How it Works

Atkins 20 Plan: Phase 2 - Balance Your Diet

In Phase 2 (Balancing), you'll start to climb the Carb Ladder, slowly adding different foods - think nuts, seeds, strawberries, blueberries, melon, cottage cheese, yogurt and more - until you find a healthy balanced diet that's right for you. Phase 2 is all about maintaining your momentum from Phase 1/Induction and continuing the process of finding your personal carb balance.

Learn more about how to balance your diet by following the links below.

How Long

Typically until you’re within 10 pounds of your goal weight, although you can transition to Phase 3 sooner if you’re willing to slow the pace of weight loss.


Lose most of your excess pounds and find your personal carb balance.


Starting at 25 grams of Net Carbs daily, begin to increase overall carb intake in 5-gram increments. This means gradually reintroducing a broader array of carb foods as you step up the Carb Ladder, finding your personal carb balance. It could level off anywhere between 30 and 80 daily grams of Net Carbs or even higher. Your personal number is impacted by your age, gender, activity level, hormonal status, and other factors as you continue to lose weight.

Here’s how to succeed on Phase 2 as you proceed up the Carb Ladder.

  • Continue to consume a minimum of 12–15 daily grams of Net Carbs as foundation vegetables. Also continue to avoid foods with added sugar, have eight glasses of water or other acceptable fluids each day, and go no longer than three or four hours between meals or snacks, spreading out your carb intake across the day.
  • Reintroduce food groups one by one, following the Carb Ladder. Depending on your metabolism and weight-loss goal, this may be at weekly intervals, every couple of weeks, or even longer.
  • Add back carb foods within each rung of the ladder one by one as well. For example, reintroduce walnuts but gauge their impact, if any, before reintroducing almonds.
  • Increase your overall daily Net Carb intake in 5-gram increments at weekly, biweekly, or even monthly intervals, whichever works best for you.
  • Continue to weigh and measure yourself weekly.

Welcome to freedom, variety and finding your personal carb balance. Combine this list with all the options from Phase I and you've got a broader selection of foods to choose from. So enjoy, keep your eye on the end goal and welcome to Phase 2.

During Phase 2, you add higher carb foods back into your diet – 5 daily Net Carbs per week. You can move beyond vegetables to other foods, such as nuts, seeds and berries. Although you will be eating primarily natural, unprocessed foods, you will find an increasing number of convenience foods – choices that help even busy people stay on track during weight loss.

The Power Of Five

In the recommended portions, these foods each contain roughly 5 grams of Net Carbs (total carbs minus fiber).

Serving Size
Net Carbs
Cottage cheese 2%
1/2 cup
Heavy cream
3/4 cup
Mozzarella cheese
5 ounces
Ricotta cheese
1/2 cup
Yogurt, Plain, Unsweetened, whole milk
1/2 cup or 4 ounces
Yogurt, Greek, Plain, unsweetened, whole milk
1/2 cup or 4 ounces
Nuts and Seeds
Serving Size
Net Carbs
1 ounce (28g)
24 nuts
Brazil nuts
5 nuts
9 nuts
Hulled sunflower seeds
6 nuts
10 halves
26 nuts
7 halves
Serving Size
Net Carbs
Blueberries (fresh)
1/4 cup
Cantaloupe or honeydew
1/4 cup
Raspberries (fresh)
1/4 cup
Strawberries (fresh)
1/4 cup
Serving Size
Net Carbs
Lemon juice
1/4 cup
Lime juice
1/4 cup
Tomato juice
4 ounces
Serving Size
Net Carbs
Black Beans
1/2 cup
1/4 cup
Great Northern Beans
1/4 cup
Kidney Beans
1/4 cup
1/2 cup
Lima Beans
1/2 cup
Navy Beans
1/2 cup
Pinto Beans
1/2 cup

Convenience Foods

Many of the foods listed above are available conveniently packaged to go at the market or convenience store – feel free to grab and go – just note the serving size, and subtract fiber from total carbs to get Net Carbs.

And remember, Atkins bars and shakes are super convenient too, And every single flavor is allowed in Phase 2. So be busy, be happy and be well fed.

Here are some FAQs that you may encounter during Phase 2:

How do I get back on track after an “indiscretion”?

First of all, don't beat yourself up. We all have moments of weakness, and maybe that plate of French fries your friend was eating was more than you could resist. Second, don't play the game of “Well, since I've already messed up, I might as well go whole hog." For the rest of the day eat appropriately. Don't wait until tomorrow to get back on the wagon.

What’s carb creep?

Without realizing it, as you gradually add back foods, you may be consuming far more carbs than you think you are. This can make you complacent about your intake until your weight loss stalls. Once again, tracking your carbs and portion sizes should help you avoid carb creep.

Why have my cravings returned?

Usually cravings vanish by the end of the first week on Phase 1/Induction when you convert to burning primarily fat for energy. There are several reasons they may return. Women sometimes experience cravings a few days before their menstrual period. Going too long between meals or adding foods such as dairy products or peanuts may stimulate cravings. Stress can also destabilize blood sugar, triggering cravings for comfort foods. Adding a bit more fat, in the form of olives, half an avocado, or some cream cheese in a celery stick, can help you feel more satisfied, minimizing cravings.

Do I have to reintroduce all Phase 2 acceptable foods?

Of course not. If you don't like yogurt or chickpeas or tomato juice, so be it. Or if a whole rung on the Carb Ladder holds no appeal for you, just skip it. There's still plenty of variety inherent in the whole foods you can eat on Atkins.

Why is my weight loss erratic?

As discussed in regard to plateaus, your body has its own schedule and won't share it with anyone. The important thing is to follow the program faithfully and the pounds will come off. Again, adding exercise helps some people lose weight, but not everyone. Be sure to take your measurements weekly. If you've lost inches, the scale is bound to catch up.

Why have I regained some of the weight I lost?

The reason we recommend that you not weigh yourself daily is that your weight can vary by as much as 5 pounds even within a day. As long as you're following the program, you should see some weight loss every week or so, unless you're on a plateau. If you stayed on track but gained a pound or two since the previous week, you're probably retaining water or are constipated.

If you’ve lost weight steadily and are now only about 10 pounds from your goal weight, it’s time to move on to Phase 3, because your long-term goal is to find a sustainable way of eating. And with 10 pounds to go, you have enough time to try to reintroduce the remaining carb foods.

If you aren’t yet 10 pounds from your goal, ask yourself which of these three scenarios describes you:

  1. You’ve reached a daily intake of about 50 grams of Net Carbs, have introduced Phase 2 foods, and continue to slim down without experiencing cravings and unreasonable hunger. If so, feel free to transition to Phase 3 now if you’re eager for more variety in your meals. If you stall out there, you can always return to Phase 2 to reboot weight loss.
  2. You still have more than 10 pounds to shed and are stalled in your weight-loss progress and/or experiencing cravings and extreme hunger before meals. By all means, stay in this phase until the cravings and hunger have vanished.
  3. Although you lost weight in Phase 1, your progress in this phase has been frustrating, and some Phase 2 foods are creating cravings and undue hunger. You may have even gained a few pounds. You may be extraordinarily sensitive to carbs and may have reached your carb tolerance at 30 or 35 grams of Net Carbs. Follow the advice above, be patient, and ramp up your activity level if possible.


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