When you change your eating plan to one that doesn’t encourage carbs, breakfast can be a tricky time of day. No longer will a bagel, piece of toast or stack of pancakes – whole grain or not – be sufficient. The Atkins diet, created by Dr. Robert Atkins in 1972, eschews carbohydrates in favor of a higher consumption of fat and protein, claiming that without carbs, your body switches to fat as its primary fuel source. Once you get past the mindset that a breakfast has to include oatmeal, toast or cereal, plenty of satisfying options are available.
All About Eggs
With less than a half-gram of carbohydrates, an egg fits into the Atkins’ diet plan, particularly in phase 1, which limits you to 20 net carbs per day. Eggs can be prepared a variety of ways, including scrambled, fried, poached, hard-boiled or over easy, to add some variety from morning to morning. Create a crust-free quiche or frittata, or bake it in a muffin tin for a compact breakfast. Both eggs and eggs whites are low in carbs, but if you’re concerned about saturated fat, be wary of egg yolks – all of an egg’s 1.6 grams of saturated fat are located there. Atkins promotes a higher fat intake, but if you have elevated LDL cholesterol or other risk factors for a heart attack or stroke, limit egg consumption to two per week, recommends UCSF Medical Center. However, those who take a statin drug can eat eggs daily.
Finding a Better Breakfast Meat
Supplement your egg-based breakfast with a side of bacon, but do so with caution. One ounce of bacon has zero carbohydrates, but it does contain 254 calories, according to the USDA, as well as 28 grams of fat. Turkey bacon, though, contains just 64 calories and 4.5 grams of fat per ounce, making it a smarter, carb-friendly option. Don’t feel the need to stick to traditional breakfast meats, either – rather than highly processed sausage or ham, chop up some boneless, skinless chicken breasts or lean pork chops and toss them into an omelet for a protein-packed meal.
Don't Forget Your Veggies
You might not think of breakfast as the time of day for veggies, but non-starchy vegetables are a cornerstone of the Atkins diet. Add low-carb vegetables such as spinach, zucchini and broccoli to your omelets. Avoid starchy vegetables such as potatoes and corn in favor of lower-carb options such as bok choy, mushrooms and cauliflower. Beefing up your breakfast with vegetables will help you feel sated without adding too many carbohydrates to your morning meal.
Fruit, Dairy and Grains
When you reach phase 2 of the Atkins diet, you’re permitted to add in fruit, nuts and dairy up to 25 to 45 net carbs per day. Net carbs are determined by subtracting the amount of fiber in a food product from the total number of carbs. Therefore, you can add items such as 2 percent cottage cheese, which has 4.1 net carbs per half-cup; blueberries, with 4.1 net carbs per quarter-cup; and cantaloupe or honeydew melon, with 3.5 net carbs per quarter-cup. Once you’ve hit phase 3 of the diet, you can consume 50 to 70 net carbs daily, and include lower-carb grains in your morning meals, such as oatmeal or brown rice.
Thinking Outside the Breakfast Box
Atkins can be a limiting diet, so don't restrict yourself further by only eating traditional breakfast foods. If you made a healthy, low-carb dinner the night before, heat up the leftovers and enjoy them a second time.
- Atkins: Phase 3: What You Can Eat in this Phase
- Diabetes Daily: 7 Ideas for a Low-Carb Breakfast
- Egg Nutrition Center: Nutrient Content of One Large Egg
- UCSF Medical Center: FAQ: Heart Disease
- Atkins: How and Why Does Atkins Work
- Atkins: Phase 1: What You Can Eat in this Phase
- Atkins: Phase 2: What You Can Eat in this Phase
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Pork, Bacon, Rendered Fat, Cooked
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Turkey Bacon, Cooked
Kelsey Casselbury has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Penn State-University Park. She has a long career in print and web media, including serving as a managing editor for a monthly nutrition magazine and food editor for a Maryland lifestyle publication. She also owns an Etsy shop selling custom invitations and prints.