Friday, February 14, 2014

What Can I Eat on Atkins Induction?

Pile of Fresh Summer Vegetables
Atkins Induction is No Longer a Zero Carb Diet. It Now Allows Vegetables.
Atkins Induction is the strictest phase of the Atkins Diet. It allows 20 grams of net carbohydrates per day, or less. Compared to the average American diet of 300 to 400 carbohydrates per day, or more, your carbohydrate intake on the first phase of the Atkins Diet is extremely restrictive. 

That restrictiveness can scare you off if you find it difficult to plan your meals, especially if you are following the Atkins Nutritionals guidelines of using 12 to 15 of those 20 net grams for just vegetables. In this post, I'm going to show you what you can eat on Atkins Induction and how to make Phase 1 fun and exciting.

How to Do Atkins Induction

The introductory stage of the 2002 version of the Atkins Diet is supposed to be followed flawlessly for the first 2 weeks. 

Don't eat anything that isn't on the list of acceptable foods for Induction, keep within its limitations for heavy cream, cheese, and other foods, and don't go over a total of 20 net carbs per day. That means you'll have to keep track of the number of carbs you're eating and perhaps juggle the meal and recipe suggestions below to fit within those parameters.

To make that easier, you can either pick yourself up a good calorie, fiber, and carbohydrate counter at your local bookstore, or you can register for an online nutrient tracker like Fitday. At Fitday, you can set yourself up with a list of customized low-carb foods to make your daily tracking quick and easy.

While 20 isn't a magic number, many people are able to go into the state of ketosis at much higher carbohydrate levels, the carb level specific to you will depend on your degree of metabolic damage and insulin resistance. To avoid failure, it's always best to follow the plan as written in the book you have, at least, for the first 2 weeks before you do any tweaking. After that, you can make a few slight adjustments, if you need to, depending on how your body reacts to the carbohydrate restriction. 

However, it's best to wait a couple of months to give your body time to adjust to this new way of eating before making any changes.

It's also a good idea to stay away from processed foods as much as possible during Phase 1. Induction isn't the time to chase after desserts and convenience foods such as low-carb tortillas, sugar-free puddings, and pastas. Grains and starches are not allowed until you are much further along in your weight-loss journey. Give yourself time to learn the foundation foods that make Atkins special.

[Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. I may receive a small commission if you purchase something by using one of those links.]

Breakfast Ideas for Atkins Induction

Scrambled eggs, bacon, and cheese sticks
Sample Atkins Induction Breakfast: 
Bacon and Eggs, with Cheese Sticks
When most people hear they can eat bacon and eggs for breakfast, they usually jump in with both feet and start eating bacon and eggs every single day. That will get old very quickly. Variety always works best, so don't confine yourself to just eggs, bacon, or sausage. 

While those foods are certainly allowed on Atkins Induction, and you can eat them every day if you want to, there is no reason why you have to eat breakfast-type foods for breakfast. Think about expanding your menu choices.

Low Carb Breakfast Ideas for Those Sick of Eggs is an article I wrote for Infobarrel last year that contains a lot of ideas for healthy, out-of-the-box, low-carb breakfasts. Not all of them are Induction friendly, however, so if you are still in the First Phase of Atkins, you might want to consider the following breakfast suggestions instead. Just make sure to count the carbohydrates in the dairy and vegetables you're eating:
  • meatballs and simple burgers
  • lettuce salad with or without meats and cheeses
  • left over roasted chicken legs
  • protein shakes
  • one-minute muffins
  • bowl of warm soup
  • lettuce wraps (simply tuck your sandwich filling inside a leaf of lettuce)
  • cream cheese or pickle tucked into a slice of ham and rolled up
  • burrito filling in a bowl, topped with sour cream and cheese
Absolutely any low-carb food can be eaten for breakfast. You don't have to limit yourself to just eggs. However, hard boiled eggs dipped in a sweet honey-mustard sauce, vegetable and meat omelets, crustless quiches, and leftovers scrambled into a few eggs also make a great, easy breakfast too.

Lunch Ideas for Atkins Induction

Smoked Chicken and Salad
Smoked Chicken and Salad
If you have a microwave at work, finding great lunch ideas won't be difficult. You can simply heat up leftovers from dinner the night before. If you're carrying your lunch to work and don't have a microwave to heat up leftovers, lunch ideas can be more difficult, but not impossible.

Most people will start out taking a nice lettuce salad to work, but just like bacon and eggs, salad can become boring really fast. Take a good look at the acceptable foods list and think about foods that will taste good if eaten cold. 

Don't forget that you can simply put your lunch meat, lettuce, and tomato inside 2 slices of real American cheese with a little mayo or mustard for a faux sandwhich. American cheese makes a great substitute for bread when you're on Atkins Induction. You can also put your sandwich meat on the outside and your lettuce and tomato inside.
  • cold sesame chicken wings
  • grilled chicken breast
  • cold meats and cheeses
  • raw veggies with Ranch Dressing
  • broccoli salad with mayo
  • tuna or chicken salad with bacon bits
  • cucumber slices marinated in vinegar, water, and sugar substitute
  • bean salad without beans (OWL: can use organic black soybeans)
  • cole slaw with green onions and garlic
  • slices of avocado
You can also tuck a few of the breakfast ideas above in your lunchbox too. Lettuce wraps, ham rolls, cold meat balls, and leftover chicken or other meats make easy lunchbox ideas. A lot of people doing Atkins fry up bacon a pound at a time and then take it to work and eat it cold.

Dinner Ideas for Atkins Induction

Kabobs: chicken, sausage, zucchini, onions, bell peppers
Easy Low-Carb Kabobs:
Chicken, Sausage, Zucchini, Onion, Bell Peppers
Dinner can be the easiest place to come up with low-carb ideas, but don't make the mistake of falling into a rut. Grilled meat, a lettuce salad, and a steamed veggie makes an easy, quick meal, but if you eat like that every single day, your low-carb diet will get old very quickly.

Take a look at the type of foods you used to eat for dinner and see if there are ways you can convert those recipes into a great low-carb meal idea.

Hot Wings: Hot wings are the gold standard for many people on Atkins. They are super easy to make yourself. Just bake the chicken wings until nice and crispy, then toss them into an easy-to-make low-carb hot wing sauce. Combine 1 cup of low-carb hot wing sauce, such as Franks, 1/2 cup butter, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, and 1 teaspoon onion powder. You can even add additional ground red pepper if you like yours super hot. If you throw your wings back into the oven for a few more minutes after tossing them into the sauce, the sauce will take on a nice sheen.

Pizza: Pizza crust on Atkins Induction can be made by patting a thin layer of ground beef or turkey into the bottom of a pan, baking it for 15 to 20 minutes, and then topping it with normal pizza toppings, such as pepperoni, bell peppers, olives, and mozzarella cheese. Simply, bake it again until everything is nice and melted. You can even leave out the crust completely if you want to. Put the pizza sauce in the bottom of your pan, add your toppings, sprinkle with mozzarella cheese, and bake until bubbly.

Chicken Nuggets and Strips: Put a bag of pork rinds in the blender, and crush them up. If you want to avoid the mess, you can also purchase the pork rinds ground up. Mix in a little bit of Parmesan cheese, fried-chicken type spices, and use that mixture to make great chicken nuggets or chicken strips. Simply dip your chicken pieces in an egg mixed with a little heavy cream, roll in the crumbly mixture, and then bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. Pork chops or fish are also good made this way, but you'll want to make sure that you bake the pork for at least 45 minutes to an hour.

Shish Kabobs: Kabobs make a tasty, unique low-carb meal. Just thread a variety of meats and vegetables onto your skewers, top with a little homemade low-carb barbecue sauce, a nice Italian dressing, or a maple cinnamon sauce, and then bake, barbecue, or broil until the meats and veggies are as done as you like them. We particularly like chicken cubes, sausage chunks, zucchini squash, onion, and bell peppers.

Chili: For a cold winter evening, nothing hits the spot like a warm bowl of chili. On Atkins Induction, you'll have to skip the beans, but other than that, you can just make chili the old fashioned way with lots of ground beef or beef cubes, tomatoes, onions, olives, tomatoes, and spices. Later on, after you move into the Ongoing Weight Loss phase, you can add some canned organic black soybeans to the mixture. These beans are super high in fiber, resulting in only 1 net carb per half-a-cup of beans. If you cook them in the crockpot for several hours before adding them to your chili, they will be super soft like pinto beans,

Grilled Chicken Breast with Bacon: I don't remember what our local restaurant used to call this, but when the waitress heard that I was on Atkins, she brought me out a special treat. She had the cook grill up a nice, piece of chicken breast, and then topped it with sauteed mushrooms, onions, bacon, and cheese. It was absolutely heavenly!

Chicken Parmesan: Fill a baking dish with pieces of chicken breast. Top with spaghetti sauce, and bake at 350 for 20 to 30 minutes. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, and return to the oven for a couple of minutes, until the cheese melts. You can also simmer the chicken in a frying pan with the sauce, turning it occasionally, and sprinkling the cheese on top just before serving. I've also done this with leg quarters in the crockpot.

Meatloaf: You don't need bread crumbs, cracker crumbs, or oatmeal to pull off a great tasting meatloaf. The eggs you add are enough to bind it all together, provided you use a fatty grade of ground meat or mix in some spicy sausage, but you can also add some ground pork rinds. Experiment with different herbs and spices, minced dried onions, grated cheese, and chopped olives. The dried onions do have carbs, so check the label and add them to your daily totals. My grandmother used to put bits of dill pickle in her meatloaf. A nice topping can be made by mixing together sugar-free catsup with some cinnamon.

King's Burger: Another local restaurant used to serve something called a King's Burger. I simply ordered it without the bun. It was a hamburger patty topped with a slice of ham, a fried egg, and cheese.

Chicken Alfredo: Alfredo sauce is an easy low-carb sauce. Simply melt 1/2 cup butter in a skillet, add 8 ounces of cream cheese cut into cubes, and smash it around for a little bit. Add 1/2 cup heavy cream. Cook and stir until the sauce is nice and smooth. Add 1 cup fresh Parmesan cheese or 1/2 cup dried cheese. Stir until well melted. To make the chicken, simply place a bag of frozen broccoli in the bottom of your bake dish. Top with slices of chicken. Cover with the Alfredo sauce. Bake at 350 for 30 to 45 minutes.

Snack Ideas for Atkins Induction

Bowl of Guacamole
Guacamole with Pork Rinds
Nothing will kill a diet faster than going hungry, so snacks are highly encouraged on Atkins Induction. The first two weeks are not really about weight loss, so don't be afraid to eat until you're satisfied. There's plenty of time later on to worry about dialing in your macros.
  • celery stuffed with cream cheese and minced green onions
  • deviled eggs
  • guacamole with pork rinds
  • diet soda with a little heavy cream
  • boiled ham stuffed with a dill pickle and rolled up
  • raw veggies with Ranch Dressing
  • canned tuna mixed with mayo
  • leftover chicken legs
  • cold jalapeno poppers
  • warm vegetable or chicken-vegetable soup

Cheese Chips: If you're missing potato chips and want something crispy to use with salsa, homemade dips, or guacamole, you can make another low-carb standby: cheese chips. Take a slice of real American Cheese (the type that comes unwrapped, such as Kraft Deluxe), and cut it into 9 squares. Place on a piece of parchment. Nuke for about 1 minute or so. The cheese will puff up into crackers and get crisp as they cool down.

Just as you don't have to eat breakfast foods for breakfast, you don't have to eat snack-type foods for snacks either. Leftovers, a lettuce salad, hot wings, a slice of cold meatloaf, or some diet gelatin with whipped cream also make easy snacks. Absolutely anything that is on the acceptable foods list for Induction can be turned into a snack.

Check Out a Few Low-Carb Recipe Sites

A low-carb diet isn't the same without a few standard recipes such as hot wings, hot poppers, a nice chicken Alfredo, or a terrific bowl of ham and vegetable soup. Those things will make Atkins Induction feel more like a luxury than a diet. Also, check out a few great low-carb recipe sites, such as Linda's Low Carb Recipes. Many low-carb recipe sites will indicate which recipes are suitable for Induction.

While you're looking around for great low-carb recipe ideas, don't forget to check out our own recipes section here at Kickin' Carb Clutter. I'll be adding to it in the days ahead, so you'll want to check back often.

Another blog post you might be interested in is How to Get into Ketosis in Less Than 3 Days. It includes a 3-Day 1972 Induction Diet as an example. You might also want to check out the 7-Day Ketogenic Diet Menu for Atkins Induction for more specific examples of what you can eat during the first 14 days of your low-carb diet. 

And while you're at it, make sure you are using these 5 Fail Proof Methods to Keep You on Track during that Induction period.

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