artichokes to zucchini! Salad greens are also excellent, and you can eat up to three cups of them a day.
Some fruits are quite low in carbs, such as blackberries and strawberries. Fleshier fruits like pears and apples are higher in carbohydrates, so those are limited to later phases of the diet. A good rule of thumb for me was that “fleshier” fruits are higher in carbs.
Finally, yes, you can eat fats in moderation. Fats provide so much flavor to your meals that you’ll feel like you’re cheating. For instance, you can cook with olive oil or sunflower oil and indulge in butter! One of my favorite side dishes was to sauté squash, zucchini and water chestnuts in butter flavored with Italian seasonings.
What you can eat on the Atkins Diet also changes as you progress through the stages of the diet – Induction, Weight Loss, Pre-Maintenance and Maintenance. You will begin on Induction eating only the foods listed for it (you can find these either in Dr. Atkins’ book or on one of the many Atkins Diet websites on the Internet). This restricted eating phase doesn’t last long, though. This is what made me the most successful on the Atkins diet program – with each successive phase, more foods were added to the allowable foods list, so that I always felt like I was “coming off” the diet and never got bored.
One concern you may have is that, with such a low carb diet, desserts will be out (no cake?!). But I loved berries with whipped cream as an alternative. Yes, you can eat whipped cream while on the Atkins diet! I used heavy whipping cream and sweetened it slightly with sucralose (one brand name is Splenda). Served over raspberries and blueberries during the Weight Loss phase, it was a delicious and decadent treat. Now you know what you can eat on the Atkins diet. It’s not bad, eh?