Need some help coming up with Atkins Diet menus that make it easier to stay on the program? Planning meals for the Atkins Diet can seem daunting, especially in the early stages. But, it's really quite simple: a matter of balance and careful counting.
Atkins Diet Menus
Before you begin planning your meals, you need to plan how you want to allot your carbs for each day. The carb count for breakfast should be one-third of your daily carb allotment, or less. This approach provides balanced energy levels throughout the day. If you are in the habit of snacking, dropping the per-meal count to slightly below one-third of the daily allotment allows for one or two-carb gram snacks twice during the day. Lunch can be a challenge for healthy eating, and trying to keep your carb-count in mind makes it a little more interesting. Like breakfast, lunch should account for no more than one-third of the daily carb allotment. Dinner, if it is your largest meal of the day, will account for a full one-third of your daily carb count. It usually consists of meat, a salad, a vegetable, and a low-carb dessert. Snacks should be mostly protein-based, with only one or two grams of carbs per snack. When buying "take-along" snacks, make certain no hidden sugars are listed in the ingredients.
- Induction Level: Breakfast menus for the induction level of the Atkins Diet need to be no more than six grams of carbohydrate. That means even most low-carb breads won't fit into this level of the diet. But eggs, bacon, ham, lox and cream cheese, and cheeses work quite well.
Sample menu: 2-egg omelet with chevre and chives, bacon, decaf coffee
- OWL Level: Breakfast at this level should still account for no more than one-third of the daily carb intake. As the intake increases through this level, more and more freedom will be possible in food choices. In addition to the induction-friendly foods, low-carb bread may be added.
Sample menu: Cheese pancakes, sausage, V-8 or herbal tea
- Maintenance Level: Breakfast menus for maintenance are similar to the OWL level, but berries, melon, or citrus fruits may be added, as well as unsweetened yogurt.
Sample menu: Ham and cheese frittata, cantaloupe, decaf coffee or herbal tea
- Induction Level: While salads are readily available, you may not want to use up your entire 3 cups of salad in one meal or you don't get to have any vegetables at dinner. A good plan is to have a small salad with a burger or meat salad.
Sample menu: Chicken salad, mesclun mix salad (1 cup) with sugar-free dressing, sugar-free gelatin, water or tea
- OWL Level: Now you begin to see more freedom in your food choices, making for more varied and interesting lunch selections.
Sample Menu: Tuna salad in half a tomato, baby spinach with grated manchego cheese and vinaigrette dressing, sugar-free gelatin, water or tea.
- Maintenance Level: Just about anything goes, as long as it's sugar-free and fits within a third of the daily carb count.
Sample Menu: Crustless Quiche Lorraine, salad, sugar-free chocolate mousse, water or tea
- Induction Level: Meals are fairly simple at the induction stage, as your 20g daily carb limit dictates that dinner should be no more than 7g of carbs. Still, with a little creative thinking, dinner can be a fulfilling and even opulent fare.
Sample menu: smoked salmon appetizer, Caesar salad (no croutons), steak au poivre, steamed broccoli, sugar-free gelatin
- OWL Level: Meals become a bit easier as your daily carb allotment increases.
Sample menu: lobster bisque, green salad, salmon steak, asparagus hollandaise, sugar-free lemon mouse
- Maintenance Level: Again, nearly anything is permissible, as long as it fits within your carb allotment and contains no sugar.
Sample menu: stuffed mushrooms, spinach salad with raspberry vinaigrette, Chicken Kiev, haricots verts, strawberry zabaglione.
- Induction snacks: beef jerky, vienna sausages, cheese (remember each ounce of cheese counts as one gram of carb), hard-boiled eggs, pork rinds.
- OWL Snacks: lox and cream cheese, deviled eggs, small slice of crustless quiche
- Maintenance snacks: At this level, you can increase the level of carbs slightly, to as much as 5g, as long as you can do that and still keep a third of your daily allotment of carbs for each meal. Snacks at this point can be pretty much anything you want, as long as it's within the carb count and sugar-free. Low-carb bread with lox and cream cheese, guacamole with vegetable sticks, salami cubes, or a small portion of berries with whipped cream would be acceptable snacks at the maintenance level in the creation of appropriate Atkins Diet menus.