One of the main goals of switching to a low-carb diet is to learn how to make healthier food choices, but let’s face it. Most of us were raised on peanut butter and jelly spread on a couple of pieces of white fluff, a glass of kool-aid and a Ding Dong. At least, that’s what lunch was like for me as a kid. So when I first came to the low-carb table at the age of 19, it was with a Big Mac in one hand and a large Dr. Pepper in the other.
When you’re 19 and overweight, the Atkins’ Diet works miraculously. Your body is brand new to the alternative metabolic pathway, and it does exactly what it’s supposed to do. If you’re not very insulin resistant, it works extremely fast. In fact, in the mid 70s, I had about 40 pounds to lose, and the restriction was over before I got bored with the food.
Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution was more strict than the Atkins of today, but it worked extremely well for me because you weren’t allowed to add foods back as quickly as you can today. It worked like an elimination diet works. So when I re-entered the game in January of 2007 and tried to follow Atkins 2002 by the book, I ran into some solid brick walls that I still haven’t recovered from.
Even so, the low-carb style is an extremely luxurious way to eat if you don’t have a bunch of food sensitivities. Take a look at this low-carb photo thread over at Low Carb Friends and you’ll see what I mean. Life doesn’t get any better than those 12 super-long pages of pictures and descriptions of low-carb food.
But…that isn’t the way that real people eat, is it? What about those of us who don’t have that type of knack with food?
I had a reader who is brand new to a low-carb diet send me an email this past week asking if I would mind sharing a few low-carb menus with her. At first, I was a bit caught off-guard and didn’t exactly know what to say because I’ve been on a diet maintenance break for several months trying to figure out exactly which foods I’m intolerant to.
Celiac disease and dairy sensitivity is a heck of a problem to have when you’re on a low carb diet, but intolerance to corn is an even bigger problem since a low-carb diet is saturated with it. Now, considering Dr. Atkins’ original goals, I find that truly sad, but while giving up the grain isn’t totally impossible, most low carbers are eating plenty of it. They just don’t know it.
I recently posted a series that talked a little bit about what I ate to lose most of the weight I have so far, but those foods are quite a bit lower in fat and calories than a typical low carb diet has. Because of that, I’ve spent the last couple of days attempting to recall what I used to eat when I first started Atkins 2002 after being bedridden for a year with vestibular dysfunction (vertigo and ataxia).
It’s funny how the mind works. I’ve moved far away from those days, so it was a bit difficult to remember. I realized why after flipping through the first page of the gorgeous low-carb food pictures I linked to above. It was quite painful for me actually, but I could also see why I struggle so hard today to try and make this work. Why the struggle within is leaving me feeling rather battered.
Those pictures aren’t me. They will never be me. I can’t take back the celiac disease or dairy sensitivity or corn intolerance. I can’t get rid of the Meniere’s Disease or the Sensory Processing Disorder. All of those things define who I am today. And though I could sit here and waste my days on wishing things were different for me, that isn’t really helping me meet my goals.
So with that said, here is a list of things I used to eat when I first attempted to return to a low carb lifestyle. I thought about separating the list into breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, but I quickly realized I never ate that way when following Atkins. While I did keep a running total of the carbs I ate throughout the day, I didn’t eat breakfast foods for breakfast and dinner foods for dinner.
I ate salads, leftovers and sometimes cooked up some hot wings or baked chicken for breakfast, and I ate bacon and eggs, an omelet or ham and eggs for dinner. I’ve even heard of low carbers eating a large piece of cheesecake for breakfast. What you learn quickly within a few days is that low-carb food is low-carb food. You simply eat from list that Dr. Atkins’ recommended and forget what time of the day it is. You’ll be fine.
bacon and eggs, ham and eggs, pork chops and eggs
omelets with ham, tomatoes, onions and avocado
grilled chicken salad or taco salad
baked chicken legs, thighs or breasts with seasoning salt and garlic powder
chicken breast baked and topped with crispy bacon, fried onions and mushrooms
hardboiled eggs or deviled eggs
tuna mixed with onions, celery, jalapeno and mayonnaise
chicken salad with bacon, cheese chunks and mayonnaise
steamed asparagus, broccoli or green beans
canned or fresh green beans mixed with bacon
lettuce salad with fixings like a salad bar and homemade Thousand Island dressing
lunchmeat ham spread with cream cheese or filled with a cheese stick and rolled
chef salad with ham, cheese, hard boiled eggs and olives
cole slaw with tangerine juice, grated tangerine peel and pecans or walnuts
hamburger with cheese and bacon, or topped with a fried egg
waffles made with soy flour and topped with sugar-free syrup
organic black soy beans cooked up into chili
one-minute muffin and fried eggs
quesadilla, tacos or enchiladas made with low-carb tortillas
baked salmon with homemade sweet, lemon sauce
vegetable soup or chicken vegetable soup and a one-minute muffin
chicken strips breaded with crushed pork rinds and baked
fish breaded with crushed pork rinds and parmesan cheese
heroine wings or hot wings
cauliflower with cheese sauce
turkey burgers or meatballs
meatloaf made with egg and crushed pork rinds
chicken alfredo over Dreamsfield pasta or broccoli
cottage cheese mixed with blueberries or chopped strawberries
lettuce wraps: chicken, bacon and tomato
BBQ chicken legs or ribs
stir fries made with various meats and vegetables
chicken or beef fajita bowl
pork rinds with sour cream dip or salsa
almond thin crackers and dip or peanut butter
American cheese crackers with salsa
protein shakes and egg creams
sandwiches made with Atkins original rolls
steamed or stir-fried cabbage and onions
Italian sausages and eggs
roasted turkey or braised legs or wings in garlic and salt
spaghetti or other pasta made with Dreamsfield
macaroni salad with Dreamsfield pasta
Chorizo, eggs and cheese in low carb tortillas
chili cheese dogs
chicken sautéed and then tossed with garlic chili sauce
eggplant or Dreamsfield pasta lasagna
French toast made with Atkins original rolls
cupcakes or Bundt cake made with Atkins original rolls
guacamole with cheese crackers or almond thins
CarbSmart ice cream bars
egg breakfast cups
And that’s just what I can remember off the top of my head and doesn’t include the many, many recipes I tried over those first few months or most of the ones that are in the recipe archives here. Low carb truly is a luxurious way to eat.