Published: 09/16/2015

Objectives and Guidelines for Phase 1

As the name implies, Induction is the initiation into the Atkins Diet. All too often, people confuse this first phase of the program with the whole diet, but Induction is only the first of four progressively liberal phases. The two main objectives of Induction are:

1.    To switch the body from burning primarily glucose to burning primarily fat for energy. 

2.    To jump-start weight loss.

The Basics of Induction

It’s not essential to start Atkins in Phase 1, but its carbohydrate intake level is almost certain to induce lipogenesis. Induction restricts individuals to only 20 grams of Net Carbs (grams of total grams minus grams of fiber—or in the case of low-carb foods, also minus grams of sugar alcohols, including glycerin) per day. Carbohydrate foods consumed in this phase are primarily “foundation vegetables” low in carbs but rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other nutrients, including fiber. Individuals remain in this phase for at least two weeks.

Many people see remarkably fast weight loss on Induction. Others find it slow going. It’s important to explain this to your patients, as their expectations may be unreasonable. Whatever their pace and whether their objectives is weight loss or improvement of blood sugar and insulin levels or lipids—or some combination of the above, individuals they need to abide by the following rules.

Guidelines for Induction

  • Eat either three regular-size meals a day or four or five smaller meals. Don’t skip meals or go more than six waking hours without eating.
  • At each meal—including breakfast—eat at least 4 to 6 ounces of protein foods. Up to 8 ounces is fine for tall guys. There’s no need to trim the fat from meat or the skin from poultry, but it’s okay to do so if the fat is replaced with some olive oil or butter on vegetables.
  • It’s important to consume butter, olive oil, high-oleic safflower oil, canola oil, and seed and nut oils and mayonnaise (made from olive, canola, or high-oleic safflower oils). Aim for 1 tablespoon of oil on a salad or other vegetables, or a pat of butter. Cook foods in just enough oil to ensure that they don’t burn. Or spritz the pan with a mist of olive oil.
  • Eat no more than 20 grams a day of Net Carbs, 12 to 15 grams of them as foundation vegetables, the equivalent of approximately six loosely packed cups of salad and two cups of cooked vegetables per day. But carb counts of various vegetables vary, so it’s important to check them in the Atkins Comprehensive Carb Counter or at
  • Eat only foods listed on Acceptable Foods for Phase 1.
  • Avoid all other foods, including sugar, white flour, other refined grains, whole grains, fruit other than avocado, tomatoes and olives, legumes and starchy vegetables, milk in any form and low-fat, low-calorie products or low-carb products (unless specifically coded for Phase 1).
  • In a typical day, carb intake can include up to 4 ounces of most cheese (but not cottage cheese or ricotta), 10 black or 20 green olives, half a Haas avocado (the kind with a blackish pebbly skin), an ounce of sour cream or 2–3 tablespoons of cream, and up to 3 tablespoons of lemon or lime juice. The carbs in these foods must be counted in the 20 grams of Net Carbs.
  • Acceptable sweeteners include sucralose (Splenda), saccharin (Sweet’N Low), stevia (SweetLeaf or Truvia) or xylitol. Have no more than three packets a day, and count each one as 1 gram of carbs. These sweeteners contain no carbs, but they are packaged with fillers that contain a little carbohydrate to keep them from clumping.
  • Sugar-free gelatin desserts and up to two Atkins shakes or bars coded for Induction are allowed.
  • Each day, drink at least eight 8-ounce portions of approved beverages: water, club soda, herb teas, or moderation—caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee and tea. This will prevent dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. This count can include two cups of broth (not low sodium), one in the morning and one in the afternoon.
  • Take a daily iron-free multivitamin/multimineral combo and an omega-3 fatty-acid supplement. If an individual is iron deficient than supplementation is fine.
  • Learn to distinguish hunger from habit and adjust the quantity as appetite decreases. Eat only until satisfied but not stuffed. If not sure, wait 10 minutes, have a glass of water, and eat more only if still unsatisfied. If not hungry at mealtime, eat a small low-carb snack.
  • No “starving” or skimping on fats is necessary.
  • Don’t assume that any food is low in carbs. Read the labels on packaged whole foods to discover unacceptable ingredients; and check their carb counts (subtract grams of fiber from total grams). Also use a carbohydrate gram counter.
  • When dining out, be on guard for hidden carbs. Gravy is usually made with flour or cornstarch, both unacceptable on Atkins. Sugar is often found in salad dressing and may even appear in coleslaw and other deli salads. Avoid any deep-fried or breaded food. 

Meal Planning

Our downloadable One-Week Induction Meal Plan [provide link] makes it easy to plan meals ahead, which is key to success.