14 of the Best Atkins Diet Foods for Your Shopping List
If you’re giving the Atkins diet a try, add these foods to your grocery list.
What is the Atkins diet?
The original low-carb eating plan emphasizes protein and fats while restricting carbohydrates, particularly those from refined, processed, or starchy sources such as bread, pasta, and baked goods. Plenty of fresh vegetables provide fibre, and in lieu of counting calories, followers track their net carbs (the number you get when you subtract dietary fibre content from total carbohydrates on the nutrition label). Proponents say the tactic slashes weight and keeps it off by balancing blood-sugar levels, reducing hunger, and decreasing fat storage. Developed in the 1960s by cardiologist Robert Atkins, MD, its popularity has remained steady ever since, especially with the recent surge of the ketogenic diet, which forces the body to burn fat instead of carbs. Dana Cohen, MD, an integrative medicine physician in New York City and the author of Quench, worked with Dr. Atkins and shares her favourite Atkins diet foods here.
Contrary to some diet programs that emphasize low-fat egg whites as a protein-rich breakfast choice, the Atkins diet embraces the whole egg. That’s because the yolk provides necessary fats your body needs for the plan to work correctly. “I will dice half an avocado, drizzle extra virgin olive oil, add a pinch of sea salt, and then add a fried egg on top—it’s delish, nutrish, and easy,” says Dr. Cohen. The combo of healthy fats and protein makes it a filling meal.
“For lunch, I’ll eat any greens, and lots of them,” says Dr. Cohen. “Arugula is my favourite.” Spinach and kale are also good choices, as they’re high in vitamins K, C, and A, as well as minerals. Try this simple spinach salad for when you don’t want to cook.
Technically a fruit, cucumbers are super low in calories with a high water content, which helps fill you up. Eat them as a snack or as a salad topping. You can also scoop out the seeds and make cucumber boats and fill with your favourite Atkins-approved topping. (These are the signs you should be eating more carbs.)
“Trader Joe’s offers wild Pacific salmon that’s already cooked. I will pick at this throughout the day or flake it on top of a salad,” says Dr. Cohen. Salmon is high in protein and omega-3 fatty acids, and if you opt for canned, you’ll get the added benefit of calcium from the edible bones.
Bell peppers are high in vitamins and fibre. Make an Atkins-approved dinner by stuffing them with a mixture of cooked protein, such as chicken or fish, and veggies like onions, garlic, greens, or fresh herbs. Then bake them in the oven with extra virgin olive oil drizzled on top.
While many low-calorie diets shun beef for leaner chicken or turkey, the Atkins diet embraces its higher fat content. “I like to get grass-fed beef and make a creative side dish, like mashed cauliflower with butter and sea salt,” says Dr. Cohen.
Whether fresh or canned, tuna is high in protein and healthy fats, making it one of the most filling Atkins diet foods. “I’ll do canned chunk light tuna once a week—it has less mercury than white tuna,” says Dr. Cohen. Dollop it on salad, or dip sticks of celery, carrots, cucumber, or another favourite veggie in it.
Pickles are a great Atkins snack; just be sure to check the sugar and salt content before buying. “Don’t get bread and butter pickles—those are soaked in sugar,” says Dr. Cohen.
Tiny but mighty, chia seeds are a gold mine of protein, healthy fats, and fibre. They also make a healthy, Atkins-approved dessert. “I make pudding with chia seeds, half-and-half, monk-fruit sweetener, and some blueberries,” says Dr. Cohen. The fats and protein provide a satiating solution for a sweet tooth.
Yes, cheese is included on the Atkins diet foods list—the key is moderation. “I’ll buy tons of veggies and make a huge salad with protein on top and a little cheese,” says Dr. Cohen. Blue cheese is a particularly great choice: It’s so flavourful, you only need a light sprinkling for a big flavour impact. (Learn how to build a drool-worthy cheese plater.)
Rejoice, avocado lovers—you can still enjoy your favourite green fruit on the Atkins diet, assures Dr. Cohen. Avocados are packed with healthy mono- and poly-unsaturated fats, which help you feel full longer and balance blood sugar levels.
Asparagus is a non-starchy veggie, which means it won’t contribute too many net carbs toward your total for the day. Sauté it with extra virgin olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, salt, and pepper for a flavourful side dish or salad topping.
Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli are high in fibre and low in carbs, explains Dr. Cohen, making them a great choice for Atkins diet foods. Roast them in the oven, or add them raw to a salad.
Stock up on full-fat yogurt and cottage cheese. You can even have whipped cream. “Berries with real whipped cream is a good dessert,” says Dr. Cohen.
Medically reviewed by Samantha Cassetty, MS, RD.
Next, learn how mindful eating can help you lose weight.