Fork spearing salad lettuce and wrapped in measuring tape.

What should I keep in mind when starting this diet?

If the great health benefits [of the Atkins Diet, see here and here] have convinced you to cut down on your carbohydrate intake and begin eating an Atkins-inspired diet, there are some things you should keep in mind as you set out on your new journey. While the benefits of the Atkins diet far outweigh any of the challenges that come along with it, it’s important to know what obstacles you might come across – especially during your first few weeks on the diet.

Fortunately, you’ll feel so good on this diet that you’ll have no trouble overlooking these minor issues. It’s easy to make a change when you know how huge the payoff is – and the Atkins diet is a great step along the way to lasting health and wellness.

Carb crash is a real thing.

When you’re used to eating plenty of carbohydrates, it’s normal and even expected to feel a bit of discomfort during the first few days of cutting back. You might find yourself missing these foods and craving them with a startling intensity, but there are some ways you can distract yourself enough to move past this initial phase of withdrawal.

- Get plenty of fiber and fat. Together, these foods can provide your body with some much-needed satiety. Flax seeds are a great option to get both of these at once, or salads with a lean protein added.

- Snack frequently. Don’t go more than three hours without eating a healthy, low-carb snack, especially during your withdrawal from carbs. If you can avoid being hungry, you’ll have better luck fighting cravings.

- Find things you want to eat. This diet is strict, but there are still tons of delicious things you can eat on an Atkins diet. Discover approved foods that you’ll look forward to eating so your body will begin to crave those healthy alternatives, instead of carbohydrates.

- Do something for yourself. You’re making a great change to improve your well-being, so instead of indulging in an unhealthy craving, do something else you enjoy. Read a book, take a bubble bath, or turn to a loved one for some support and encouragement.

Even once you’re out of that initial withdrawal phase, some people experience a second period of “carb crash” where they have reported symptoms of feeling “off.” Some people feel jittery or shaky, some feel fatigued, and some feel irritable. These symptoms will disappear after a couple of days, but you can try to prevent them from being overwhelming by indulging in a serving of low-carb fruit.

This can also be caused by a lack of salt, since many people on the Atkins diet will lose quite a bit of water weight within the first few days – which means a loss of sodium. If low-carb fruit doesn’t help relieve the symptoms, try drinking a cup of bouillon a few times a day – and ensure that you are getting plenty of potassium.

You’re going to have to learn to count carbs.

This sounds a lot more intimidating than it is, but there is definitely a learning curve involved with carb counting. The more you do it, the easier it will get – but in the beginning, a trip to the grocery store will be a little more involved than you’re probably used to.

Since the induction phase of the Atkins diet has a strict requirement of under 20 grams of carbs each day, you will need to read food labels carefully to make sure you stay under your carb limit. Once you’ve passed this stage, you will be able to add more low-carb foods to your diet, and eventually reach a point where you can consume as many healthy carbs as your body can handle without gaining weight – but you’ll always need to be thinking about what’s in the foods you’re eating.

When reading product labels, be sure to check the serving size as well as the carbohydrate count. If you are going to be eating more of a specific food, you may need to double or triple the total carbohydrate number in order to get an accurate estimate of what your intake will be.

Some people find it easier to count carbs by tracking each meal on an app that gives a breakdown of the nutritional content of your daily food intake. This way, you’ll be able to clearly see how much carbohydrate is in the foods you eat, and then you can make the necessary adjustments to stay within the recommended range.

Eating an Atkins diet is time consuming.

If you’re the kind of person who usually grabs food on the go, you’ll have to make some big changes in order to adjust to an Atkins-style diet. It’s hard to find readily available foods that will fit the restrictions of this diet, so be prepared to either make most of your meals yourself, or ask for modified versions of foods on most restaurant menus.

Even grocery shopping will take longer initially, as you learn about carbohydrates and calculate how much of each food you’ll be able to eat. This will get easier with time, though, and soon you’ll be able to hit the store and get what you need without a second thought.

You’ll also be spending more time in the kitchen, prepping meals and cooking for yourself or for your family. If you have more free time on the weekends, you can always do the prep work in advance and come home to heat up pre-portioned servings of Atkins-approved meals. This is a great way to teach yourself to cook and learn your way around the kitchen, though, and like carb counting, it will get easier with practice.

This diet is a lifestyle change.

Eating an Atkins diet isn’t just about losing weight – it’s about making valuable changes to your entire lifestyle to achieve long-term health benefits. Sure, you’ll probably see fat loss and watch the number on the scale go down, but in order to maintain these results, you’ll need to look at Atkins as a lifestyle commitment.

Surrounding yourself with supportive people is a great way to ensure you can stick to this diet and make it a life-long habit. It might be difficult at first, to go out for dinner and drinks with friends and stick to Atkins-approved choices, but if you’re with people who want to see you succeed, you’ll be able to keep your social commitments while sticking to your Atkins diet.

Also, you might want to pack healthy, approved snacks for instances where other people are snacking around you – like when someone brings donuts or chips to the office, or at a party with tons of processed junk foods. If you have something quick and easy on-hand to snack on instead of indulging in the foods you’ve worked hard to avoid, you won’t be nearly as tempted to cheat on your healthy new lifestyle.

How can I get started?

If you normally eat a diet that includes a variety of carbohydrates, making the switch to a diet like Atkins can be pretty intimidating. A good rule to keep in mind is to stick to unprocessed, natural, whole foods as much as you can. This will help you limit your intake of foods that aren’t included on your diet plan without having to spend too much time thinking about it.

Take the list of approved Atkins foods to the grocery store and pick up everything you need to get started with these low-carb meal options. These recipes will help you get started on your journey to Atkins-style eating, helping you lose weight and achieve a wide range of important health benefits. Keep in mind that most of your shopping should happen along the outside edges of the store – most of the inner aisles are full of processed foods.

As you practice making these Atkins-friendly meals, you’ll learn more about low-carb eating and start coming up with your own inspired recipes. Hopefully your journey to healthier eating will help you discover new foods you didn’t even know you liked, and motivate you to maintain your beneficial Atkins lifestyle.

Breakfast

Choco-nut Protein Pancakes (adapted from this recipe)

Ingredients:

2 ounces of chocolate whey protein powder

½ cup of coconut flour

1 teaspoon of baking powder

3 large eggs, whole

1/3 cup of cream cheese or cottage cheese

+ coconut oil, for cooking

Instructions:

  1. Combine protein powder, flour, and baking powder in a bowl. Mix thoroughly.
  2. Whisk together the eggs and cheese before pouring into the bowl with the dry ingredients. Mix these together until you have a batter.
  3. Over medium heat, melt a spoonful of coconut oil before adding about ¼ cup of pancake batter.
  4. Cook until bubbles start to form in the center of the pancake, then flip and cook for another two minutes or so.
  5. Repeat process until all batter has been cooked into pancakes.
  6. Serve with almond butter and sugar-free syrup. Garnish with nuts or berries.

Low-Carb Greek Omelet (adapted from this recipe)

Ingredients:

1 teaspoon of vegetable oil

2 large eggs, whole

1 ounce of feta cheese

1 large handful of fresh spinach

½ tomato, chopped

½ onion, chopped

1 slice lemon, to squeeze and garnish

+ salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions:

  1. Over medium high heat, warm oil in a non-stick pan.
  2. Gently beat eggs and add to pan.
  3. Cook eggs approximately three minutes, then flip and cook about two minutes more.
  4. Add cheese, spinach, tomato, and onion to one half of the omelet, and flip the other side over the top.
  5. Cook another two minutes or so, until spinach is wilted and cheese begins to melt.
  6. Serve hot with a lemon slice to garnish. Squeeze over omelet before eating.

Lunch

Low-Carb Pork and Veggie Soup Bowl (adapted from this recipe)

Ingredients:

4 green onion stems, chopped

½ ounce of fresh cilantro, chopped

4 ounces of brown mushrooms, chopped

¼ ounce of fresh ginger, grated

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 red bell pepper, chopped

5 ounces of Chinese cabbage, chopped

8 ounces of pork tenderloin

1 cube of dehydrated chicken stock

1 tablespoon of coconut oil

1 tablespoon of raw coconut aminos

+ salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions:

  1. Warm coconut oil in a non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Slice tenderloin into strips, and add to pan.
  2. Sear pork for no more than two to three minutes – strips should be browned and cooked through. Remove them from the pan and set them aside.
  3. In a large saucepan, combine chicken stock cube, coconut aminos, and two cups of water. Bring to a boil and add the mushrooms, ginger, garlic, pepper, and cabbage. Simmer until veggies are softened but still crisp, about five minutes.
  4. Mix in the pork and green onion, heating for one more minute before removing the pan from the heat and tossing in the cilantro.
  5. Serve hot, ladled into a bowl with salt and pepper if desired.

Fresh Salad with Low-Carb Buffalo Chicken (adapted from this recipe)

Ingredients:

½ of a fresh lemon, juiced

1 green onion stem, chopped

1 head of romaine lettuce, chopped

1 medium red bell pepper, chopped

1 medium tomato, chopped

1 medium carrot, grated

1/3 cup of apple cider vinegar

¼ cup of coconut oil

1/8 teaspoon of celery salt

1/8 teaspoon of red pepper flakes

2 boneless chicken thighs, with skin

1/3 cup of Greek yogurt

1 tablespoon of sour cream

1 ounce of blue cheese

1/8 teaspoon of garlic powder

+ salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions:

  1. Set oven to 450 degrees F and preheat while chopping vegetables. Put in a large bowl and leave in the refrigerator.
  2. In a small bowl, combine lemon juice, green onions, Greek yogurt, sour cream, blue cheese, and garlic powder. Stir well.
  3. In another bowl, mix together apple cider vinegar, coconut oil, celery salt, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper. Coat chicken thoroughly and arrange on a foil-lined pan before putting the pan in the oven.
  4. Turn chicken several times, brushing on more marinade. Bake chicken thighs for approximately 20 minutes, until they are cooked through. Cut into strips.
  5. Remove vegetables from fridge and toss with dressing. Add chicken and serve.

Dinner

Cauliflower Mac and Cheese (adapted from this recipe)

Ingredients:

1 large head of cauliflower, chopped

1 cup of heavy cream

2 ounces of cream cheese or cottage cheese

1 tablespoon of mustard

1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce

1 ½ cups of shredded cheddar cheese

1 clove of garlic, minced

¼ teaspoon of sriracha sauce

+ salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F, and coat a baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Bring a pot of water to boil and add cauliflower. Cook for about five minutes; cauliflower pieces should be tender but firm. Drain and pat with paper towel to dry thoroughly.
  3. Over medium heat, bring cream to a simmer before whisking in cream cheese or cottage cheese. Consistency should be smooth and creamy.
  4. Add one cup of shredded cheddar, garlic, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and sriracha sauce. Continue whisking until cheese melts.
  5. Pour sauce over cauliflower and add to baking dish. Top with remaining shredded cheese.
  6. Bake until bubbles form around the edge and top looks browned, about fifteen minutes.
  7. Serve warm with the lean protein of your choice.

Creole Salmon with Cucumber Salad (adapted from this recipe)

Ingredients:

1 medium cucumber, diced

1 lime, juiced

¼ ounce of dill, chopped

¼ ounce of thyme, chopped

1 tablespoon of raw honey

1 medium head of cauliflower, chopped

½ teaspoon of dried basil

1 tablespoon of smoked paprika

½ teaspoon of dried oregano

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

12 ounce fillet of boneless fresh salmon

2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

+ salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions:

  1. Over medium-high heat, bring a pot of water to boil.
  2. In a bowl, squeeze lime juice over diced cucumber and add honey, dill, olive oil, and salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly, ensuring cucumber is well-coated.
  3. In another bowl, combine basil, paprika, oregano, red pepper flakes, thyme, and salt and pepper. Stir well.
  4. Add chopped cauliflower to boiling water, reduce heat to medium-low, and cover. Cook until tender, approximately ten minutes. Drain in a colander before returning to pot with cover.
  5. Brush salmon with olive oil and apply a thick, even coat of the spice rub.
  6. Warm olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat, then add the salmon and cook until blackened – about three minutes. Flip over and cook for another four minutes, until the fish flakes.
  7. Use a masher on the cauliflower, mixing in a tablespoon of olive oil. Continue mashing until all oil has been thoroughly mixed. Season with salt and pepper as desired.
  8. Serve salmon on top of mashed cauliflower, garnished with cucumber salad.

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About The Author

Jacky Miller's picture

Jacky Miller is a Registered Dietician based in New Zealand. She specializes in chronic conditions and through diet and lifestyle changes helps her patients improve their health, and lead richer, more fulfilling lives. She writes regularly on health related topics for blogs including MindBodyGreen, Jen Reviews, and The Huffington Post. 

Follow Jacky on Twitter and Facebook.

 

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