Spring Cleaning, the Atkins Way: Your guide to an Atkins-friendly kitchen and pantry

When is the last time you gave your kitchen and pantry a good spring cleaning? This is the perfect time to make sure this very important part of your house is set up to help you continue on your journey with Atkins, because successful weight loss starts in the kitchen. And swimsuit season will be here before you know it!

Here's how to get started:

Start with a clean slate. First, grab a garbage bag and take a hard look at your refrigerator and pantry. Toss anything that's expired or just looks questionable. Check your spice drawer, and purge the spices and herbs that have lost their color or have no or very little smell. Go through your freezer and get rid of anything that is freezer-burned. Check your frozen vegetables, and toss the veggies that you've had longer than eight months. Frozen meats usually keep just as long, but get rid of anything that has been frozen, defrosted and frozen again. It goes without saying, but this is also a chance to get rid of anything that is not Atkins-friendly, as long as the rest of your family agrees with you.

Divide and conquer. Once you've cleared the shelves, wipe everything down and arrange the foods you have left by type. Keep all remaining non-Atkins-friendly foods in a specific place that your family can easily locate (but that you should avoid at all costs). That would include the after-school snacks and lunchbox foods (if you have kids) and the cereals and packaged foods the rest of your family may still be eating.

Make a list. Now that you've emptied your shelves, it's time to restock. Make a list of everything you will need at the store, depending on what Phase you are in Atkins:

  • Phase 1
    Phase 2
    Phase 3
    Phase 4
  • It's all about presentation. Once you're done shopping, arrange your food so that it's easily accessible. This will also help you make smarter choices when the food cravings hit. Wash and cut up all your vegetables and put them in clear plastic or glass containers. That way your delicious food choices are front and center instead of wilting away in a vegetable drawer. If you bought meat in bulk, portion it out into zip-top, freezer-safe plastic bags so that defrosting a portion or two is also a fast option. Pre-measure snacks and keep them in a handy place in the refrigerator (one ounces of cheese cut into cubes or a half-dozen olives, for example) so you can grab them quickly and you won't be tempted to eat the whole package or jar. And always keep some hard-boiled eggs handy, either to eat as-is, make an egg salad or deviled eggs or garnish with cooked spinach. Keep in mind that Atkins has a variety of delicious and convenient low-carb products that can help you stick to your plan as well.

    Shop the right way:
    To simplify shopping and cooking, it's always a good idea to plan out a week's worth of meals and snacks. Take some time on Sunday, for example, and write them down, so you don't even have to give your meals a second thought in the coming week. Do it after you've had a meal, too, so you aren't hungry when you plan. Consider at least three or four main dishes that you can double, and then you can freeze the other half for another meal. If you want ideas or inspiration, check out the Recipes section here on the Atkins site. You'll find literally hundreds of recipes, all with nutritional information. When you're done with your plan, make a shopping list. Organize it by aisles or departments in your supermarket to speed and ease your visit to the store.

    The Atkins-friendly kitchen:
    Cooking and eating the Atkins way is even easier when you have the right tools at your disposal. Once you've organized your pantry and refrigerator, take a look at the appliances that you have. Make sure everything works or look into investing in some new appliances.

    Grills (indoor and outdoor). Many of today's cooks enjoy using an indoor grill: one where meat is cooked on both sides at once, with the run-off going into a drip tray. They come in all shapes and sizes. Cooking with this type of grill will help you to avoid excess fats; you can also grill vegetables as a tasty alternative to steaming. An outdoor grill is great too, even during winter. Just brush the snow off and fire it up. Now that the weather is starting to get nicer, your outdoor grill can be your go-to tool for many meals. Meat and shellfish are best when broiled or grilled. A grilling basket to hold veggies gives you a crisp alternative to steaming. 

    Multi-speed blender. This is one of the most useful items in the kitchen. You'll need this for making your own protein shakes or for "dressing up" an Atkins Advantage shake with some frozen or fresh fruit. Blenders are great for making sauces, gravies and salad dressings as well. Look for something that is powerful and runs smoothly. 

    Wok. Woks cook quickly, efficiently and cleanly. The heat is even and less likely to burn your food. Carbon steel woks can be cheap yet well made. Stir-fry anything and everything, Chicken, fish, beef, pork and tofu—all can spearhead a stir-fry meal. A wok cooks vegetables and keeps them crispy (as long as you don't cook them too long). 

    Food processor. This comes in handy for everything. With this you can slice and dice and cut and shave and, basically, create anything on the spot. It's great for all veggies and fruits, and even nuts and cheese. 

    Slow cooker. These appliances are a busy person's favorite--you can be away all day and it'll do the cooking for you. They are especially useful for cooking leaner cuts of meats. Cooking meat slowly, for several hours, makes it fall-off-the-fork tender, and it stays juicier as well. 

    Toaster oven. This saves you the time of warming up the big oven when you're in a hurry. They heat up quickly and can cook almost anything--pork, beef and poultry included.