Are You Making One of These 12 Atkins Induction Mistakes?

Referee Enforcing the Rules of the Game
12 Atkins Induction Rules clearly explained.

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If you are not dropping the pounds as quickly as you hoped, you might think that the Atkins Diet isn't the right choice for you.

That may or may not be true.

But, before you jump overboard and fall face down into the carbs, take a moment and consider whether you've been following the rules for Atkins Induction correctly.

Many people returning to the Atkins Nutritional Approach begin again at the exact place on the Atkins Carbohydrate Ladder where they left off, rather than starting over at the bottom.

This is a HUGE mistake!

Others hear about the Atkins Diet from news stories or read an article or two on the web and then try to piece together what they believe is a low-carb diet plan -- without ever having read the book.

Although a low-carb program can be easier to follow than a typical low-calorie diet, since carbohydrate restriction eliminates cravings and stabilizes blood sugar, you still have to follow the Rules of Induction to achieve success.

If you've been on Atkins Induction for a month or more and you still haven't lost very much weight, maybe you haven't been following the rules as closely as you thought.

Pinterest Image: Hands Up Above the Water

Mistake #1: Looking at the Atkins Induction Phase as a Diet

When you approach the Atkins Nutritional Program from the perspective of a weight-loss diet, you're likely to cut back on the amount of food you're eating in hopes of shaving off the pounds a bit quicker.

While weight loss does require you to eat at a calorie deficit, the aim of Phase 1 is to switch metabolic pathways. Phase 1 isn't really about dramatic weight loss, although newbies might see large water losses as they burn off their glycogen stores the first week.

Cutting back on portions during Phase 1 can make you hungry, tired, and frustrated, especially if the pounds aren't coming off as quickly as you want them to.

Try to stay away from the bathroom scale.

Setting up unrealistic expectations can keep you feeling stressed and anxious. Anxiety and unrealized expectations is the quickest way to fail.

Instead of weighing yourself every morning, focus on eating three regular-sized meals a day. Have a snack or two only if you need them. There will be plenty of time later on to dial in your macros once your:
  • hunger level drops
  • cravings have gone down
  • feelings of deprivation are under control
Give yourself time to get used to the new food choices before you attempt to speed up weight loss. And don't go more than 6 hours without eating at least a snack. 

The larger your calorie deficit, the faster your metabolism will tank, so start off your new Atkins lifestyle slowly and ease into it.

Don't forget: the Atkins Nutritional Approach is for life.

Mistake #2: Not Eating Enough Dietary Fats and Protein

While I often talk about how eating too much fat can slow down weight loss, you don't want to limit your protein or fats during Atkins Induction.

Protein and fat have nothing to do with entering the state of ketosis. Ketosis is a state of carbohydrate deprivation.

You enter the state of ketosis when you eliminate unnecessary sources of glucose. Not when you eat more fat. If you have restricted your carbohydrate intake to less than 50 grams a day, you are in ketosis whether you know it or not.

Chicken cooked oriental style
Eat Plenty of Protein and Fats
on Atkins Phase 1

When you first begin to restrict carbohydrates, the body will resist switching metabolic pathways, thinking the carb restriction is only a temporary situation. You need to give your body an adequate amount of calories in the form of protein and healthy fats, such as:
  • butter
  • mayonnaise
  • olive oil
  • red meat
to avoid triggering a starvation response. The brain as well as your muscles receive a lot of their energy in the form of glucose.

When you cut down on glucose, the liver can make glucose from other sources. However, if you don't eat enough protein, the body will strip your muscles to get the amino acids it needs to make essential body repairs.

Eating more fat won't stop the body from breaking down muscle.

Once the body switches metabolic pathways and begins to make an adequate amount of ketones to fuel part of the brain's glucose needs, you won't need to eat as much protein as you do for the first 3 weeks.

The body will save the ketones and glucose it makes for the brain and fuel your daily activities with fatty acids instead.

Mistake #3: Eating Too Many Carbohydrates

It is often difficult for those new to a low-carb diet to stay below 20 net grams of carbs per day. However, those who have done Atkins Phase 1 before, often forget what types of food are legal to eat during the first 2 to 4 weeks.

Trying to do Atkins Induction from memory can really foul you up. At 20 net grams a day, there is no room for low-carb tortillas and flatbreads.

The greater majority of your meals should consist of:
  • protein sources
  • healthy fats
  • salads and vegetables
A few condiments are allowed to make the diet more tolerable, but vegetables and salads should make up the bulk of your carbohydrate intake.

If you're following the 2002 plan, Dr. Atkins only allowed:
  • 2 cups of salad
  • 1 cup of low-carb cooked vegetables
  • half of an avocado (occasionally)
In 1972, only salad was allowed during week 1.

Later plans, such as Atkins 20, require you to keep a close eye on your vegetable carb counts. On Atkins 20, you have to eat 12 to 15 net carbs per day of Atkins-approved vegetables, no matter how many cups that comes to.

So, follow your specific plan accurately.

If you're required to count your vegetable carbs during the first two weeks, then count them. If you're required to measure out your vegetables for the day using a plastic or Pyrex measuring cup, then measure them.
While those who are not insulin resistant can handle a larger vegetable load than what Dr. Atkins allowed in his own versions of the diet, it is always best to follow whatever book you have, as written.

You can always tweak the program once you get into ketosis.

Mistake #4: Eating Off Plan During Atkins Induction

Girl Eating an Apple: Not Allowed on Atkins Induction Phase 1
Fruit is Not Allowed
on Atkins Induction
This mistake usually occurs when you try to do the Atkins Nutritional Approach after reading a few articles about low-carb diets.

It also happens when you try to return to Atkins for a second or third time, and try to do the program completely from memory.

Induction is specifically created to get the greater majority of readers into the state of ketosis quickly and easily. If you eat what you were eating when you quit doing the Atkins Diet and moved on to something else, you are not doing Induction.

During the Atkins Induction phase, you cannot eat:
  • fruit
  • low-carb bread
  • low-carb pasta
  • low-carb tortillas
  • whole grains
  • starchy vegetables
  • soft cheeses
  • yogurt
  • nuts and seeds
  • beans and legumes
Even Atkins products need to be severely limited, as well as:
  • olives
  • avocado
  • lemon juice
  • sour cream
  • heavy cream
  • and hard cheeses
Many of these specialty foods can slow down weight loss. If your weight isn't coming off as quickly as you think it should, eliminate the extras for a while and see if your weight loss picks up.

While some of the healthy foods listed above can be added back during Atkins Phase 2, according to your carbohydrate tolerance, Induction isn't the time to create your personalized Atkins diet program.

Phase 1 is about:
  1. Clearing your bloodstream of allergens.
  2. Balancing your blood glucose levels.
  3. Normalizing your insulin level.
  4. Getting your appetite and cravings under control.
Once accomplished, you'll be able to burn body fat more easily as the Atkins diet program progresses into Phase 2.

Mistake #5: One Bite Won't Hurt Me

Two Gluten-Free Macaroons with Cherries
Even one bite of sugary carbs
can ignite cravings

The actual Atkins Induction rule as stated in the 2002 version of the program is:

"Eat nothing that isn't on the acceptable foods list."

That means absolutely nothing!!!

While one bite of a chocolate chip cookie or a small chunk of strawberry pie only contains a few carbs, what you eat during the first few weeks of the Atkins Diet is crucial in getting your body to switch metabolic pathways.

If the brain thinks there are carbohydrates available in your environment, it won't make the switch. Instead, it will start:
  • stuffing your fat cells full of water
  • slow down your metabolism
  • shut down any body systems not needed for immediate survival.
If that happens, your:
  • body temperature will drop to a minimum
  • hair will start falling out
  • hunger level and cravings will go through the roof
After your body has adapted to a low-carb diet, some people can handle a bite or two of cake on their birthday, but that is not true for everyone. If you are sensitive to:
  • wheat
  • gluten
  • dairy products
  • refined starches
  • complex or simple sugars
those food intolerances are not going to magically go away. In fact, reactions to food sensitivities grow worse the longer you abstain from the foods you're sensitive to.

Mistake #6: Not Adjusting Food Intake to Match Your Hunger

Until your body makes the metabolic switch, your hunger is bound to be high because your hormonal levels are based on a large intake of carbohydrates. Basal insulin levels are determined by what you eat on a regular basis, so the body will be prepared for a large carbohydrate load.

Go ahead and eat.

The Atkins Induction phase is not the time to go hungry. When hungry, you are more likely to cheat or quit. However, once you enter the state of ketosis and your hunger and cravings go down, begin tailoring your meals to fit your hunger level.

Many people move from a large dinner plate to a medium-sized lunch plate instead.
Signature Housewares Place Setting
(Available at Amazon)

Eat only the amount it takes to feel satisfied, but not stuffed, beginning with your protein requirement. If you're not hungry, then don't eat. If it's been 6 hours or more since your last meal, have a small snack instead.

The aim of the Atkins Nutritional Approach is to teach you how to make better food choices, without having to count calories, and you can start heading in that direction once your hunger is under control.

Mistake #7: Guessing at the Carbohydrate Content of What You Eat

This is another newbie mistake, but it pops up in the diet of those returning to Atkins as well.

You might have a good idea of what's allowed and what isn't, have the Atkins-approved vegetable list memorized even, but if you don't count the carbohydrates you're eating, you could easily eat too many. For example, salad dressings are limited to:
  • oil-and-vinegar dressings
  • lemon juice with herbs
  • 2-carb per tablespoon sugar-free dressings
Unless you make your own salad dressing, you will need to read the label on the bottle to make sure your dressing falls within that protocol and drag out the measuring spoons to make sure you know what a 2-tablespoon serving of dressing looks like.

Likewise, processed meats like:
  • bacon
  • ham
  • sausage
  • pepperoni
  • salami
  • hot dogs
  • deli meats
might have added sugars and carby fillers. Imitation crab also comes with lots of added carbs. Organ meats like liver are not carb free, so the Atkins 2002 Induction limits their consumption to 4 ounces per day.

Spices are another place where carbs can hide.

Over at the Keto subreddit, someone was using 1/2 cup of dehydrated minced onions per day to season their food.


They thought that the onions were carb free due to the extremely small manufacturer's suggested serving size.

For example:

On the back of the above-pictured Tone's dried onions that I saw at Amazon, the carb count is less than 1 gram. That means it could contain up to 1/2 gram. But the serving size for that 1/2 gram was only a 1/4 teaspoon.

Dried minced onions are about 1 carb per 1/2 teaspoon, which comes to about 20 to 24 carbs in half a cup!

As a result, they went into a lengthy weight-loss stall. Upon catching the mistake and ditching the minced onions, their weight started going down again.

This doesn't mean you have to eliminate dried herbs and spices from your diet. You just need to be mindful that seasonings are not carb free. 

Make sure you check the labels on everything and use some common sense. Dried herbs are about 1/3 of the volume of fresh herbs, so at half a cup of dried onions, he was adding 1-1/2 CUPS of onions to his food every single day.

Herbs and spices contain carbs, so keep an eye on how much onion powder, garlic powder, and other carby spices you're using.

Mistake #8: Ignoring Hidden Carbs when You Eat Out

Salad Topped with Breaded Chicken Strips
Ask if the chicken comes breaded.
Don't do what I did and just assume that it does.

Eating out on a low-carb diet isn't difficult. I used to do it all the time before I went gluten free.

We would go to a small cafe where the owner didn't have a problem throwing together a low-carb meal. In fact, some of the waitresses would even make suggestions of what they could do with the low-carb ingredients they had on hand. 

Look at the a la carte section of the menu.

Sometimes, you can put together your own meal, such as a grilled pork chop with a side salad and whatever steamed veggies of the day they are offering. However, you need to be on guard for sugar in salad dressings, flour in sauces and gravies, and breading on chicken or other meats.

Also, make sure you ask specific questions.

Don't just assume the chicken in their dinner salad isn't breaded. Make a special point to ask.

I once made the mistake of ordering a huge chicken salad, which turned out to be a salad made with tiny chicken nugget-like strips mixed throughout the salad, rather than grilled chicken pieces. It was impossible to get the breading off and even harder to pick them out.

Mistake #9: Not Counting Sugar Substitutes Accurately

This mistake is a biggie.

The Atkins Induction phase limits sugar substitutes to 3 packets per day. Aspartame is not allowed at all.

Each packet of sucralose or non-aspartame sweetener is counted as 1 carbohydrate gram, no matter what the label says, due to the amount of maltodextrin filler each packet contains.

If you are using a different type of sugar substitute, then you need to adapt the rule to fit within the same carb count. For example, each packet of Splenda is equal to two teaspoons of sugar, so you can only use up to 2 tablespoons of bulk Splenda per day (6 teaspoons).

Likewise, sugar alcohols must be limited to 15 grams of sugar per day.

Read the package on your sugar alternative and figure out exactly how much the equivalent of 2 tablespoons of sugar would be. That's your limit for the day.

Liquid sources of Splenda and stevia are generally carb free, since there is no filler added, but you will have to read the ingredients on the bottle to make sure. Pay careful attention to serving sizes, since the bottle could say zero carbs if the serving size is quite small.

In that case, a larger serving might have a carb or two.

This 3-pack limit applies to Atkins shakes and bars, as well as other brands of bars and shakes. Anything that contains sugar substitute or sugar alcohols must be limited to 3 servings per day.

However, keep in mind that some low-carb products contain more than the equivalent of a single packet of sugar substitute per serving, so the product could actually be two servings of sugar substitute rather than one. Atkins shakes and bars are a good example of that.

Mistake #10: Drinking Too Much Coffee or Other Caffeinated Drinks

This Atkins Induction rule has gone back and forth over the years, depending on the current research results regarding coffee consumption, so just use your best judgment on this one.

Caffeine will speed up your metabolism, but an excessive amount can also lower your blood sugar, increasing cravings for carbohydrates and sugary foods.

On the other hand, coffee is an antioxidant, so it helps the body cope with free radicals, but what you put into your coffee could actually be the real culprit here.

If coffee is stalling your weight loss, you might be adding too much heavy cream to that cup, as heavy cream comes with a limit of 2 to 3 tablespoons per day on Induction due to its high calorie content.

If you aren't measuring out the amount of cream you're using in your coffee, you might be surprised at both the number of carbs and calories you're drinking before you even start your day. It is also quite common to underestimate the amount of coffee you're drinking.

Mistake #11: Not Drinking Enough Water

Glass of Water with a Slice of Lemon
Are you drinking
enough water?
Water is needed to flush excess toxins and unused ketone fragments out of the body, but the liver also uses water to break down adipose tissue and convert it into fatty acids.

If you don't drink enough water, the body won't be able to process as much body fat, so your fat loss will go down. Metabolism will also slow down in order to compensate for the lack of water.

Some people believe you have to drink at least half of your body weight in ounces of water per day. However, the Atkins Diet only recommends that you drink 64 ounces.

Personally, I saw better results with 96 ounces, but I was also extremely obese. As my weight went down, so did the amount of water I had to drink to keep the fat coming off at a nice pace.

Mistake #12: Not Getting Enough Fiber

The Induction phase is fairly low in fiber, since you only get a 2-cup salad and 1 cup of cooked vegetables per day, so Dr. Atkins recommended that you supplement the Induction diet with psyllium husk powder or flaxseed meal.

These products can easily be made into muffins, pancakes, and waffles. For those who are not wheat intolerant, you can also add a bit of wheat bran to your protein shakes or sprinkle bran into a vegetable casserole or onto a salad for added crunch.

Since that book was written, additional fiber products have been produced, such as oat bran and chia seeds, both available at Amazon, that can be used alone or added to your flaxmeal to make muffins, puddings, and hot cereal.

You can also choose higher fiber vegetables such as broccoli and green beans, making sure that you also eat your allotted salad every single day. Cabbage, radishes, and celery stuffed with cream cheese are also great ways to up your fiber intake.

A Word on Dietary Supplements

While not taking dietary supplements isn't really a mistake, Dr. Atkins discovered that a lot of his patients had depleted vitamin and mineral stores. This was due to the way they ate before starting a low-carb diet.

Vitamin and mineral deficiencies can also be a result of gluten intolerance or celiac disease, since inflammation prevents the body from absorbing vitamins and minerals properly. Having Graves' Disease or any condition that speeds up digestion will do the same thing.

Dr. Atkins always gave his patients a vitamin and mineral supplement. In fact, when the Atkins Diet program first went public, Dr. Atkins sold a variety of vitamin and mineral formulas. Dietary supplements were not optional. Those supplements were later removed from the market due to a lack of public interest in dietary supplements.

A good multi-vitamin and mineral supplement of your choice is a wise idea, especially while on Atkins Induction due to your carbohydrates being at their lowest. Getting good nutrition is possible at lower carbohydrate levels, provided you include lots of dark leafy greens like spinach, avocados, and colorful vegetables every day.

Change the Way that You Think

If you are looking at Atkins Induction only in terms of how many carbs a food has, you might be reaching for the lowest carb foods on the acceptable list, rather than choosing unprocessed natural foods and high-quality produce.

While Dr. Atkins recommended organic sources and cold-pressed oils whenever possible, that isn't always realistic.

Do go with the most nutritious choices you can afford.

The aim is to give your body the nutrient-dense food it needs to repair your health and assist your body in functioning correctly. Going with the lowest low-carb product you can find isn't always the best choice.

In addition, try to keep your attention on your current nutritional phase and let the future unfold at the proper moment. Concentrate on mastering the Atkins Induction program first, before you worry about what's coming next.

Atkins Induction is the basic foundation of your permanent eating style that can free you from the excess hunger and cravings that have sabotaged your dieting efforts up to this point.

How long it takes your body to correct hormonal imbalances and repair any physical damage that might have resulted from your prior unhealthy diet shouldn't be an issue, not if you're approaching the Atkins Induction program with the proper mindset.

Take the time to really savor how good you feel eating this way.

Experience what it's like to have stable blood sugar levels, increased energy, and a comfortable feeling of well-being.

Bask in the knowledge that you are doing something good and healthy for yourself, and you won't have to struggle when temptation arises to test your strength and will.

While a low-carb diet isn't the best choice for everyone, give the diet time to work by following the Rules of Induction correctly.

Additional Mistakes You Might Want to Check Out:

How to Do the Atkins Induction Diet Correctly
Are You Abusing Atkins Induction?
Why Am I Not Losing Weight on Atkins 40?
Are You Falling for One of These Three Low-Carb Lies?
6 Dieting Mistakes that Newbies Make
The Truth About LCHF Weight Loss


  1. I lost 9lbs on induction 21st Jan 2016 Since then I have not lost anything since. I am not cheating, not cooking soul bread nor desserts, Nor nuts. I am eating bacon and eggs,not drinking alcohol, 3 cups coffee per day - usually one of those is a BPC.

    1. How much weight do you need to lose? How tall are you? And how many calories are you eating? That long of a stall usually indicates that you're eating at maintenance.

  2. Thanks, I needed this. I have tried Atkins in the past and it worked for me. But I never continued with the plan. My weight has always yo-yoed. Now I'm not happy with my current weight and I'm about to embark on Induction again. Good and helpful reminders.

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