Atkins 20, Phase 1: Induction

Atkins 20® Phase 1, also known as Induction, is designed to jumpstart your weight loss. An all-too-common misconception is that Phase 1 of Atkins is the whole program. In reality, it’s the key to kick starting your fat burning metabolism. As you move through the diet, you’ll find the maximum grams of net carbs you can consume while continuing to lose weight, keep your appetite under control, and stay alert and energized. This is called your personal carb balance.

Phase 1 is all about changing the way your body uses nutrients, so these first few weeks will be essential to your weight loss journey. See details below on Induction and how to get started with your low carb diet.

The length of the Induction phase depends on your weight loss goals. For some, Phase 1 may only last two weeks. However, you may safely follow it for much longer if you have a lot of weight to lose or prefer to lose most of your excess pounds relatively quickly. You’ll stay in this phase until you’re 15 pounds from goal weight, so Induction may not be necessary for those looking to lose less. To determine if Phase 1 is right for you, check out our personalization tool or the compare plans page

It is important to kick start your weight loss during the first few weeks of a low carb diet. That’s why Atkins Phase 1 works by significantly shifting what you eat before settling in to a more sustainable lifestyle. Sticking to the list of acceptable foods during Phase 1 will help your body shift from burning primarily carbs to burning primarily fat.

During Induction, it is important to significantly drop your daily net carb intake to an average of 20 grams (no less than 18 and no more than 22). At this intake level, almost anyone begins to burn fat as their primary energy source. The goal is to get your body adjusted to the fat-burning  process so you’ll be able to slowly add more carbs into your diet later on.

Register with Atkins today to get started on the most effective low carb diet. Our recipes, exclusive resources, and free tools will help you achieve your weight loss goals.

LOW CARB DIET TIPS FOR ATKINS 20®, PHASE 1

Discover low carb diet tips specific to starting the first phase of Atkins 20. Here you can learn how to reduce your daily sugar intake to see your body undergo its most noticeable change. From what to eat, what not to eat, and how much to eat, follow our advice below to help guide you along your Atkins journey.

10 DIET TIPS FOR WEIGHT LOSS

Never starve yourself or go more than three or four waking hours without eating. If you prefer, have five or even six small meals. You never want to allow yourself to become ravenously hungry. That can open the door to eating whatever’s at hand. Not a good idea!

Of these, 12–15 grams should be in the form of foundation vegetables. It’s fine to average 20 grams a day over several days, but don’t go below 18 grams or above 22 on a single day. Dropping below 18 probably won’t make you lose weight any faster and is unlikely to satisfy your vegetable requirement. Going above 22 could interfere with triggering weight loss. Select carb foods from the list of Phase 1 acceptable foods.

Learn more about net carbs and how to calculate them to get the most out of your diet.

As you now know, protein plays a key role in weight loss and protects lean muscle mass, so you lose only fat. A useful tip to follow on Atkins 20, Phase 1 is to consume three 4-6 ounce servings each day

Consuming fat is essential to slimming down on Atkins. Fat also heightens the flavor of foods and enables your body to absorb certain vitamins. Always accompany a carb snack with either fat or protein. For example, have cucumber slices with a piece of cheese. Consume 3T of added fat daily.

Two of these can be replaced with coffee or tea. Another 2 cups can be replaced with beef, chicken, or vegetable broth (not the low sodium kind).

An important tip to remember during Phase 1 is the initial loss of water weight is normal, but it can lead to light-headedness and rob you of your energy. These symptoms disappear once you’re burning primarily fat, but in the meantime, be sure to consume sufficient salt in the form of salty broth, salt, tamari, or soy sauce.

Read food labels carefully, particularly on condiments. In restaurants, ask for oil and vinegar to dress your salad, request sauces on the side, and feel free to ask the server what’s in a dish.

That means no more than three packets a day.

Atkins® products have been tested to ensure that their impact on your blood sugar level is minimal. The majority of Atkins® products can be suitable for Phase 1, as long as you don’t sacrifice the intake of foundation vegetables (12 to 15 net carb daily requirement) and count the net carbs in your daily net carb count. If you are in Induction, you have 5 to 8 grams of net carbs to use for dairy, dressings, or Atkins products. You can plan accordingly.

Eat nothing that isn’t on the list of Phase 1 acceptable foods, unless you plan to continue on Phase 1 for longer than two weeks. If so, then it is acceptable to add nuts and seeds.

Get additional low carb diet tips directly online when you register for the Atkins® diet.

PHASE 1 FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS & FACTS

If you have questions about starting the first phase of Atkins, you’re in the right place. Below you will discover low carb weight loss facts and frequently asked questions, from the number of snacks you can have per day to how alcoholic beverages will affect your weight loss.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

No. You can start in any of the first three phases. If you have just a few pounds to lose, up to about 15, you can probably start in Phase 2 at 25 to 30 grams of Net Carbs a day. If you are heavier, you can also start here, but it may take a little longer to lose weight without the kick-start that you get in Phase 1. You can also begin in Phase 3 at, say, 40 grams of Net Carbs a day if you have less than 40 pounds to lose.

No. However, it’s unlikely that you’ll follow them to the letter day in and day out unless you eat every meal at home, so it’s a good idea to use the Atkins Carb Counter. Also, if you aren’t precise about serving size, you may be consuming more carbs than the meal plan indicates. In any case, it’s important to know how to count carbs (actually, grams of Net Carbs) as you start to add back more foods. Counting provides a double check that improves your likelihood of success from the start.

Not necessarily. If you’re having four or five small meals a day, you may not feel the need for snacks, but be very careful not to go more than four to six hours between meals. Instead, have a hot drink, perhaps a cup of broth.

The first few pounds you lose on any weight-loss program are primarily water, this seems to be a general weight loss fact to follow. Atkins particularly has a diuretic effect.

No. Eating excessive protein will make you sluggish and interfere with weight loss. Overeat fat and you’ll create a calorie bomb and may slow down weight loss.

Most people are borderline dehydrated all the time. Drinking enough fluid helps flush toxins from your body, combats constipation and bad breath, lubricates your joints, and is important to your overall health. Staying hydrated also assists with weight loss. Remember, some of your water requirement can be satisfied with coffee, tea, or other clear beverages, including broth.

Bacon is fine in moderation. Any residual sugar from the curing process in bacon, ham, or other pork products is burned off when you cook it.

This is a very common question individuals ask when starting the first phase of Atkins 20. Cooking compacts vegetables such as spinach or cabbage significantly. Carb counts reflect the cooked amount. Chopping or grating a vegetable also compacts it more than slicing does, and that impacts the carb count as well.

Yes, as long as you get your quota of foundation vegetables and don’t exceed your Net Carb daily limit. A dessert should contain no more than 3 grams of Net Carbs per serving. An Atkins Endulge bar or one of our dessert recipes is a good choice.

By maintaining a constant level of carb intake from day to day, you’re more likely to keep your blood sugar on an even keel. But a range of 3 or 4 grams of Net Carbs from one day to the next should not create a problem as long as your average intake is consistent. If you do overindulge one day, simply return to your current level the next day.

Doing so will mean that you’re consistently returning to a primarily blood sugar metabolism for two days. It’s a fact during Phase 1 that it takes several days to reignite your fat-burning engine. Stopping and starting, known as “carb cycling,” will lessen the likelihood that you’ll lose weight or keep it off.

Although the initial guidelines of Atkins advised individuals to eliminate caffeine without exception, the guideline has since been liberalized to advise avoiding excessive consumption and the guidelines include caffeine as desired and tolerated by each individual.

TRANSITIONING FROM ATKINS 20, PHASE 1 TO PHASE 2

After two weeks on Atkins, it’s decision time. Assuming you’ve been following the program correctly and have lost weight over the last two weeks, you can choose to remain in Phase 1 or transition to Phase 2.

Beginning the Low Carb Diet Transition

If you’re motivated by quick weight loss and thrive on structure and a minimum of choices, you may choose to stay in Phase 1 beyond two weeks. To make this process easier, as well as set the stage for when you do decide to move on:

  • Continue to consume 20 grams of Net Carbs a day beyond the first two weeks.
  • Try adding nuts and seeds to your Phase 1 list of acceptable foods. Nuts are full of protein and healthy fats and are relatively low in Net Carbs, thanks to their high fiber content.

To make it easy, swap out 3 grams of Net Carbs from other foods, such as 1/2 cup of green beans, a smallish tomato, or 11/2 cups mixed greens, for 3 grams of nuts or seeds, but without letting your intake of foundation veggies dip below 12 grams of Net Carbs. (You’ll still have 5 grams for Atkins bars and shakes, sweeteners, dressings, or condiments.)

As a quick guide, 3 grams of Net Carbs of nuts or seeds translates to 30 almonds, 3 tablespoons macadamia nuts, 2 tablespoons peanut butter, 2 tablespoons pistachios, or 4 tablespoons shelled sunflower seeds; 24 walnut halves come in at 3.4 grams. Portion out nuts and seeds in advance to avoid overeating. A couple of tablespoons of walnuts, almonds, pecans, or pumpkin seeds make a great snack.

Transition to Phase 2 (Balancing) no later than when you’re within 15 pounds of your goal weight. At that point it’s time to start transitioning to a permanent way of eating by introducing foods higher up the Carb Ladder.

BALANCING YOUR CARBS

Alternatively, you may choose to lose the bulk of your weight in Phase 2 (Balancing). If you’re comfortable with a slower, steadier rate of weight loss, after two weeks (or a few more) start to climb the Carb Ladder. You begin adding Balancing foods in 5g increments. The gradual increase in Net Carb intake and reintroduction of new foods allows you to continue to shave off pounds and inches, maintain appetite control, and feel energetic. You’ll also gradually come to understand which, if any, foods trigger cravings for more of the same and/ or interfere with weight loss.

You may find that you’re comfortable at a relatively low level of Net Carbs a day, perhaps 25 to 35 grams, which is not all that different from Kick-Start but does allow you to eat such delicious, nutritious food as nuts and seeds and then berries, melon, and cherries. Next you’ll move on to Greek yogurt and fresh cheeses. Or you may find you can go considerably higher, say 50 or 60 grams of Net Carbs or even more, which will allow you to include legumes and some vegetable juices

Find out what works for you by beginning the balancing process. Phase 2 is all about understanding how your carb tolerance is the bridge from a weight-loss diet to a diet for life.

For additional information on making the transition from Phase 1 to Phase 2, register with Atkins® today

LIST OF LOW CARB FOODS FOR ATKINS 20, PHASE 1

Our “Acceptable Low Carb Foods List” is an easy guide to Atkins 20, Phase 1. During this phase, you will kick start induction by reducing your daily net carb intake to an average of 20g a day. Of these, 12-15 grams should be in the form of foundation vegetables. Enjoy any of the foods from the below list of acceptable low carb foundation vegetables, proteins, healthy fats, nuts and seeds, and most cheeses. Don’t see your favorite foods on the list? They are likely included in the next phases!**

Use this list of acceptable low carb foods as your guide to serving sizes and net carbs per serving. Aim to eat at least three meals and two snacks every day. Never starve yourself or go more than 3-4 hours during the day without eating. And plan ahead so you aren’t tempted to eat foods not found on the following acceptable list! Visit our recipe page for hundreds of meal ideas using Phase 1 ingredients.

Fish is rich in healthy fats and protein, and is a great source of vitamins D and B2, calcium, and minerals like iron and potassium. While all fish are acceptable low carb foods for Phase 1 and do not have net carbs, we recommend sticking to a 4-6 ounce serving of the types listed here a couple times a week.

  • Flounder
  • Herring
  • Salmon
  • Sardines
  • Sole
  • Tuna
  • Trout
  • Cod
  • Halibut

While there are no net carbs in poultry, eating a variety of foods is important to any healthy diet. Make sure to get your protein from different categories and aim for three 4-6 ounce servings of protein each day.

  • Cornish hen
  • Chicken
  • Duck
  • Goose
  • Pheasant
  • Quail
  • Turkey
  • Ostrich

Shellfish is another great source of protein, Omega-3 fatty acids, healthy fats, and minerals like zinc, copper, iron, and magnesium. Although shellfish does not contain any net carbs, oysters and mussels are higher in carbs so limit to about 4 ounces per day.

  • Clams
  • Crabmeat
  • Mussels
  • Oysters
  • Shrimp
  • Squid
  • Lobster

Protein plays a key role in weight loss and protects lean muscle mass, so you only lose fat. Meat is an excellent, no net carb source of protein. One serving is approximately 4-6 ounces.

  • Bacon*
  • Beef
  • Ham*
  • Lamb
  • Pork
  • Veal
  • Venison

*Some processed meat, bacon, and ham is cured with sugar, which will add to the carb count. Avoid cold cuts and other meats with added nitrates, if possible.

Eggs are packed with protein, vitamin A, and antioxidants. Get creative with your eggs by adding acceptable vegetables and topping with feta cheese and herbs. Enjoy eggs in any style including:

  • Deviled
  • Fried
  • Hard-boiled
  • Omelets
  • Poached
  • Scrambled
  • Soft-boiled

Consuming a healthy amount of fat is an important part of Atkins. There are no carbs here, but keep in mind that the recommended daily intake for added fats is 2-4 tablespoons daily. Do not allow any oils to reach overly high temperatures when cooking, and use olive oil for sautéing only. Use walnut or sesame oil to dress cooked veggies or salad, but not for cooking.

  • Butter
  • Mayonnaise – make sure it has no added sugar
  • Olive oil
  • Vegetable oils – Those labeled “cold pressed” or “expeller pressed” are especially good and olive oil is one of the best:
    • Canola
    • Walnut
    • Soybean
    • Grape seed
    • Sesame
    • Sunflower
    • Safflower

Limit your sugar substitutes to no more than three packets a day. One packet equals 1 gram of net carbs.

  • Sucralose
  • Saccharine
  • Stevia

Pay close attention to your beverages, as they are often a major source of hidden sugars and carbs. It is important to drink at least 64 ounces of water a day during Atkins 20, Phase 1. Drinking enough fluid assists with weight loss and is essential to maintaining good health.

  • Clear broth/ bouillon (make sure it has no sugars added)
  • Club soda
  • Cream, heavy or light
  • Decaffeinated or regular coffee and tea*
  • Diet soda (be sure to note the carb count)
  • Flavored seltzer (must say no calories)
  • Herb tea (without added barley or fruit sugar added)
  • Unflavored soy/almond milk
  • Water – at least eight 8-ounce glasses per day including:
    • Filtered water
    • Mineral water
    • Spring water
    • Tap water

* One to two cups of caffeinated tea or coffee is allowed as desired and tolerated by each individual.

Net Carbs

New Serving Size

0.2

1 TBSP

Parmesan, grated

0.3

1 oz

Goat, chevre

0.4

2 TBSP

Bleu cheeses

0.4

1 oz

Cheddar

0.6

1 oz

Gouda

0.6

1 oz

Mozzarella, whole milk

0.8

2 TBSP

Cream cheese, whipped

0.9

1 oz

Parmesan, chunk

1

1 oz

Swiss

1.2

1 oz

Feta

Keep in mind that cheese does contain carbs, about 1 gram per ounce, and we recommend consuming no more than 3-4 ounces of cheese per day. An ounce is about the size of an individually wrapped slice of American cheese or a 1-inch cube.

Net Carbs

New Serving Size

0

1/2 cup

Alfalfa sprouts (raw)

0.1

1/2 cup

Chicory greens (raw)

0.1

1/2 cup

Endive (raw)

0.1

1/2 cup

Escarole (raw)

0.1

5, each

Olives, green

0.1

1/2 cup

Watercress (raw)

0.2

1/2 cup

Arugula (raw)

0.2

1, each

Radishes (raw)

0.2

1/2 cup

Spinach (raw)

0.4

1/2 cup

Bok choy (cooked)

0.5

1/2 cup

Lettuce, average (raw)

0.6

1/2 cup

Turnip greens (cooked)

0.7

1 each

Heart of palm

0.7

5, each

Olives, black

0.7

1/2 cup

Radicchio (raw)

0.8

1/2 cup

Button mushroom (raw)

1

1, each

Artichoke (marinated)

1

1 stalk

Celery (raw)

1

1/2 cup

Collard greens (cooked)

1

1, each

Pickle, dill

1

1/2 cup

Spinach

1.2

1/2 cup

Broccoli rabe (cooked)

1.2

1/2 cup

Sauerkraut (drained)

1.3

1/2 fruit

Avocado, Haas

1.4

1/2 cup

Daikon radish, grated (raw)

1.5

2 TBSP

Red/white onion, chopped (raw)

1.5

1/2 cup

Zucchini (cooked)

1.6

1/2 cup

Cucumber, sliced (raw)

1.7

1/2 cup

Cauliflower (cooked)

1.8

1/2 cup

Beet greens (cooked)

1.8

1/2 cup

Broccoli (cooked)

1.8

1/2 cup

Fennel (raw)

1.8

1/2 cup

Okra (cooked)

1.8

1/2 cup

Rhubarb (raw)

1.8

1/2 cup

Swiss chard (cooked)

1.9

6 stalks

Asparagus (cooked)

1.9

3, each

Broccolini (cooked)

2.2

1/2 cup

Bell pepper, green, chopped (raw)

2.2

1/2 cup

Sprouts, mung beans (raw)

2.3

1/2 cup

Eggplant (cooked)

2.4

1/2 cup

Kale (cooked)

2.4

1/2 cup

Scallion, chopped (raw)

2.4

1/2 cup

Turnip (cooked)

2.5

1, each

Tomato, small (raw)

2.6

1/2 cup

Jicama (raw)

2.6

1, each

Portobello mushroom (cooked)

2.6

1/2 cup

Yellow squash (cooked)

2.7

1/2 cup

Cabbage (cooked)

2.9

1/2 cup

Green beans (cooked)

3

1/2 cup

Bell pepper, red, chopped (raw)

3.4

2 TBSP

Leeks (cooked)

3.4

2 TBSP

Shallot, chopped (raw)

3.5

1/2 cup

Brussel sprouts (cooked)

4

1/2 cup

Spaghetti squash (cooked)

4.6

10, each

Cherry tomato

4.6

1/2 cup

Kohlrabi (cooked)

4.7

1/2 cup

Pumpkin, mashed (cooked)

5.3

2 TBSP

Garlic, minced (raw)

5.4

1/2 cup

Snow peas (cooked)

8.6

1/2 cup

Tomato (cooked)

These vegetables are the nutrient-dense, higher-fiber foundation for the Atkins way of eating. Aim for 12-15g of net carbs from vegetables per day, which is equivalent to several cups depending on the net carb content of the variety you select. One cup of veggies is roughly the size of a baseball. Measure salad vegetables raw.

Net Carbs

New Serving Size

0

3 slices

Crumbled bacon

0.5

1 egg

Hard-boiled egg

1

1/2 cup

Sautéed mushrooms

1.2

2 Tbsp

Sour cream

(see above carb counts)

Grated cheeses

Net Carbs

New Serving Size

0

1 TBSP

Basil

0

1 TBSP

Cayenne pepper

0

1 TBSP

Cilantro

0

1 TBSP

Dill

0

1 TBSP

Oregano

0

1 TBSP

Tarragon

.1

1 TBSP

Parsley

.1

1 TBSP

Chives (fresh or dehydrated)

.8

1 TBSP

Ginger, fresh, grated

.8

1 TBSP

Rosemary, dried

.8

1 tsp

Sage, ground

.9

1 tsp

Black pepper

.9

1 clove

Garlic

Herbs and spices are a great way to enhance the flavor of your food. When shopping for dried or packaged herbs and spices, read the labels closely to make sure they contain no added sugar.

Net Carbs

New Serving Size

0

1 TBSP

Red wine vinegar

1

2 TBSP

Caesar

1.4

2 TBSP

Ranch

2.0

2 TBSP

Lemon juice

2.3

2 TBSP

Bleu cheese

2.4

2 TBSP

Lime juice

2.7

1 TBSP

Balsamic vinegar

3

2 TBSP

Italian, creamy

Read labels carefully. Any prepared salad dressing without added sugar, and no more than 3 grams of net carbs per serving, is acceptable in phase one. Or make your own!

** If you have decided to stay in Induction longer than 2 weeks, you may swap out 3g NC of other foundation vegetables for 3g NC of nuts or seeds. Do not let your Foundation Vegetable levels drop below 12g NC.

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