The Atkins Diet Plan: Foods, Menus, FAQs, and Recipes

Atkins Diet

Everything you need to know about the Atkins diet plan including foods to eat, menus, FAQs, shopping lists, and more.

The Atkins diet plan is a well-known and popular diet known worldwide for weight loss. The diet claims that you can lose weight by staying away from foods that are high in carbs. However, you can eat as much protein and fat as you like, and you might find the Atkins diet to be similar to other low-carb diets, such as another popular diet, The Keto Diet. The Atkins diet, formally called the Atkins Nutritional Approach, has been detailed in many books and is credited with launching the low-carb diet trend.

The History of the Atkins Diet

Dr. Robert Atkins had a variety of careers before he decided to pursue medicine. He even had thoughts of being a comedian before going to medical school. After medical school, his practice did not go as well as planned and he began to gain weight and become depressed. He started doing some research and started a diet with a low-carb approach after he read a publication by Alfred W. Pennington. 

As Dr. Atkins started using this approach to weight-loss he also began writing a book about low-carb diets and became the founder of the Atkins Diet. He introduced the diet with his first book, Diet Revolution in 1972. His books are the first of many books that have been written about the Atkins diet. Even though Dr. Atkins introduced his diet in the 1970’s it wasn’t until the early 2000’s that his diet became increasingly popular and soon became one of the biggest diets in the United States. 

What is the Atkins Diet Plan?

The Atkins diet plan helps your body make a switch from burning sugar or glucose in your body to burning off stored body fat. The technical term for this is called ketosis. When you eat foods that have carbs with high amounts of sugar, your body gives you a burst of energy. Your body stores that sugar and it can turn to unwanted fat. However, when you practice a low-carb diet your body, burns the body fat instead, which can help a person lose body fat and weight.  

This also happens to people with low sugar or insulin levels. This is why diabetics may choose to follow this diet.

Another huge attraction to this diet is you don’t have to count calories. As long as on it’s the approved list, you can eat until you feel full. 

The Atkin diet plan is a diet that is made up of these four components. 

  • Weight loss
  • Maintain weight loss goals
  • Promote a healthy lifestyle
  • Disease prevention

According to Dr. Atkins, the main reason for weight gain is the consumption of refined carbohydrates, especially sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and flour.

An Introduction to the Four Phases on the Akins Diet Plan

The Atkin diet has four key phases, Phase one: induction, Phase two: ongoing weight loss, Phase three: pre-maintenance, and Phase four: maintenance. As you begin this diet you will quickly see which phases work the best for your lifestyle. Some people choose to do all four phases and others prefer to stay in the first one or two phases. Let’s take a closer look at what these four phases mean. The goal of these phases is to determine how many carbs you can consume in one day and maintain your goal weight. 

The first phase, induction, is the most important phase when starting this diet. During these first two weeks, your body will be in what’s called Ketosis. The definition of Ketosis is “a process that happens when your body doesn’t have enough carbohydrates to burn for energy. Instead, it burns fat and makes things called ketones, which it can use for fuel.” During this state, your body might experience the following. 

  • A balance in blood sugar levels
  • A reduce risk for stroke or even heart disease
  • Improvement your skin
  • Lower insulin levels
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduce inflammation in your body 

Phase 1:

Induction: You want to stay under 20 grams of carbs per day for 2 weeks. For these two weeks, you should eat foods with high-fat, high protein, and include lots and a variety of low-carb vegetables. A few examples of low-carb vegetables are leafy greens and green vegetables, for example, bell peppers, broccoli, green beans, avocados, and asparagus.  

Phase 2:

Ongoing Weight Loss: After two weeks you can slowly start introducing, nuts, seeds low-carb vegetables, and small amounts of fruit into your diet, including berries would be a good example. Each week you can increase your gram intake until your weight loss is around 1 to 2 pounds per week. Your gram intake once you have reached this point is called your personal carb balance. This is how many carbs you can eat and still lose weight. Once you are between five to ten pounds away from your goal weight, you can start the pre-maintenance phase. 

Phase 3:

Pre-maintenance: Once you are very close to your goal weight, keep managing your carbs each week until you have reached your goal weight. Keep track of how many grams you are consuming. Once you have reached your goal weight and maintained this for one month, you can move into the final phase, lifetime maintenance. 

Phase 4:

Lifetime Maintenance: You have reached your goal and now it’s important to maintain it. You can continue to include as many healthy carbs as you like into your diet up to your daily personal carb balance. 

What is the Atkins 40 Diet? What is Atkins 72?

The only difference between the Atkins diet and the Atkins 40 Diet or the new Atkins diet is the amount of carbs you start with. The Atkin diet starts with 20 grams or under and the Atkins 40 diet starts with 40 grams. If you want to lose 40 pounds or more it is recommended to do The Atkins diet. You might also see that The Atkins diet to also referred to as Atkins 72 or Atkins 20. This is also just referring to the original Atkins diet, named after Dr. Atkins’s first book that he published in 1972, and the 20 is referring to the 20 carbs you are allowed per day when you begin the induction phase. 

What Foods You Can Eat on the Atkins Diet

While on the Atkins Diet these are the recommended types of foods you can eat on the Atkins diet.

  • Meats –  for example, beef, ham, pork, and bacon
  • Chicken, turkey, and other poultry
  • All fish and seafood
  • Dairy – half and half, cheese, butter, yogurt, creamer, sour cream
  • Healthy Fats – Avocados, extra virgin olive oils, coconut oil
  • Egg – you can have them prepared how you like
  • Vegetables – think “green” veggies and vegetables that are low-carb
  • All nuts and seeds and all-natural peanut butter
  • Artificial sweeteners – for example, Equal, Splenda, Sweet & Low

What Foods You Should Avoid on the Atkins Diet

  • Sugar, stay away from all sugar, from sugary drinks to cakes, to processed foods
  • Grains, this is the second most important one. Grains are high in carbs. This includes all types of pastas, rice, breads, and any high processed carbs
  • Vegetables high in starches, for example, potatoes 
  • Vegetable oils – any oil with a vegetable base
  • Fruits that are high in sugar, examples are pineapples, strawberries, and even bananas. 
  • Diet foods

Download our free checklists with all the approved Akins diet foods (and what you should avoid.)

What Snacks You Can Have on the Atkins Diet Plan?

The easiest way to stay on your diet is to plan out your meals, eat small meals throughout the day, and have a few approved snack options ready to go. Water is also a good way to fill an empty or hungry stomach. 

Here are some approved snacks on the Atkins diet plan.

  • A small cup of plain popcorn
  • Avocados
  • No sugar jerky
  • Celery with all-natural peanut butter or cheese cream
  • String cheese 
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Tuna
  • A cup of cooked green beans
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Sliced ham or turkey
  • Real dark chocolate

What You Can Drink on The Atkins Diet?

Your go-to drink should be water. Try to drink at least 24oz or 2 liters of water a day. The best way to keep track is by using a water bottle with the ounces labeled.  If you are having trouble drinking water throughout the day, keep a note of these options. 

  • Coffee, and yes you can add cream, using half and half is best
  • Wine with low sugar, try organic wines (limit this is around one glass per week)
  • Tea
  • Water with a little splash of real lemon
  • Some flavored waters and diet soda (this should not be a regular go-to)
  • Club soda
  • Almond milk

The Atkins Diet Sample Menu (One Week)

Here’s an example of a first week Atkin diet plan menu. So if this doesn’t seem to motivate you, there are many great recipes available. Check Pinterest for a huge variety of hundreds of different recipes and ideas. You may want to purchase an Atkins cookbook to help you think of creative and delicious meal plans. This menu is a really simple one just to get you started. 


Breakfast: egg omelet with green vegetables. Cook with butter

Lunch: Tuna salad and half an avocado 

Dinner: Burges no bun, add bacon if you like, side of cooked green beans 


Breakfast: a hard-boiled egg with a side of bacon

Lunch: Chicken salad and a side of nuts

Dinner: Chicken and a side of broccoli 


Breakfast: Eggs and bacon, you can cook the eggs any style you like

Lunch: Shrimp salad and half an avocado 

Dinner: Stir-fly, your choice of meat,  with green vegetables 


Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with vegetables 

Lunch: Tuna salad and a side of nuts

Dinner: Cheeseburgers and asparagus 


Breakfast: An omelet with vegetables. Cook with butter

Lunch: Chicken salad and half an avocado 

Dinner: Meatballs, side salad, and vegetables 


Breakfast: Eggs any style and bacon 

Lunch: Shrimp salad and a cup of green beans 

Dinner: Steak with a side salad, leftover shrimp, and a cup of cooked green beans 


Breakfast: Eggs any style with vegetables 

Lunch: Tuna salad and a side of nuts 

Dinner: Salmon with garlic butter and vegetables 

The Atkins Diet Plan Shopping List

Meats and Seafood for the week:

  • Steak
  • Chicken
  • Beef
  • Bacon
  • Turkey
  • Shrimp
  • Tuna
  • Sliced turkey or ham 
  • No sugar jerky

Dairy and Eggs

  • Cheese
  • String cheese
  • Full-fat yogurt
  • Half and Half
  • Eggs
  • Butter

Vegetables for the Week (Select a variety to have with your meals)

  • Think “green” veggies
  • Spinach 
  • Green pepper
  • Green beans
  • Asparagus 
  • Broccoli 
  • Celery 


  • Almonds
  • Walnuts
  • Natural peanut butter
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds


  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Coconut oil


  • Olives
  • Avocados 
  • Lemons


  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Some flavored waters and diet soda with no sugar
  • Club soda
  • Almond milk


  • Dark chocolate
  • Plain popcorn

How to Order at a Restaurant While on the Atkins Diet

Everyone enjoys a nice evening out at a restaurant, and you can as well. Here’s a few examples of what to eat or what to order at a restaurant. You can always look at the menu ahead of time and also ask for low-carb options at the restaurant. Just remember to sub out rice and potatoes for veggies, stick to protein, and ask for sauce on the side. 

  • Ordering plain seafood or fish and steamed (plain) veggies is always the easiest option
  • Dry rub ribs and a salad or side of veggies
  • Steak is always an option
  • A burger with no bun
  • Salads with a side of dressing, no croutons, cheese or light cheese 

Does The Atkins Diet Plan Work?

The Atkins diet plan can work. It takes work to maintain any diet. Once you are in the Lifetime Maintenance stage, you will understand more about how your body processes carbs and how many carbs you are able to intake each day in order to maintain your goal weight. The idea is also to teach yourself how to each healthier, understand what you eat each day, stay away from so many processed foods, all while maintaining a healthier lifestyle. 

You can always look at this diet as a gluten-free diet. Staying away from foods with high carbs usually contain gluten. 

It is important to incorporate at least 30 minutes of exercise per day along with any diet. You may want to consult your doctor before starting any diet. Especially if you have diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, or high cholesterol. You might also consider taking vitamins for added nutrients that you might lose while dieting. 

Is the Atkins Diet Plan Right for you?

As you are reading this post, the Atkins Diet might intrigue you and be the right diet for you if you can relate to the following. 

  • Enjoy eating foods that are high in protein like steak, chicken, and seafood 
  • Wanting to lose weight, around 15 to 20 pounds or more
  • Are ok with limiting your daily carb intake
  • Are looking to change your overall daily eating habits
  • Trying to restrict sugars in your diet 
  • Trying to eat less processed foods 
  • Have medical concerns you think the diet can help improve
  • Looking to be more aware of the types of food you are putting into your body 

“Most diets create preoccupation with food and subsequent overeating because they generate a sense of denial,” says Jane Ogden, a psychologist at King’s College London. “The foods being avoided in most diets are the foods people like to eat and the foods at the core of any meal.” So we would probably crave cream cakes and pastries but wouldn’t be so bothered about the core things Atkins denies – rice or pasta, for example.”

Are there any serious risks related to the Atkins Diet?

Like most diets, you are dramatically sending your body into shock, and like anything, it does take time for your body to adjust. The claims are that when you begin this diet you may start using weight quickly. Because of these changes, the most common side effects that people experiences are the following.

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea

To help with these side effects make sure you are consuming your full allowed amount of food and keeping your body hydrated. 

FAQ’s Section

How many carbs can you eat on the Atkins Diet?

In the first phase of the Atkins Diet which is called the induction, you can eat between 20 to 25 grams of carbs per day. The induction phase is the most difficult. You are usually in this phase for a few weeks. You increase your carb intake each week until you are about five to ten pounds from your goal weight. 

What Chinese Food can you eat on the Atkins Diet?

Yes, there are a few Chines foods you can order, and you can always check with the restaurant to see what’s in each dish. You can also always sub things out, ask for no sauce or light sauce.

Here are a few things you can order. 

  • Hot and sour soup
  • Ma Po Tofu 
  • Nanjing salted duck
  • Stir-fried beef and broccoli 

What vegetables can you eat on the Atkins Diet?

You want to stick is vegetables that are not high in starches. When making your Atkins Diet grocery list or planning your food for the week, think “green veggies.” Spinach, green peppers, asparagus, green beans, broccoli, are just a few. You can refer to our Atkins Diet grocery list to help you plan your meals for the week. Here’s a list below of the most popular vegetables you can eat on Atkins, you can use this as a reference as you plan out your meals. 

  • Asparagus
  • Avocado
  • Bell Peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Cerely
  • Chile Peppers
  • Collard Greens
  • Cucumber
  • Eggplant
  • Green Beans
  • Kale
  • Leeks
  • Mushrooms
  • Okra
  • Olives (actually a fruit)
  • Spinach
  • Sprouts
  • Shallot
  • Snow Peas
  • Squash
  • Tomato
  • Zucchini

Can I have nuts or seeds on the Atkins Diet?

Yes you can! As you are making your grocery list it might be hard to think of all the different nuts and seeds that you can add to your menu. Here’s a few nuts and seeds that you can buy.

  • Almonds  
  • Cashews 
  • Chia Seeds
  • Flax Seeds
  • Hazelnuts
  • Macadamia Nuts
  • Peanuts – you can have all natural peanut butter as well
  • Pecans 
  • Pistachios
  • Pumpkin Seeds 
  • Sesame Seeds 
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Walnuts

What fruits can you eat on the Atkins diet plan?

For the first two weeks, you want to stay away from fruits because they are high in sugar. After your two weeks or when you are out of the induction, you can slowly start introducing some fruits into your diet. A cup of mixed berries is an example. Once you are out of the induction phase, here are a few fruits that you can slowly introduce back in to your diet. 

  • Avocado (yes, it’s actually a fruit)
  • Blackberries
  • Cantalope
  • Coconut
  • Lemons (great to add a little lemon squeezed in your cold or hot water)
  • Limes
  • Olives (yes, they are actually a fruit)
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes (yes, they are actually fruit)
  • Watermelon

Can you have cheese on the Atkins diet?

Yes! You actually can have some cheeses on the Atkins diet. You will want to limit your intake to 3 to 4 ounces per day. For half and half and cream about ¼ cup. Here’s a list of the approved cheeses on the Atkins Diet.

  • Cheddar cheese
  • Cream cheese
  • Fetta cheese
  • Goat cheese
  • Gouda cheese
  • Mozzerella cheese (string cheese is perfect for a snack.)
  • Parmasan 
  • Ricotta cheese
  • Swiss cheese

Can I have dressing on my salad?

Yes, you can. However you want to limit how much dressing you put on your salad as it is considered a carb. Whenever you can try to make your own salad dressings while you are on on the Atkins Diet. You can find easy recipes online. Here’s a few dressings you can easily make. 

  • Avocado dressing
  • Blue cheese dressing
  • Casear dressing
  • Mayonnaise
  • Oil and vinegar or vinegarettes
  • Ranch dressing
  • Tahini dressing

Can you exercise on The Akins diet?

With most diets is it recommended that you exercise for a least 30 minutes per day. It is also important that you stay hydrated. 

Can vegetarians or vegans follow The Atkins diet?

Yes, however you might want to follow the Atkins 40 diet. If you are a vegetarian, you can get your daily intake of protein from things like eggs, dairy, nuts, and some soy products. Vegan can get their daily intake of protein from foods such as quinoa, seeds, nuts, and soy. 

The Akins diet vs the Keto Diet

The Keto Diet and The Atkins Diet are similar in the fact that they are both low-carb diets and you start both diets with around the same amount of carbs per day. Both diets also restrict or limit certain foods. 

However, they are different. On the keto diet you want to keep your body in Ketosis, hence the name Keto. You are not increasing your carb intake while you are on this diet, and you are monitoring your diet restrictions and carb intake more closely. With the Atkins Diet, you are slowly adding more and more carbs back into your diet. With Atkins, you have a wider variety of foods to choose from and the foods you are allowed are less restrictive. 

Quotes from the Experts

“Be food aware—remember that fresh meat, fish, fowl, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and occasional fruits and starches are the foods nature intended you to eat.”

― Robert C. Atkins

“The French also have far lower rates of obesity than Americans do, despite the fact that their diet is higher in fat.”

― Robert C. Atkins

Sarah Brewer, a doctor and adviser to Atkins Nutritionals UK, “says there is no scientific evidence that the Atkins diet has a significant negative effect on LDL cholesterol. “LDL can either go up, down, or stay the same for the first two months,” she says. “If it goes up, it tends to go down after two months. It’s a short-term effect.”

Jeremy Nicholson, a professor of biological chemistry says “the results show the problems in prescribing one way of eating to a large and varied population. “Even if what Atkins says is true about improvements in cholesterol, for you, it went the opposite way to what is regarded as healthy,”

Addition Resources for the Atkins Diet Plan


Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution

By: Robert C. Atkins

Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution

By: Robert C. Atkins

New Atkins for a New You: The Ultimate Diet for Shedding Weight and Feeling Great

By: Eric C. Westman

The New Atkins for a New You Cookbook: 200 Simple and Delicious Low-Carb Recipes in 30 Minutes or Less

By: Colette Heimowitz 

Atkins Diet Apps for Your Phone

Atkins Carb & Meal Tracker


Carb Manager: Keto Diet App

The Akins Diet
The Akins Diet Plan


Thank you for reading our guide on The Atkins diet plan. Please feel free to download and use our free embedded checklists. This will be helpful when creating your menus and making your grocery shopping list. 

If you are serious about losing weight quickly and managing your intake of carbs, eating more clean, and staying away from processed carbs,  then The Atkins Diet would be a great diet for you.