The Atkins Kitchen

Having the right foods in your pantry, freezer and fridge will help keep you on track as you learn to cook and eat the Atkins way. The following items will provide the basis for many a satisfying meal, so you'll never find yourself hungry and without any controlled carb options.

PANTRY

Savory Foods and Meal Builders

• Canned reduced-sodium beef, chicken and vegetable broths: These are the building blocks of soups, stews and gravies. Homemade is best, but feel free to rely on canned or dehydrated broths. In addition to cooking uses, a cup of broth before dinner or lunch helps fill you up.

• Boxed tomato sauce and chopped tomatoes: Check brands carefully! Some tomato sauces contain as little as 5 carbohydrate grams per half cup; others, made with sugar, can go as high as 10 grams.

• Tomato paste in tubes: Because its flavor is so concentrated, a little goes a long way. Tubes are more convenient than cans because you won't end up discarding unused portions that have gone bad.

• Sun-dried tomatoes in oil: A tablespoon or two adds depth of flavor to most vegetable dishes. Try mixing a teaspoon of chopped sun-dried tomatoes with mayonnaise and cream cheese to make a quick dip.

• Dried porcini mushrooms: Ounce for ounce, these morsels add more flavor to soups, stews and meat dishes than ingredients twice their weight. Don't throw away soaking water; strain and add to whatever dish you're preparing.

• Canned pumpkin: Loaded with beta-carotene, this ingredient contributes only 5 grams of carbohydrate per half cup.

• Wild rice: Cooked wild rice contains 16 digestible (remember, these are the only carbs that impact your blood-sugar levels) carbs per half cup. Use it in small amounts to add texture to soups or veggie side dishes.

• Cornmeal: Mixed with a controlled carbohydrate bake mix, cornmeal gives a pleasing crunch to fried foods.

• Marinated artichoke hearts: Eat as a snack or chop and add to salads.

• Roasted red peppers: Cut into strips and add to salads or chop finely and mix with mayonnaise or cream cheese for a dip or spread.

• Canned chilies: There's no quicker way to add zip to baked dishes or mild sauces.

Canned Protein

• Tuna: Tuna packed in oil has more flavor than tuna packed in water, but keep both on hand. For salads, tuna in water is milder and blends better with other ingredients. Tuna in oil (preferably olive oil) stands up well to cooked vegetables and stronger condiments, making it a better base for hot entrees.

• Salmon: Excellent in salads, and for making croquettes (see www.atkinscenter.com for recipe).

• Sardines: A terrific source of omega-3 fatty acids, they are inexpensive and versatile. If you find their flavor too assertive, try mackerel, which is less fishy-tasting than sardines and often moister than tuna packed in water.

• Black soybeans: Canned black soybeans contain only 4 grams of carbs per half cup, versus 8 to 15 for most other beans.

• White meat chicken: Handy in a pinch, especially when mixed with a flavorful mayonnaise and chopped green onions.

Baking Basics and Sweet Items

• Cocoa powder and unsweetened chocolate: Essential for homemade chocolate desserts and hot chocolate.

• Sugar substitute in granular form: For baking.

• Sugar substitute in packets: For sweetening beverages.

• Controlled carbohydrate sugar-free pancake syrup: Terrific not only to drizzle on waffles and pancakes, but to add a brown-sugar flavor to baked goods and glazes.

• Controlled carbohydrate bake mix: Made primarily from soy, this is an all-purpose substitute for wheat flour.

• Thicken Thin Not/Starch®: An excellent substitute for cornstarch, with a fraction of the carbs. A must-have item.

• Pure vanilla extract.

• Pure chocolate extract.

• Flavored citrus oils: Excellent substitutes for fruit juice flavor in cooking and baking.

Nuts, Seeds and Nut Butter Spreads

Nutritious, high in protein and healthy fats. Watch portions though: A small child's handful is about right for a snack.

• Macadamia nuts

• Sunflower seeds

• Pumpkin seeds

(Note: Store all nuts and seeds in the freezer-they'll stay fresher longer.)

• Macadamia or almond butter (unsweetened)

• Peanut butter (unsweetened)

Condiments

• Tabasco sauce

• Worcestershire sauce

• Reduced-sodium soy sauce

• Mustard (countrystyle or Dijon)

• Sugar-free ketchup

• Sugar-free barbecue sauce

• Chipotle en adobo (smoked jalapenos in vinegar-tomato sauce): Hot, hot, hot-and tremendously flavorful.

• White horseradish: Use by itself or mix with mayo to make an instant sauce for beef.

• Canned or jarred anchovies: Essential for Caesar salads. In addition, a finely chopped half teaspoonful will add flavor to most sauces.

Oils and Vinegars

Vinegars vary in carbohydrates (1 to 3 grams per tablespoon), but since the amount you'll use is small, the difference is not that important. Avoid balsamic vinegar, which contains sugar. Aside from being a main ingredient in salad dressings, vinegar is also a great addition to many soups and even stir-fries (a splash added at the end of cooking will generally brighten up flavors).

• Safflower or peanut oil

• Mayonnaise (regular, full-fat)

• White wine vinegar

• Red wine vinegar

• Tarragon vinegar

FREEZER

The following fruits and vegetables are all relatively low carbohydrates:

• Chopped spinach

• Whole-leaf spinach

• Chopped collards

• Artichoke hearts

• Asparagus spears

• Chopped broccoli

• Unsweetened strawberries

• Unsweetened blueberries

• Unsweetened raspberries

(Note: Buy frozen vegetables made without sauce and fruits not packed in syrup, which usually contains sugar)

Plus:

• Frozen cooked shrimp

• Frozen crab meat (not artificial "crab product") REFRIGERATOR

• Cheese: Try to keep several types in your refrigerator. Fresh cheeses include cottage cheese, ricotta, chevre (soft goat cheese) and Italian mascarpone. They are terrific for breakfast or dessert with a sprinkling of chopped nuts and berries. Semi-soft cheeses such as Brie and Camembert are delicious with low-carb crackers and toasted protein bread. Firmer cheeses, such as Gruyere, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Dutch Gouda and cheddar can be eaten by themselves. Blue cheeses, such as French Roquefort, Italian Gorgonzola and American Maytag Blue pair well with salads and make wonderful sauces for vegetables. Buy cheese in small quantities and experiment until you find at least a half-dozen that you enjoy.

• Cream/butter: Add cream to your decaf coffee instead of milk for richer flavor and fewer carbs. Sweet butter is generally preferable to salted butter because it is purer in flavor. If you use butter for sauteing, mix it with a little oil to increase the bum temperature. Or use ghee, which is clarified butter, instead. (The milk solids in butter that cause it to bum at low temperatures have been removed.)

• Eggs: Few foods are as versatile. Keep a half-dozen hard-boiled eggs on hand at all times. They are a perfect protein snack.

• Protein: Whether your protein preference is poultry, fish or red meat, try to make purchases as frequently as possible and prepare and cook the same day. Freezing is a convenient option, but shouldn't be a first choice. If you do freeze, be sure to wrap items carefully in freezer paper and defrost in the refrigerator. Most of us purchase whatever is on sale, but when your budget allows, experiment with more exotic quality proteins, such as buffalo, duck breasts and seasoned all-natural poultry sausages.

• Cold cuts: When possible, buy fresh from the deli counter (rather than prepackaged). Baked ham, smoked turkey, corned beef and sliced roast beef are great to have on hand for snacks and salad additions. Nitratefree salami or pepperoni are good occasional treats, as is the more exotic Italian prosciutto de Parma.

• Salad vegetables: Buy only as much as you will consume in a five-day period. Wash and wrap greens as soon as you get home to preserve freshness and to ease salad preparation. Wash and spin-dry greens and pack in plastic bags with a sheet or two of paper towels in between to absorb excess moisture.

• Vegetables/fruits: Depending on the season, keep your vegetable bin filled with broccoli, green and yellow squash, cauliflower, eggplant, green beans, jicama, mushrooms, asparagus, bell peppers, green onions, leeks, spinach and broccoflower. When berry season rolls around, enjoy relatively low-carb strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries. Buy berries in small quantities and use immediately-they don't keep well.

• Tofu: Firm tofu is great for stir-fries; and silken tofu is a high-protein, controlled carb substitute for bananas in smoothies. Pressed, seasoned tofu makes a quick entree when sauteed with vegetables and can provide the protein in a luncheon salad.

Herbs and Spices

To assure freshness and flavor, buy spices in the smallest jars sold and, at home, sniff before using. Discard any spice that has a musty smell. To substitute dried herbs for fresh, the general rule is that one tablespoon fresh equals one teaspoon dried. Most spices contain less than 1 gram of carbohydrate per teaspoon; herbs, less than I gram of carbohydrate per two tablespoons. Make sure spice blends contain no sugar.

Suggested Spices

• Cajun spice blend

• Chinese 5-spice powder (This mix of cinnamon, star anise, cloves, fennel seeds and pepper gives Chinese food its distinctive flavor.)

• Garlic powder

• Marjoram (a more delicate version of oregano)

• Red pepper flakes

Fresh Herbs

Fresh herbs liven up the flavor of most savory dishes.

• Parsley: Flat-leaf, also known as Italian, is more flavorful than curly parsley.

• Ginger: A root, not an herb; buy as needed for recipes. Nothing beats the flavor and fragrance of freshly grated ginger.

Making the Change

Your meals will be built around protein, healthy fats and nutrient-dense carbohydrates, primarily in the form of vegetables. Most entrees fit easily into doing Atkins, with small modifications (see "Food Substitutions" below). As you approach your goal weight, your choice of foods will expand. When you reach Lifetime Maintenance, you will be able to eat most foods-with the exception of refined sugar, white flour and hydrogenated oils.

Food Substitutions

Instead of:

Refined flour

Low-fat yogurt Milk

Yellow onions Cornstarch Aspartame (Equal®,

Substitute:

Equal parts controlled carb bake mix and finely ground nuts Sour cream

Half 'n' half or heavy cream mixed with water Green onions (scallions) or leeks Thicken Thin Not/Starch® Splenda®

NutraSweet®) Red salsa Chips

Peaches (for cooking)

Black or kidney beans

Sliced bread

Pasta

Margarine

Corn oil

Green salsa

Salted popped soy nuts or soy chips, pumpkin seeds Rhubarb

Black soybeans (canned)

Controlled carb bread

Spaghetti squash or controlled carb pasta

Butter or ghee

Olive, safflower or peanut oil (cold-pressed)

Peanut butter White rice Potatoes

Bananas (for smoothies)

Sugar-free peanut butter Wild rice Cauliflower Silken tofu

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