Atkins is a type of ketogenic diet—a nutrition plan that’s high in fats, moderate in protein, and low in carbs. The goal of a low carb diet is to help you lose weight more efficiently by reaching ketosis, which is a metabolic state in which your body burns fat instead of carbohydrates for fuel. Consuming a balanced keto diet like Atkins 20® and Atkins 40® has shown to be safe and effective.
So, what foods can you eat on a keto diet? The following list of keto-friendly foods is based on the first phase of Atkins 20®, which reduces your carb intake to an average of 20g net carbs per day to guarantee ketosis is achieved. After the first two weeks of this induction phase, you will gradually add more net carbs and a wider variety of foods back into your diet. No matter the phase you’re in, try to eat three meals and two snacks a day, never starve yourself or go more than 4 waking hours without eating, and stay hydrated.
The main component of a keto diet is to lower your carb intake to 20–40 net grams per day to achieve ketosis. To ensure you’re still getting the vitamins, minerals, and fiber your body requires, it is important that the carbs you do eat come from nutrient-rich, non-starchy sources. Eating plenty of whole foods also helps you stay fuller longer and prevents sugar cravings.
Low carb vegetables
Aim to eat 12–15g of net carbs from a variety of vegetables per day. Refer to your Atkins plan and phase for a full list of acceptable foundation vegetables, but the following are some of our favorite keto friendly low carb veggies.
- Brussels sprouts
- Green beans
- Peppers (red and green)
Low carb fruits
When it comes time to adding low carb fruits into your diet, reach for low glycemic varieties like blackberries, blueberries, coconut, lemons and limes, raspberries, strawberries, and tomatoes. Olives and avocados, which are also technically a fruit, are also a great source of healthy fat.
Protein should make up 20-30% of your diet. Eating the right balance of protein while on a low carb diet is important in protecting muscle mass and supplying the liver with enough amino acids to make new glucose for the cells and organs in your body that can’t use ketones as fuel.
Meat, poultry, and eggs
Meat and poultry are excellent no-net-carb sources of protein and some of the most keto-friendly foods. Make sure to get your protein from a variety of different sources and aim for three 4-6 ounce servings of protein each day. Eggs are also packed with protein as well as vitamin A and antioxidants. Enjoy your eggs any style, especially with some foundation vegetables mixed in for a filling, balanced meal.
Remember that some processed meats, bacon, and ham are cured with sugar, which will add to the carb count. If possible, avoid cold cuts and other meats with added nitrates.
Fish and shellfish
Fish and shellfish are rich in protein, Omega-3 fatty acids, and healthy fats as well as a great source of vitamins D and B2, calcium, and minerals like zinc, copper, iron, magnesium, and potassium. Aim for 4–6 ounce servings of fish or shellfish a couple times a week, and try to avoid products that are higher in carbs like imitation crab.
- Salmon (wild)
Cheese and other dairy
Because cheese contains about 1 gram of carbs per ounce, try to consume no more than 4 ounces per day (an ounce is about the size of a 1-inch cube). We recommend choosing the full-fat varieties when possible.
- Bleu cheese
- Cheddar cheese
- Cottage cheese
- Cream cheese
- Goat cheese
- Greek yogurt (plain)
- Mozzarella (whole milk)
Low carb keto diets replace your reduction of carbs with an increase in fat, typically accounting for at least 60% of your daily calories. But not just any fat; make sure to choose healthy fats from high-quality plant and animal sources, such as olive oil, avocado oil, and nuts, as well as cheese, eggs, meat, and fish, which are also protein sources.
Oils and other healthy fats
While these oils are free of carbs, the recommended daily intake for added fats is 2–4 tablespoons. Steer clear of unhealthy fats —i.e. trans fats typically found in packaged and fried foods—like partially hydrogenated oils. When cooking with the following healthy options, avoid heating oils above their smoke point.
- Avocado oil
- Coconut butter
- Coconut oil
- Mayonnaise (with no added sugar)
- MCT oil
- Olive oil
- Safflower oil
- Sesame oil
- Walnut oil
Nuts and seeds
Low in carbs and high in fat, nuts and seeds are a great source of protein and make for a healthy snack or salad topping. Seeds are also a great source of fiber. Try to avoid nuts coated in extra sugar or “flavored” nuts, as the flavoring typically adds extra carbs. Consume almonds, cashews, pine nuts, and pistachios in moderation, as they have a higher carb count than the nuts and seeds listed below.
- Brazil nuts
- Chia seeds
- Hemp seeds
- Macadamia nuts
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sunflower seeds
- Sesame seeds
Low carb diets like keto have a diuretic effect, so make sure to drink a minimum of 6 to 8 glasses of water daily—especially during the induction phase—to support your metabolism and regular body functions. Not consuming enough water can lead to constipation, dizziness, and cravings. Also make sure to add extra salt to your diet in order to make sure you’re getting enough electrolytes. Try sipping on full-sodium broth or adding a little extra salt to your food.
Zero-calorie seltzers and club soda, up to two cups of decaffeinated or regular coffee and tea, herbal tea (without added barley or fruit sugar added), and unsweetened soy and almond milks are also permitted. Pay close attention to your beverages, as they are often a major source of hidden sugars and carbs without you knowing!
Explore different Atkins plans personalized to your lifestyle, and easily keep track of your daily net carbs with this carb counter guide.